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A joyful homecoming: Ole Miss beats MTSU in Kermit Davis return

NASHVILLE – Kermit Davis’ return to Tennessee ended with a Rebel win, but it wasn’t a pretty one. Ole Miss beat Davis’ former team, Middle Tennessee 74-56 Friday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. For the Rebels, it was more than just a game, it was head coach Kermit Davis’ return to play a school he coached at for 16 seasons.

“I was nervous for the game. there will be only one night that I ever pull against the Raiders, and that’s tonight,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis. “It was mixed emotions. There was a lot of family and lot of friends that were at the game tonight. We just wish Middle Tennessee all the luck in the world down the stretch.”

It was a slow and sloppy first half of play for Ole Miss on the offensive end. While they shot 48-percent on the half, they turned the ball over 12 times. Many possessions ended with quick shots early in the shot clock, essentially the last thing Kermit Davis wants from his offense.

While the first half may have been a drudge, Ole Miss came out to start the second half ready to play. They opened the half on a handful of runs, outscoring Middle Tennessee 25-9 to start the half. However, MTSU would outscore the Rebels 15-4 over the final seven minutes of play.

The Rebels were led in the contest by Breein Tyree. Tyree has been wildly efficient of late. Dec. 16 against Chattanooga he scored 20 points on 7-12 shooting in just 23 minutes. Friday, he scored 24 on 10-13 shooting. Bruce Stevens also chipped in with 12 points and 4 rebounds.

“Breein is at a high level. Breein is playing as good as any guard in the SEC right now,” Davis said. “He’s got the loudest voice in our gym every day. He works his tail off and he’s our best vocal leader. Good things happen to guys who do that, consistently, over a long period of time.”

It’s the second game in a row that Ole Miss came out slow, but started the second half hot. Last week against Chattanooga, they trailed 39-37 at the half but won by 20. It’s a problem that may not bite them against MTSU or Chattanooga, but in SEC play, they need to play better in the first ten minutes of play.

“We didn’t have great energy in the first three minutes. We got some stops but we didn’t have tenacity,” Davis said. “Our 1-3-1 (zone) gets us going, and we started that. Maybe it’s something we think about staring in the 1-3-1 earlier on, to get our team going.”

With just one game remaining before the start of SEC play, Ole Miss has some things to work on. But at 9-2, Kermit Davis has to be pleased with the way his team has started the season. The Rebels return home for their final game of 2018 on Saturday, December 29 to play Florida Gulf Coast, before coming back to Nashville on January 5 to start SEC play against Vanderbilt.