OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - Ole Miss shot the ball well from the perimeter on Tuesday night, using 14 three-pointers to topple over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 85-63 to improve to 6-5 on the season.
Justas Furmanavicius had 15 points, tying his career high, all of which game via the three ball. The junior forward went 5 of 8 from the field. Center Dominik Olejniczak also had 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting, a personal best for the seven-footer. The two led all scorers.
“The point guard did a good job of finding me open,” Fumanavicius said. “I just tried to knock them down.”
Ole Miss (6-5) let it fly early, draining nine first-half three pointers to take a 50-31 lead at the break. The Rebels used a 13-0 run that saw their lead balloon to 37-18 midway through the first half, and the game never was in serious doubt after that. Ole Miss shared the basketball well and were efficient on offense. The team recorded 25 assists on 28 made shots.
“I am not sure I have ever been part of a team that has been as efficient sharing the ball as that group,” head coach Andy Kennedy said.
Kennedy was happy to see Olejniczak after what has been a tough start for the seven-footer to begin the season.
“I thought we put him in a position early where he could turn and score the ball with his size,” Kennedy said. “He’s a big kid, and he needs to play big.”
Olejniczak played that way on the other end as well. He protected the rim well, highlighted by three blocks as the Islanders had trouble navigating around him going towards the rim.
“That is what I am most excited about,” Kennedy said. “I thought we came out and set the tone defensively, and our offense followed."
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (3-7) turned the basketball over 14 times as the Rebels got after them on the defensive end. The Islanders were 26 of 61 from the field. Kennedy was pleased with the effort of his team after a lethargic performance on Saturday afternoon.
“We are not in the relaxing business,” Kennedy said. “Our guys have a tendency to relax sometimes. We are up 25, let’s get up 27. I just want our sense of urgency to continue to increase.
Five different Rebels scored in double figures. Deandre Burnett had 13 points in 24 minutes. Breein Tyree and Terence Davis had 11 points each. Ole Miss held a 34-28 rebounding advantage, and 11 different players recorded minutes in the game.
Kennedy went with an unusual starting lineup to begin the game, a bit of a subtle message to his struggling team about valuing the process of improving and playing with that same sense of urgency he has preached for most of the season. Furmanavicius, D.C. Davis, Olejniczak, Burnett and Devontae Shuler were the starting five, the team’s seventh different lineup this season.
“Sometimes when you get to games players devalue practice,” Kennedy said. “We obviously have to improve. You can look at it as the glass being half full - and I am mostly a jovial guy - we are three possessions away from being 8-2 and the sky is not falling, but we are what our record says we are. We are 6-5 and have to keep getting better. Practice is very important to us.”
Kennedy will take a win anyway it can be drawn up as he continues to try to mold this team into what he thinks it can be. For now, the Rebels got back into the win column over the .500 mark at 6-5.
Ole Miss returns to action on Friday night (Dec. 22) against Bradley. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. inside The Pavilion.