JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Ole Miss men’s basketball team tipped off the 2019-20 season in style, holding an opponent to its lowest output in five years. Forcing 23 turnovers and allowing only 15 made buckets, the Rebels (1-0) dominated Arkansas State in a 71-43 victory Friday night at The Pavilion.
Beginning year two of the Kermit Davis era, the Rebels posted their best defensive game under the head coach. The Red Wolves (1-1) were limited to a 32.6 percent (15 of 46) clip from the floor, which included zero second chance points. Ole Miss held a 12-0 in second chance points, while dominating the glass 40-28.
Junior guard Devontae Shuler scored a game-high 20 points to lead Ole Miss on the offensive side of the court. The Irmo, South Carolina, native made seven of his 11 shot attempts and added a trio of rebounds to go along with two steals. Right behind Shuler was sophomore forward KJ Buffen, who tallied 16 rebounds with a career-high nine rebounds to fall just shy of a double-double. Classmate Luis Rodriguez filled the stat sheet despite only five points, tallying career highs in rebounds (6) and steals (3).
Nine Rebels made their debut during the contest. Junior college transfer Khadim Sy, earning a start, led all Ole Miss newcomers with eight points. Canberk Kus and J.J. Matthews paced Arkansas State with 10 points apiece. The duo combined for eight of the Red Wolves’ 15 made baskets throughout the night.
Arkansas State made the first bucket of the contest, a three-pointer, causing Davis to call timeout just 43 seconds into the contest. The Red Wolves held a 4-1 lead before Ole Miss scored 12 unanswered points to force the visitors to use one of their own timeouts. Buffen, Shuler and Austin Crowley connected on triple tries to make it a 13-4 ballgame.
The Rebels expanded the lead behind intense defense. A 22-5 run ballooned the advantage to 14 with Arkansas State turning the ball over 11 times in the first 13 minutes. Just like in the exhibition game, Buffen got off to a fast start and was the first Rebel to reach double figures. The Gainesville, Georgia, native made his first four shots for 11 of the Rebels’ first 28 points.
Another double-digit Ole Miss scoring frenzy, this time a 10-0 run, made it a 21-point contest. Shuler matched Buffen with 11 first half points, and the Rebels went into the locker room with a 39-19 advantage. Ole Miss nearly caused as many turnovers as points allowed, as the Red Wolves coughed up the ball 16 times over the first 20 minutes.
Ole Miss brought the pressure out of the halftime break, holding the Red Wolves without a bucket for the first 3:30 of the second half. An 11-2 run pushed the Rebels ahead 50-21, their largest lead of the night. Arkansas State never got within 21 points the rest of the way, as Ole Miss cruised to a season-opening victory.
Up next, the Rebels remain at home to host Norfolk State (Nov. 12). Tipoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.