Rebels rout Vols for 20th victory

Published 6:03 am Sunday, March 6, 2016

Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy attempted to downplay his new membership in an exclusive fraternity.

Sebastian Saiz had 23 points and 11 rebounds Saturday as Ole Miss closed the regular season with an 83-60 victory over Tennessee, which went over 14 minutes without a basket in the first half. The victory allowed Ole Miss (20-11, 10-8 SEC) to clinch its eighth 20-win season in Kennedy’s 10-year coaching tenure.

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Ole Miss had just seven 20-win campaigns in 96 seasons before Kennedy’s arrival. Kennedy joined Billy Donovan, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith as the only SEC coaches to have at least eight 20-win seasons in their first 10 years in the league.

“I don’t really take time to reflect on that unless I’m at the beach sometimes, trying to win a bet,” Kennedy said. “You could win a bet off that question, (asking) which one doesn’t belong, like on ‘Sesame Street.’

“For me, it just shows that perseverance pays off. At Ole Miss, it’s never easy. You’ve got to have the right mentality and the right approach, and that is to grind. Typically people don’t like to grind because grinding’s hard. But that’s what we have to do.”

Good and bad
Three days after getting a career-high 43 points in a victory over Mississippi State, SEC scoring leader Stefan Moody went scoreless in the first half and battled foul trouble before finishing with 12 points in 21 minutes.

Ole Miss still handed Tennessee (13-18, 6-12) its most lopsided home loss since an 88-63 setback against Vanderbilt on Jan. 8, 2005.

Tennessee was playing a fifth straight game without leading scorer Kevin Punter Jr., who is undergoing season-ending surgery Tuesday to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. Tennessee’s Robert Hubbs III returned after missing two games with an injured right knee, but he was scoreless in six minutes off the bench.

After beating LSU 81-65 in its first game without Punter, Tennessee has lost four straight by an average margin of 19 points.

“Today we weren’t very good in any area of the game,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.