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VIDEO: Kennedy, Newby talk start of Ole Miss hoops season

After tuning up for the 2015-16 season with an exhibition win over Clayton State last week, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team will officially get it started Friday against Northwestern State at C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum.

The Rebels, coming off their second NCAA Tournament appearance in the last three seasons, look much different with the losses of Jarvis Summers, LaDarius White, M.J. Rhett and Dwight Coleby (transfer).

The competition between junior college transfer Sam Finley and freshman J.T. Escobar to replace Summers at the point continues to go back and forth while graduate transfer Tomasz Gielo will play in the frontcourt. The newcomers mixed with All-SEC guard Stefan Moody, Martavious Newby and Sebastian Saiz had little trouble scoring in the 103-87 win Thursday.

Moody finished with a game-high 25 points on 6 of 8 shooting. Finley followed with 21 points while Gielo and Saiz added 15 apiece.

But the defense is what head coach Andy Kennedy is concerned about, particularly on the ball, which Kennedy called “atrocious” after the exhibition victory. Four Clayton State players finished in double figures, and the Rebels allowed Clayton State to shoot 50 percent (12 of 24) from 3-point range.

The Rebels’ next challenge comes against a formidable Northwestern State guard tandem in Zeek Woodley and Jalan West. Woodley (22.2 points per game) is the nation’s leading returning scorer while West poured in more than 20 points a game last season.

It gets lost with the run Ole Miss made at the end of last season, but the Rebels dropped their opener a season ago at the buzzer to Charleston Southern at home.

Watch Kennedy and Newby talk about defense, the challenges of Friday’s opener and more in the videos below.