By Nate Allen
FAYETTEVILLE – The Ole Miss Rebels kept Arkansas off the free throw line but not out of the win column in Wednesday night’s SEC game at Ole Miss’ Sandy and John Black Pavilion in Oxford, Miss.
The Razorbacks, leading the nation in free throws made and second in free throw attempted, never attempted a first-half free throw but still led on the scoreboard 30-23 at intermission en route to a 64-55 victory.
Arkansas finished 8 for 12 on free throws. The Razorbacks’ game-busting 13-0 second-half run compelled the Rebels trying to catch up on the score and halt the ticking clock.
Ole Miss couldn’t stop Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks from defensively stifling the Rebels nor could the Rebels stop Arkansas senior guard JD Notae.
Notae in 37 minutes scored a game-leading 25 points, including 4 of 10 treys, and dished five assists.
Center Jaylin Williams, 18 points, including 2 of 3 treys, and eight rebounds in 36 minutes, forward Trey Wade, 12 points, 5 for 5 from the field including two treys, plus five rebounds and four assists playing the entire 40 minutes, also posted big Arkansas nights.
Add guard Au’Diese Toney’s individual defense and Razorbacks team defense in general, Musselman said, in postgame summation.
“Just to hold them scoreless maybe six minutes in that second half.” Musselman said on postgame radio. “Our defense just continues to get better. To think you can come on the road and lead for 38 minutes and have the home team only lead for a minute-12 I think that’s a testament to how hard we played. Huge, huge win for us.”
While only 10-10 overall and 2-6 in the SEC, Coach Kermit Davis’ Rebels flogged Florida, 70-54 Monday night in Oxford and had a game plan making it initially difficult for the Hogs, now 15-5 overall and 5-3 in the SEC after an 0-3 SEC start heading into Saturday’s 1 p.m. ESPN2 televised SEC vs. Big 12 Challenge game at Walton Arena vs. Coach Bob Huggins’ West Virginia Mountaineers.
Davis’ Ole Miss plan involved a 1-3-1 zone backing off from fouling the Razorbacks and creating some first-half impatience turning Arkansas over nine times in the first half and tempting the Hogs to shoot jumpers over jamming it inside.
“Tonight you have to credit the opposition for understanding that FTAs (free throws attempted) is a big part of our game from an offensive standpoint,” Musselman said. “They kind of took that away. I did think early on we settled for too many threes, and that allowed us not to get in the early bonus in the first half. But the name of the game is just to try to win. We’re not trying to just draw free throws because we lead the country in that category.”
With Arkansas’ defense stifling and its threes (8 of 18 to Ole Miss’ 4 of 18) ) falling the Hogs didn’t need charity from the free throw line until closing.
Notae ended the first half with a three beating the game clock by a second.
“”I thought it was huge,” Musselman said. “Number one, just recognition of shot clock and game clock is really important. That’s one area he’s definitely improved on. I certainly think it gave us phenomenal momentum going into halftime. They were gaining a little bit of momentum, and I think that shot kind of took a little bit of enthusiasm out of them heading in at halftime.”
Actually the Rebels opened the second half enthused with a 6-0 run more than double blunted by Arkansas’ eventual 13-0 run.
Ole Miss guards Daeshun Ruffin and Matthew Murrell, 21 and 20 points vs. Florida, only combined for 24 Wednesday. Ruffin only shot 2 of 11 from the field while scoring 10 while Murrell was 5 for 13 scoring 14, mostly after the Hogs had it hand while Ole Miss 7-footer Nysier Brooks scored 10.
“We felt like Murrell as well as Ruffin, we had to do a great job on those two,.” Musselman said. “If we gave up some stuff inside to Brooks, at least that would not allow three-balls, because we know Brooks is around the rim. We were willing to live with his baskets, but did not want Murrell or Ruffin to have any good, clean looks. We shrunk the floor against those two guys.”
Au’Diese Toney’s defense on Matthew Murrell was phenomenal. I think he (Murrell) had five points until the very end of the game when they were just trying to rush the ball up the floor.”
Notae not only played good defense but used his 6-2 height to advantage against 5-9 freshman Ruffin.
“Seeing Ruffin guarding me I knew I could get my shot over him,” Notae said. “That was one of the points of emphasis I’ve seen.”
And with Arkansas big men Williams and Wade hitting big threes, too, it was just too much for Ole Miss.
“Trey Wade, those 3-balls he’s hitting are opening things up for us,” Musselman said. “He goes 2 for 2. J-Will knocks down two or three from three. When your 4 and 5-men are knocking down threes it opens things up for other people. Huge, huge win for us.”
And well earned, Ole Miss Coach Davis said.
““I just felt they played better than we did,” Davis said. “Made some shots and we didn’t. Notae just kind of dominated the whole game.
You hold Arkansas, a good offensive team, to 64 points you think you win. But Notae with 25 and Williams with 18, those guys did it. And Wade came in and played.”