Men’s Basketball Pulls Away, Beats Discount Distributors Rockets, 88-70

Published 4:20 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2022

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Sophomore James White put on a clinic for the second night in a row as the Ole Miss men’s basketball team held firm amidst some adversity, pulling away to top the Discount Distributors Rockets, 88-70, in the second game of Ole Miss’ 2022 foreign trip in The Bahamas on Tuesday evening.

Ole Miss took a commanding 30-14 lead after the first period following a furious start, but the Rockets chipped away at that lead, pulling within five at the end of the third quarter and within one at 62-61 with just 8:38 to play. However, White and the Rebels put the pedal down to win the final frame, 26-13, and put Ole Miss ahead for good.

“We’re trying to come out with some better pace on both ends and just playing with some defensive intensity and faster offensively,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis. “I thought we got out there and when we made it 30-14, and we went to our bench, it just seemed like we never really got it back. I didn’t think we ended the half really well, and then we just kind of lost our way. These are the situations you enjoy being in as a coach with the game kind of being tight. We had a spurt at the end to get us back up 18 or 19 for the win. James White continues to impress, Jayveous (McKinnis) had a double-double, and we’re just finding out a lot about our team. There are things that we’ll just have to continue to work on, but this is a great trip for us just to be able to identify those things.”

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On the night, Ole Miss shot 52 percent overall while stifling the Rockets to just a 31 percent clip. The Rebels also dominated on the boards, 61-34, and the Ole Miss defense was in sharp form for the second straight night, nabbing 10 steals and blocking seven shots.

White was the catalyst for the Rebels for the second night in a row, nearly notching a triple-double in a virtuoso performance of 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting (all from within the three-point line), nine rebounds, seven assists and one steal in 34 commanding minutes of game action. White also had 23 points against the Bahamas Select Team on Monday night, perhaps a sneak peak of what’s to come in his sophomore campaign following limited game action as a freshman in 2021-22.

“We had just talked about it in our meeting how Matt (Murrell) went through some struggles as a freshman, some struggles that Josh Mballa went through with a national championship team at Texas Tech, and then James White struggles last year,” Davis said. “I said ‘James, wouldn’t it have been great a year ago to know then what you know now?’ He said, ‘Coach I would’ve been in a different place.’ Guys have to go through things. There’s this thing about James White that never deterred him, and now he’s got this air when he plays with this confidence. He absolutely took over that game late, and that was great to see. We all know what Matt (Murrell)’s going to be, and Daeshun (Ruffin) when he gets healthy, then add in that we’re missing Josh (Mballa) and Robert (Allen) and their toughness plus Robert Cowherd. With what’s happened with our team so far, I’m very excited for James White.”

Murrell was in double-digit scoring for the second night in a row as well, chipping in 13 points, three rebounds, three steals and an assist in 28 solid minutes for the Rebels. The aforementioned McKinnis – a graduate transfer from Jackson State – was a force down low for the Rockets to contend with, hauling in a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards to go along with three assists, one steal and one block in 19 efficient minutes of action for the Rebels.

Also impressing again was true freshman Amaree Abram, who was in command as Ole Miss’ point guard for 26 strong minutes. Abram finished with eight points, six assists, four rebounds and two blocks while directing the Rebel offense.

“(Amaree) has got a great maturity about him and he’s fighting now with being able to play when he gets tired,” Davis said. “I thought he made some really good plays down the stretch to help stretch our lead back out. I thought TJ (Caldwell) came out more aggressive tonight, I thought the shots he took were good. Malique (Ewin) just had a night where in the first half he had like four turnovers and three fouls. (The freshmen) just have to keep their heads down and go. I’m really excited about all of them plus getting Robert (Cowherd) back so we can take advantage of having those four freshmen.”

Other Rebels with solid outings included Caldwell (8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist) and grad transfer Myles Burns (8 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal).

Ole Miss has Wednesday off from all basketball activities to enjoy the local scenery before closing its trip to The Bahamas with a Thursday tilt against Raw Talent Elite at 3 p.m. CT.

“We’re away from basketball totally tomorrow,” Davis said. “We’re going to wake them up about 10 or 10:30, eat some lunch, we’re having a team activity in the resort at 2 o’clock and then we’ll have an early curfew tomorrow night because we’ll have an early day with us having a 3 o’clock game. Then it’ll be all basketball. We’ll get back to this film and do some training and preparation for our next game. What a trip, what a resort, and this is just an experience of a lifetime for our guys.”

For the latest news and updates regarding Ole Miss Men’s Basketball, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissMBB, on Facebook at Ole Miss Men’s Basketball and on Instagram at olemissmbb.