Alcorn tips off against Ole Miss to open season

Published 3:16 pm Monday, November 7, 2022

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OXFORD — The defending Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) regular season champion Alcorn Braves tip-off the 2022-23 season with a huge early-season Southeastern Conference (SEC) matchup, traveling to the Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss for an 8 p.m. start time on Monday, Nov. 7. The Braves and Rebels are both kicking off the year and are meeting for the fifth time. After the in-state opener, Alcorn travels to the Midwest to take on American Athletic Conference (AAC) foe in the form of Wichita State on November 12.

THE GAME: Alcorn Braves (0-0) at Ole Miss Rebels (0-0)
WHEN: Monday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. CT
WHERE: Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss (Oxford, Miss.)
WATCH LIVE VIDEO: Broadcast on SEC Network ESPN+ ($6.99/month or $69.99/year)
TICKETS: Ole Miss ($10.00 – $15.00)

Alcorn is not ranked in the preseason Associated Press or USA TODAY Coaches Poll Top 25 poll. Ole Miss is not ranked in the preseason Associated Press or USA TODAY Coaches Poll Top 25 poll. Neither team received any votes in these preseason polls. Receiving two (2) No. 1 picks, Alcorn was picked No. 2 in Preseason SWA Predicted Order of Finish. Ole Miss came in at No. 9 among the 14-team league in the SEC Preseason Poll.

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Keep up with everything Alcorn Men’s Basketball this year by following the Braves’ hoops social media platforms. You can follow @BravesMBB on Instagram and @Alcorn_St_MBB on Twitter.

This is the fifth overall meeting between the two “Magnolia State” programs. Ole Miss leads the series, 4-0 and this is the first meeting since 2011 for the series that started in 1986. Alcorn’s first season of competition was 1945-46. The University of Mississippi played its first games in the 1908-09 season.

Alcorn completed the 2021-22 season as the SWAC regular-season champion with a 17-17 overall record and 14-4 SWAC mark, reaching the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) for the third time (previously 1979 & 1985). The Ole Miss Rebels were 13-19 last season with a 4-14 SEC record. Alcorn Head Coach Landon Bussie is in his third season and has a record of 23-30 with the Braves (23-30 career). Ole Miss Head Coach Kermit Davis is in his fifth season and has a record of 64-61 with the Rebels (533-324 career).

The Braves faced Jackson-based Tougaloo College in their lone exhibition, October 27, at the Davey L. Whitney Complex, leaning on a second-half tempo surge to secure the 77-63 victory over the Bulldogs. Ole Miss faced the University of West Georgia on Nov. 1, at the SJB Pavilion and used their entire roster in defeating the Wolves, 91-62.

Defending 2021-22 Titles
The Alcorn Braves earned the SWAC Regular Season Championship for the first time since 2002 (17 total regular season titles) after notching a 14-4 league record, earning the top spot in the conference tournament seeding. The Braves were bumped out of the field by the eventual winner in the final, two-time champion Texas Southern. For their efforts on the year, Head Coach Landon Bussie was named SWAC Coach of the Year in just his second season with the squad after turning around a 6-13 team from his first season. In year two, the Braves stared down losses in 11 of the first 12 games, but rebounded to finish 17-17 on the year. Prior to taking the ASU helm, Bussie served six seasons at Prairie View A&M serving as an assistant coach. After the 2021-22 season, Bussie was selected to coach in the inaugural HBCU All-Star Game during Final Four week in New Orleans.

Investing in Program Consistency
Alcorn Athletics announced on Oct. 27 that President Felecia M. Nave and Director of Athletics Raynoid Dedeaux have completed an agreement for a contract extension of Head Coach Landon Bussie beyond his current deal and through 2026.

“This shows the commitment they’ve made to me and the men’s basketball program. Hopefully, we can continue to have success in leading the program, and we can make all our administration, student-athletes and alumni proud of the work we do here each and every day. I’m excited about where we’re going, and I’m happy to be a Brave,” Bussie said.

Expertise Added to Coaching Staff
During the months leading up to the 2022-23 preseason, Bussie and the Alcorn Braves fortified their coaching staff with the announced hires of two coaches in August 2022.

The program first announced assistant coach Ben Mandelbaum was joining Alcorn after serving the previous two seasons as the associate head coach for the men’s basketball program at Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina. Mandelbaum spent two seasons at Tallahassee Community College in Tallahassee, Florida.

Just one week later, ASU raised the bar higher with the announcement of adding veteran coach Cyrus “Cy” Alexander to the staff. A former head coach with 391 career wins across 26 years leading notable HBCU programs such as North Carolina A&T, South Carolina State and Tennessee State. Some of Alexander’s distinctions include, but are not limited to, MEAC Coach of the Year and Palmetto State Coach of the Year. He has also been named to the Catawba and South Carolina State Hall of Fames, respectively. In 1996, he was named American Sports Wire National Coach of the Year.

Returning Strength
Alcorn returns three starters from last year’s highly-successful squad, which registered the most wins since 2016-17 (18); senior forward Dontrell McQuarter, sophomore guard Byron Joshua and senior guard Oddyst Walker.

An athletic and explosive player with a high degree of versatility at 6-foot-7, McQuarter will be relied upon to match Ole Miss’ athleticism and physicality to open the season. Last year in his first season after transferring from Rider, McQuarter averaged 5.6 points (44.7 percent shooting) and 4.1 rebounds – against Tougaloo, he recorded 13 points, five rebounds and two steals. A year ago, Walker averaged 7.3 points and 2.8 boards, while Joshua notched 6.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and a team second-best total of 66 assists.

An X-factor among returning non-starters could be the play of redshirt sophomore forward Keondre Montgomery, who put on a clinic in the exhibition with a 20-point, 12-rebound performance. A former Mississippi State player from Jackson, Montgomery has proven himself all preseason on the boards and looks to build on last season, when he averaged 9.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in his first year with the Braves. Coming out of high school at Forest Hill, he was a two-time all-state first team selection and two-time honoree on “Dandy Dozen” list from the Jackson-Clarion Ledger. This season, Montgomery was awarded a slot on the Preseason All-SWAC Second Team.

Also a Preseason All-SWAC Second Team honoree, sophomore guard Dominic Brewton led the Braves with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists in last year’s NIT matchup with Texas A&M. The Cincinnati, Ohio native flourishes in big school games and is a capable scorer from all three levels. Last season, he was third on the team with 9.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, ranking second with 33 steals on the year.

A New Infusion
The Braves have bolstered their roster with the addition of nine new faces for the 2022-23 season, including four Division I transfers, two junior college transfers and three high school players. Highlighting the DI group with his versatility as an on-ball defender and his passionate leadership, Eastern Kentucky graduate transfer guard Trevin Wade is expected to perform well in his first outing after a full year away from the court. He did not play last season at EKU, but previously played for Wichita State after earning GCAA/Region 17 Player of the Year at Georgia Highlands College. At Prairie View A&M, junior forward Jeremiah Kendall averaged 5.7 ppg and 3.9 rpg. Freshman forward Shaun Walker didn’t play in his season at McNeese State, but was District MVP and ranked a Top 10 player in the Greater Houston Area by On The Radar. Vicksburg native guard Cameron Butler averaged 5.7 ppg and 3.4 rpg at Copiah-Lincoln CC.

The Rebels finished 13-19 last year under then-fourth-year Kermit Davis and lost three of their starts from a year ago, returning six letterwinners to eight lost. They’ve restocked the roster with eight newcomers. It will be incumbent on the Braves to keep guards Daeshun Ruffin (12.6 ppg, 2.3 spg) and Matthew Murrell (12.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg), the clear returning leaders in the backcourt. The pair will also get the support of returners forward Jaemyn Brakefield (7.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and guard Tye Fagan (7.1 ppg, 2.0 apg, 3,0 rpg).

Ole Miss was able to offset their losses with the addition of three Top 100 players from the ESPN rankings, including big guards Amaree Abram and TJ Caldwell to go with 6-10 center Malique Ewin.
Ewin was ranked as the No. 19 center coming out of Georgia’s Berkmar High School and was named the Region 7-AAAAAAA Player of the Year as well as a member of the Region Defensive Team, averaging a double-double over 18/10 per game. Both out of Texas, Abram averaged 16 ppg, while Caldwell won a state title and was named MVP.

Last season, the Braves averaged 66.5 points, 36.1 rebounds, 10.4 assists, 7.4 steals and 2.7 blocks per game, shooting .412 from the floor and .316 from the arc. ASU opponents scored 71.1 points with 34.7 rebounds. Ole Miss averaged 68.1 points, 33.4 rebounds, 13.2 assists, 7.1 steals, 2.8 blocks, shooting .435 from the floor and .326 from three. Rebel opponents scored an average of 68.7 points with 34.2 rebounds.

Season Tickets for the 2022-23 Alcorn men’s and women’s basketball teams at the Davey L. Whitney Health and Physical Education Complex are now available for purchase at Season tickets for the home SWAC competitions are $76.25, while single-game admission is $12.65 in advance.

After Ole Miss, the Braves will travel to face American Athletic Conference (AAC) foe Wichita State at the Charles Koch Arena on Saturday, Nov. 12, before swinging into east Texas for Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 15 in Nacogdoches. The first home outing for the Braves is not scheduled until the start of 2023 when Alcorn opens SWAC play as host to Jackson State on Jan. at the Davey L. Whitney Health and Physical Education Complex.