NICEVILLE, Fla. – The smallest man on the court put up the biggest numbers as Stefan Moody led Mississippi to the championship of the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic.
The 5-10 guard scored a career-high 26 points in the Rebels' 66-54 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday, and he was named the tournament's most valuable player. Moody hit 9 of 17 shots including 3 of 7 from 3-point range.
"I've been telling people that this kid has got explosive scoring ability not unlike (the Denver Nuggets') Nate Robinson in my opinion, " said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy. "Yet he has not played as well as he played tonight previously, but he stayed the course, stayed the course."
Moody averaged 10 points coming into Saturday's game.
The Rebels (5-1) handed the Bearcats (5-1) their first loss of the season after doing the same for No. 23 Creighton the night before. The eight-team tournament was played at Northwest Florida State College.
"I was pretty pleased with how a played today," Moody said. "I know that if I was able to come out and get going it would give the team a spark that would help us get the victory."
No other Rebel scored in double figures. Octavius Ellis led the Bearcats with 13 points. Gary Clark added 12 and Deshaun Morman had 11.
The Bearcats spurted to a 5-0 lead, but Ole Miss tied it at 7-7.
The teams traded the lead a couple times before the Rebels went on an 8-0 run for a 22-14 advantage. M.J. Rhett keyed the run with a pair of jumpers. The Bearcats cut the gap to 30-25 at the intermission, but the Rebels went on 14-4 run to open the second half led by Moody, who grew up in Kissimmee, Florida.
He scored eight consecutive points, knocking down a three-point shot, a layup and then another three-pointer. The Rebels eventually expanded their advantage to 21 points with 7:52 remaining. The Bearcats started chipping away but never could cut their deficit into single digits.
The win was a bit of long-delayed revenge for the Rebels. The only other meeting between the two teams was 60 years ago, when Cincinnati defeated Ole Miss 78-70 on Dec. 27, 1954 in the All-American City Tournament at Owensboro, Kentucky.
Ole Miss: The Rebels are 18-6 in regular season tournaments under Kennedy, now in his ninth year at Mississippi. He also led them to titles in the 2007 San Juan Shootout and 2013 Barclays Classic. Last year, Ole Miss knocked off Georgia Tech and Penn State at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. Besides upsetting Creighton, the Rebels defeated Southern 69-38 and Northern Arizona 80-74 on their way to the Emerald Coast title.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats defeated Eastern Illinois 54-49, North Carolina Central 59-50 and Middle Tennessee 69-51 in Friday's semi-finals to earn a spot in the championship game.
Cincinnati hosts Stony Brook on Tuesday.
Mississippi hosts TCU on Thursday.
Cincinnati's Farad Cobb was back at his old stomping grounds. Cobb, who played junior college ball at Northwest Florida, scored nine points and had two assists and a pair of steals against Middle Tennessee and scored three against Ole Miss.
Kennedy was interim head coach for one year and an assistant for four at Cincinnati before taking the helm at Ole Miss eight years ago. He had a 21-13 record as the Bearcats' interim coach in 2005-06 including an appearance in the NIT quarterfinals. Kennedy said he as great respect for what Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin has done with the program. "Obviously, it was a long time ago," Kennedy said. "If we had played this game in Cincinnati tonight as opposed to Niceville, it may have conjured up a few more memories, but they were just another opponent, a quality opponent."