ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — Sebastian Saiz scored a career-high 26 points and added 12 rebounds, and Mississippi advanced to the Paradise Jam championship game with an 81-68 victory over Saint Joseph's on Sunday.
Deandre Burnett added 20 points, and Cullen Neal and Rasheed Brooks had 11 each for the Rebels (4-0), who pushed a 41-37 halftime lead to as many as 16 points in the second half.
"We were giving up a lot of free opportunities in the last game (a 95-88 overtime win over Oral Roberts on Friday)," Saiz said. "We used the mentality of 'nothing free tonight.' I knew they were going to try to double-team me, but I was ready for
it. I knew they weren't going to be able to stop me."
Shavar Newkirk scored 21 points, Charlie Brown had 13, and Lamarr Kimble added 10 for the Hawks (3-1), who led twice in the first half, the last at 28-24 on Chris Clover's 3-pointer with 8:56 left.
But Mississippi responded with a 15-5 run over the next five minutes, with Brown's 3-pointer with 3:54 remaining giving the Rebels a 39-33 lead, their biggest of the half.
Mississippi's largest lead came in the final six minutes, with Justa Furmanavicius tipping in a missed Burnett layup for a 73-57 margin with 5:26 left.
"We had too many missed plays," said Hawks coach Phil Martelli, whose team was 10 for 22 from the foul line. "We had to keep them off the glass, and didn't do that. But it was our foul shooting — we started off 0 for 6 to start the half, and we can't be in those situations."
Even with the loss, the Hawks are off to their best start since the 2005-06 season, when they also opened 3-1. Saint Joseph's went on to finish 19-14 that season.