OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Ole Miss guard Devontae Shuler managed to smile when he considered the final statistics in the post-game press conference and admitted, "It feels good to be averaging 20 points a game right now."
Shuler scored 20 points and sparked a decisive first-half run Friday night as Ole Miss defeated Arkansas State 71-43 in its season opener. The performance earned a positive review from Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis.
"He dominated the game on both ends," Davis said. "He looked like the most experienced guy on the floor and it really showed."
Shuler had a pair of three-point shots to highlight an early 18-3 run for the Rebels (1-0), who led 39-19 at halftime. The Rebels led by as many as 29 points, the earliest at 50-21, on a pair of Shuler free throws with13:54 left. KJ Buffen added 16 points and a game-high 9 rebounds.
Canberk Kus and J.J. Matthews had 10 points apiece and Marquis Eaton added six rebounds and five assists for the Red Wolves (1-1). Arkansas State shot 15 of 46 (32 from the field, 6 of 19 (31 %) from 3-point range and 7 of 12 (58%) from the free-throw line.
"Any time you hold a team to 32 percent, that's a good opening game for us," Davis said. "Devontae and KJ were really solid, but we've still got a long way to go offensively."
Ole Miss shot 25 of 56 (45, 8 of 26 (31%) from 3-point range, including three from Shuler. The Rebels were 13 of 20 (65%) from the free-throw line and out rebounded the Red Wolves 40-28 while forcing 23 turnovers.
Arkansas State: The Red Wolves, after defeating Arkansas-Monticello at home last week, did not play well in the road opener. Arkansas State had
16 turnovers and scored only three points during a pair of seven-minute stretches in the first half.
Ole Miss: After a sluggish two minutes, the Rebels controlled the tempo and had early scoring runs of 18-3, 10-0 and 16-6. Davis places a premium on athletic players who are active defensively and the Rebels looked the part in the home opener. Breein Tyree had a team-high four assists and three steals.
"We don't make excuses. The turnovers were the difference," Arkansas State coach Mike Balado said. "Pressure does that to you. It wears you down and Ole Miss is long and athletic defensively. We'll look at it and I'm confident we'll get better."
Arkansas State: Hosts VMI Thursday in the opener of the Red Wolves Classic.
Ole Miss: Hosts Norfolk State Tuesday in the second of a four-game home stand.