The Rebels' 77-55 win against the Buccaneers in Oxford wasn't necessarily a thing of beauty. But moving to 7-1 was a goal, and that was at least accomplished.
What it was, ultimately, was another chance for Ole Miss to not only get a win but try and mold this team into a more solid performing group. Earlyon that didn't appear to be the case. As the game moved on, things settled down and Ole Miss coasted.
"We lost our energy guy in the first half," said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy of his team's slow start. "Murphy (Holloway) wasn't in the game (due to two fouls). We have a hard time finding that extra source. I thought we were very lethargic."
Kennedy said ETSU, which fell to 2-6, controlled things early.
"They have some personnel issues, and their bench is thin," he said. "I thought Murray (Bartow) did a good job of controlling that tempo. And when you turn it over like we are, it limits our shot abilities."
The Rebels ended the game with 18 turnovers. ETSU led 16-13 with 7:25 to go in a low-scoring first half before Ole Miss broke it open.
Turnovers had plagued the Rebels early with nine of them to that point. They ended the first half with 10.
They got things under control a bit the rest of the first half and began to pull away. Back to back three pointers by Jarvis Summers and Martavious Newby pushed the Rebels out to a 28-17 lead with a couple of minutes to go before halftime. At intermission Ole Miss was up 33-22.
Marshall Henderson drained a pair of three-pointers in the early-going of the second half to put Ole Miss up 40-27. A Nick Williams three gave the Rebels a 49-33 lead with 15 minutes left. From then on the Rebels maintained that type lead and moved on to victory.
Henderson, 6-of-13 from 3-point range, ended up as the Rebels' leading scorer with 22 points.
"The ball went in this time," Henderson said of his improvement in scoring this game. "I don't really have an explanation. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. The main thing is to keep my focus and keep working."
The Rebels struggled from 3-point range early and were only 1-for-8 at one point but finished the first half 4-for-14. But in the second half they heated up a bit more from the outside, and finished the game 10-for-28.
The Bucs zoned the Rebels quite a bit.
"That zone is going to allow him to get a little freer," Kennedy said of Henderson, also mentioning ETSU threw more zone defense at them than they normally see. "I thought he had some clean looks."
Bartow, the ETSU head coach, said he likes this Ole Miss team.
"We played them in here two years ago. Defensively I think they're better," he said. "Obviously Henderson can really score. He reminds me of a young Andy Kennedy when I was an assistant (coach at UAB). They've got a good team."
Ole Miss now heads out on its extended trip, leaving Monday, a journey which takes the Rebels to California for a game against Loyola-Marymount next Wednesday at 10 p.m. CT. Then it's on to Hawaii over Christmas for the Diamondhead Classic in Honolulu.
Kennedy said the team has to improve if it hopes to come back with wins each time out.
"We're turning it over too much," he said. "If we eliminate half of those, we're where we need to be offensively, and we feel a little better about ourselves. I thought in the second half we had a chance to feel better about ourselves and get into a little bit of a rhythm. Then we shoot ourselves in the foot."
Three other Rebels than Henderson made the double-digit scoring column. Reginald Buckner had 11, while Holloway and Nick Williams had 10 each.
Holloway left the game late with an injury. Kennedy said it doesn't appear to be serious.
"He's fine. I thought it was an ankle," Kennedy said. "He's had so many of those. His Achilles kind of tightened up on him. I think he's fine."
Derrick Millinghaus had nine points and three steals in 20 minutes. He said he continues to feel better after his knee scope.
"I am not 100 percent yet," he said. "I'm about 85-90 percent back."
Kennedy said the turnovers will continue to be a negative factor until the Rebels step it up.
"Just being weak with the ball, not valuing the ball," he said. "I told them from day one if you value your minutes, you'll value that ball. The ball's important. And we don't value the ball enough. There are a lot of things we need to improve upon."