Game: Ole Miss - South Carolina
Date: Jan. 18, 3:30 p.m.
Location: Columbia, S.C.
TV/Radio: FSN/Ole Miss Radio Network
In college basketball, no freshman is the same. Each progresses at his own rate.
There are those who impact their program from day one, quickly asserting themselves as stars in the making. Others might need a week. Or a month. Or a year.
Ole Miss freshman forward Sebastian Saiz needed until Jan. 15.
Saiz was dominant in the Rebels’ 88-74 win over LSU Wednesday night, scoring a career-high 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting. He also grabbed nine rebounds.
“We’ve been waiting for it,” senior guard Marshall Henderson said. “We knew he definitely had the ability to do it. Our bigs, we get them a lot of shots down there by the rim. Put the ball in the hole, they have big games just like that.”
Perhaps most impressive, the performance came against the stout LSU front court of junior Johnny O’Bryant and freshman Jordan Mickey, who, prior to the game, were first and second, respectively, on their team in points and rebounds. Mickey was also the second-best shot-blocker in the SEC.
The pair scored a combined eight points on 2 of 10 from the field and grabbed all of 10 rebounds between them. This from what was the 13th-best rebounding team in the nation and No. 2 in the SEC behind only Kentucky.
“I was thinking before the game I didn’t show up in the whole year yet. I was thinking when am I going to do it? It’s time. SEC is here. It’s time to show up,” Saiz said. “I stopped thinking about being scared and all the stuff. I just tried to be me.”
“He’s big and strong. There’s not many freshmen who are as filled out as him already,” Henderson said. “I know in practice I hate going against him because he hits me. I’m like ‘Quit hitting me, dog.’ I know (the LSU game) is going to be good for his confidence. Maybe he’s about to get on a roll.”
It was obvious early Saiz was in for a memorable night. Saiz, a native of Spain, made six of his first seven shots.
But what was the difference? Why LSU? Saiz entered the game as Ole Miss’ most efficient rebounder, leading the Rebels in offensive and defensive rebounding rate in just over 19 minutes a game. But offensively, he hadn’t contributed much, averaging all of 4.4 points per game, with a career-high of 11 points.
Saiz said it was his familiarity with Mickey. He had faced Mickey before - in high school, when he starred for Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Air, Kan., and Mickey was a member of Prime Prep in Dallas, Texas.
“I had extra motivation because (of) Jordan Mickey,” Saiz said. “We played last year twice. He beat me one, I beat him one. That’s 2-1.”
“The matchup against Jordan Mickey was exciting for him because he’d played Jordan Mickey before,” Kennedy said. “That was something that he could relate to, and he played huge. I would hope that this game would give him the confidence he needs. He went for 20 and nine against a real front line. I’d hope that would give him the confidence to say ‘Hey, I can do this, now I just got to go do it.’”
Saiz ranks fourth among freshman in the SEC with 6.2 rebounds per game. He’s averaging 8.0 rebounds a game over his last five. However, it’s on the offensive end where Ole Miss needs him to be better.
Wednesday night could be a sign of things to come.
“He’s a worker. You can tell he plays with energy,” Kennedy said. “He’s got the size and the physical attributes. What you expect for a freshman is he starts getting acclimated to the speed of the game. Initially, the game’s going way fast for him. Now I think he’s understanding what he has to do to be successful.”
Scouting South Carolina:
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)
South Carolina is 7-9 on the season and 0-3 in the SEC after falling on the road at Texas A&M 75-67 Wednesday night. The Gamecocks have also dropped league games at Florida (74-58) and vs. LSU (71-68). South Carolina ranks last in the league is scoring margin (+0.9), and 13th in field goal percentage (.435) and field goal percentage defense (.426). Freshman G Sindarius Thornwell and senior G Brenton Williams lead the team averaging 11.3 points per game, while sophomore F Mindaugas Kacinas paces the squad pulling down 5.7 boards per game. The Gamecocks have only three players averaging double figures in scoring but do boast six players averaging at last 5.7 points per game.
USA TODAY images
Today's game is the 31st meeting between the two schools on the hardwood, with the series tied at 15 games apiece. Ole Miss lost to South Carolina 63-62 in Columbia last year, but have won two of the last three matchups. The Rebels are just 1-10 all time in Columbia with the lone victory coming in 2001. The home team has taken 11 of the last 12 matchups. Andy Kennedy is 3-6 against the Gamecocks (3-5 with Ole Miss, 0-1 with Cincinnati).
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)
* Senior guard Marshall Henderson scored 25 points, including 19 after halftime, and dished out a career-high 7 assists as Ole Miss blew past LSU 88-74 in overtime. Junior forward Aaron Jones scored 13 points and tied a career high with 13 rebounds. Junior guard Jarvis Summers posted his fifth 20-plus point scoring effort in six games with 20 points.
* Junior guard/forward Ladarius White is averaging 11.0 points a game through three conference games after posting 7.7 ppg in non-conference action. Snoop is tied for second in the SEC in league games with a 50.0 3-point field goal percentage and tied for 10th with six 3-pointers made. He is also averaging 4.7 boards a game through three conference games.
* Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy and South Carolina head coach Frank Martin coached together at Cincinnati from 2004-06, including the `05-06 season when Kennedy was interim head coach of the Bearcats. This will mark the third-ever meeting between the two, as Kennedy’s Rebels knocked off Martin’s Kansas State squad 86-74 in 2009 and lost to Martin’s South Carolina team last season.
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy meets the media following the Rebels' 88-74 win over LSU.