NICEVILLE, FLA. — Junior guard Stefan Moody scored a career-high 26 points, including 17 in the second half, as Mississippi handed Cincinnati its first loss of the season with a 66-54 victory in the championship of the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic basketball tournament held at The Arena Saturday night.
After opening the season losing on a buzzer beater to Charleston Southern, the Rebels have won their last five games including a 75-68 upset victory past No. 23 Creighton Friday night in the third round of the Emerald Coast Classic.
“We’ve posted two quality wins against teams (Creighton, Cincinnati) that are going to have good seasons,” said Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy. “We played just as hard tonight like we did against Creighton, but not as well.
“Still, this was a good win for our program to beat a team of this caliber,” added Kennedy, who served as interim head coach of Cincinnati during the 2005-06 season, guiding the Bearcats to the quarterfinal round of the NIT.
The Rebels scored six straight points to break a 14-14 tie, retaining the lead the rest of the way.
Cincinnati struggled offensively, shooting a season-low 30.4 percent from the floor after hitting a season-high 56.8 percent in a 69-51 triumph past Middle Tennessee State Friday night.
Clinging to a 30-25 halftime lead, the 5-foot 10-inch Moody ignited the Rebels in the second half with his penetration producing twisting layups in the paint through the Cincinnati offense. He also hit three three-point baskets.
“I’ve been telling people that he has explosive scoring ability,” said Kennedy. “He carried the load for us. Good teams have good options. Tonight it was Stefan.”
Moody was named the tournament’s most valuable performer and was joined by senior guard Jarvis Summers, the leading active score in the SEC, on the 10-man all-tournament team.
“I was pretty pleased with how a played today,“ said Moody, who was named the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, while playing for Florida Atlantic. “I knew that if I was able to come out and get going it would give the team a spark that help us get the victory.”
The Rebels shot a sizzling 62.5 percent in the second half, hitting 10 of 16 shots. That allowed Mississippi to construct its biggest lead at 52-33 with 10:22 left following a free throw by Moody.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati could never recover from its shooting woes firing at a 23.1 percent clip in the second period making just three of 13 shots.
The Rebels also outrebounded Cincinnati, 31-24.
“We beat them off the offensive glass and they struggled offensively,” Kennedy said.
The closest the Bearcats could cut the lead was at 11 points on three occasions.
Junior forward Octavius Ellis led Cincinnati with 13 points, while freshman forward Gary Clark enjoyed his first double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Redshirt freshman Deshaun Morman came off the bench to score 11 points.
Summers scored eight points for the Rebels and dished out a game-high five assists.
ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM
MVP – Stefan Moody, Ole Miss
Jarvis Summers, Ole Miss
Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati
Gary Clark, Cincinnati
Isaiah Zierden, Creighton
Jacquez Rozier, Middle Tennessee State
Karamo Jawara, North Carolina Central
Quinton Upshur, Northern Arizona
Trae Anderson, Eastern Illinois
Treiun Banks, Southern