Rebs beat USA

Published 3:30 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2008

David Huertas scored 27 points, Chris Warren had 15 points and six assists, and Mississippi easily beat South Alabama 89-71 Tuesday night.

The Rebels (2-0) got a career-high 16 points from Zach Graham in his first start as Eniel Polynice’s replacement after Ole Miss lost its best defensive player earlier in the day because of knee surgery.

Anyone wondering how the Rebels would respond to the loss for the season of a second key perimeter player in 11 days didn’t have long to wait.

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Ole Miss pushed its lead into double figures midway through the first half, led by 19 at halftime and as much as 25, and never faltered against the Jaguars (1-1), who won 26 games last season and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Coach Andy Kennedy was pleased with the way Graham and Terrico White stood in for Polynice offensively, but wasn’t willing to evaluate their defense until he saw film.

“We lose a little bit on defense,” Kennedy said. “He was unquestionably our best perimeter defender and had the best basketball IQ on the perimeter as far as the defensive stuff. We’re going to have to figure out a way to come together better on defense.”

South Alabama was led by Brandon Davis with 19 points. DeAndrae Ross scored 12 and LaShun Watson added 11.

The Rebels were a school-record 22 of 22 from the free-throw line and are now 34-3 at home in three seasons under Kennedy.

Polynice had followup arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Tuesday after a similar procedure at the end of last season. A surgeon removed loose cartilage and repaired a torn meniscus. The news of Polynice’s loss came 11 days after Trevor Gaskins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Graham, a backup for much of last season, made several key plays during Ole Miss runs. He finished 2-for-3 from the 3-point line and hit all eight free throws.

The Rebels used an 11-2 run late in the first half to break open the game.