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Bjork Talks Hoops On Studio 18 Live

Studio 18 Live - March 19, 2014 from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork recaps the 2013-14 men's and women's basketball seasons and shares his thoughts on Auburn hiring Bruce Pearl as men's basketball coach.


Ole Miss outscored Mississippi State 43-22 in the second half, as the Rebels rallied for the 78-66 win in the second round of the SEC Tournament Thursday night in Atlanta. With the win, Ole Miss advances to play No. 3 seed Georgia in Friday night's quarterfinals.

Mississippi State took a 44-35 lead into halftime behind 58 percent shooting, including 6-of-11 from 3-point range. In the second half, Ole Miss flipped the script. 

The Rebels shot 45 percent, while they held the Bulldogs to 17 percent from the floor, and it translated to the both teams' energy on both ends of the court.

"When you make shots, it's amazing how much energy you have," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "When you miss shots, that energy goes away quickly. In the first half, they were making shots and they were hopping all around the gym. We couldn't make one. We were just trying to stay in the game. The script got flipped in the second half. In the second half, we started making them, and they were struggling a little bit."

"Something kicks into gear with about 10 minutes left to go in the second half," said senior guard Marshall Henderson, who finished with a game-high 21 points. "For whatever reason, our sense of urgency goes up a lot more, and the focus become more effective."

Down one, 56-55, Henderson drew a charge with 8:39 left, and on the next possession, the Rebels took their first lead, 57-56, on a lay-up from junior guard LaDarius White. From there, Mississippi State would lead just once the rest of the way, as Ole Miss finished on a 40-15 run over the last 16:42 of the game.

"I'm just trying to make a big play somewhere else," Henderson said. "That's what coach emphasized. Coach (Kennedy) always says players made plays. A lot of times we get to thinking that it's only on the offensive end, and he always tries to reiterate to us that you can make a big play on defense, if you want to."

After going 3-for-12 from the field, including 3-from-10 from 3-point range in the first half, the shots started to fall for Henderson in the second half, as he was 4-of-9 from the field -- all from 3-point range -- in the second half. It included back-to-back 3-pointers after a 3-pointer from junior guard Jarvis Summers, who also finished with a game-high 21 points, to stretch a 62-60 lead to 71-60 and put the game out of reach with 2:42 left.

"I was feeling it there in the first half," Henderson said. "There three or four of them that rolled in and out. It was the most roll in-and-outs I have ever had, but they were there. Then, it got to crunch time, and shots had to be made."

"They were struggling missing shots, and they could feel the momentum start to turn," Kennedy said. "They were in control for about 30 of the 40 minutes, but we kept coming and we kept coming. You look up, and we go from being up two, to being up eight, to being up 12, and that's when they got a little bit slower and Marshall had an opportunity to put down a couple of daggers, and he did."

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Ole Miss meets Mississippi State for the third time this season, with a berth in SEC Tournament quarterfinals and a matchup with No. 3 seed Georgia on the line. It is just their second meeting in the SEC Tournament with the Bulldogs winning 73-64 in 2003.

No. 14 seed Mississippi State advanced to the second round with an 82-68 win over No. 11 seed Vanderbilt on Wednesday. The Bulldogs shot a season-best 59 percent from the field, as they snapped a 13-game losing streak.

"Once we set foot on the court, we have a shot," said Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray after Wednesday's win. "But more so than anything, I think that what happens is everybody focuses in on one player on their team. People don't understand how good Jarvis Summers is. He's a really good basketball player. Sometimes you get so caught up in Marshall Henderson and guard him off the cuts and screening action, that you allow Jarvis Summers to go one-on-and. And when you allow him to go one-on-one, he's a really good player."

"It will feel great to get to see them one more time," said Mississippi State sophomore guard Craig Sword, who led four Bulldogs in double figures with a game-high 20 points against Vanderbilt. "But we're going to take thing one game at a time. We're going to come in tomorrow focused and locked in."

In their first meeting, without senior guard Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss fell to Mississippi State 76-72 on the road in Starkville. In their second meeting, Ole Miss avenged its earlier loss with an 82-63 win in Oxford led by 19 points each from Henderson and junior guard Jarvis Summers.

In addition to the return of Henderson, the Rebels' leading scorer, another big difference in the two meetings was the play of Sword, the Bulldogs' leading scorer. Sword had 15 points, all at the free throw line, in the first meeting, while Ole Miss held him to just four points in the second meeting. 

"Obviously, if State wins tonight and we have the opportunity to play them, then, you know, it would be their Super Bowl in that they could go ahead and put us out of our misery," said head coach Andy Kennedy in Wednesday's pre-tournament press conference. "I think that whoever we play, simply because we have played them both twice and we are very familiar with them, we know what we have to do. We just have to go out and perform."

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It's a similar road to last year, as Ole Miss begins its SEC Tournament title defense on Thursday against the winner of the Vanderbilt-Mississippi State game. This year, a similar run would take an extra game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. 

Ole Miss is the No. 6 seed, and the winner of Thursday's game advances to play No. 3 seed Georgia in Friday's quarterfinals, the round where the reigning SEC Tournament champion began its run through the field a year ago.

"There's not as much pressure," senior guard Marshall Henderson said. "Looking at the road that we have, we're excited about it. We're in the same position. We have the same path. We have to win one more game."

"We ended up finishing in the six seed, which as Marshall said, it's really the same road and the same time slot we had last year except we have one more game," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "Now, we're into the postseason. One missed assignment, one guy not doing his job on a set, one guy not making the proper rotation, one careless turnover, one missed free throw, and the season is over. I want them to understand, and my hope is that it won't increase pressure. Pressure doesn't exist until you allow it to exist. I want them to be on edge. I want them to be locked in and laser-focused, and then let's see how good we can be."

Henderson and junior guard Jarvis Summers were recently named to the All-SEC second team by the league's coaches, and any run through the tournament starts with them. Henderson leads the league averaging 3-pointers 4.29 3-pointers made per game and ranks third in scoring (19.0 ppg), while Summers ranks eighth in scoring (16.9 ppg) and is the only player in the league to rank among the top 10 in the SEC in scoring and field goal goal percentage and top five in assists.

"These two guys have to play well," Kennedy said. "I saw that they were both acknowledged as second team all all league players which is a tribute to them and they have got to carry us. If they play well, and we get some contribution from the guys who have shown capable, then we have a chance to stay around a few days."

Kennedy reiterated that they're still searching in the frontcourt, adding that he's still thinking about who is starting tomorrow night in their frontcourt. During last year's run, the Rebels got contributions from the supporting cast in sophomore guard Derrick Millinghaus and junior guard LaDarius White. This year, Kennedy said they need similar contributions from them, as well as Perez, the team's third-leading scorer in league play, and sophomore guard Martavious Newby, who has started each of the last three games after returning from a hand injury on Feb. 18 against Kentucky.

"Between Anthony, Snoop, now that Derrick is back with us, those three guys are getting the majority of the minutes, along with Newby now on the perimeter," Kennedy said. "Of those four, we need two of them to bring their 'A' game. If all four bring their 'A' game, we can play until Sunday. But we need two of those four to be really productive for us, and when we get that, this team has shown capable."

Ole Miss has played both No. 11 seed Vanderbilt and No. 14 seed Mississippi State twice, having completed the season sweep of the Commodores with a 65-62 win in Oxford this past Saturday. Ole Miss split the season series with Mississippi State, but the Rebels' loss back in January, however, was without Henderson.

"Obviously, if State wins tonight and we have the opportunity to play them, then, you know, it would be their Super Bowl in that they could go ahead and put us out of our misery," Kennedy said. "I think that whoever we play, simply because we have played them both twice and we are very familiar with them, we know what we have to do. We just have to go out and perform."

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday as well as selected questions and answers from Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray, Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings and Georgia head coach Mark Fox.

Ole Miss is the No. 6 seed in this week's 2014 SEC Tournament in Atlanta and will play the winner of 11-seed Vanderbilt and 14-seed Mississippi State in the second round Thursday (approximately 8:25 p.m. CT, SEC TV/ESPN3). The winner of Thursday's game will play 3-seed Georgia in the quarterfinals Friday (approximately 8:25 p.m. CT, SEC TV/ESPN3).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

Opening statement:

We're excited about heading to Atlanta and competing in the SEC Tournament coming off a hard-fought win, which will hopefully give our guys some life moving forward.

On Arkansas' big loss at Alabama: 

We're all living on a slippery slope. We played about as poorly as I have ever seen a team play from our vantage point against a team that played about as well as they could possibly play in Arkansas, and then both scripts got flipped. All I saw was the final score. 

I was not surprised so much that Alabama won because Alabama is a good basketball team and it's hard to win on the road, but when I saw the score I was surprised because of how well Arkansas had been playing, and then as poorly as we played, we were able to bounce back and grind out a hard home win. It speaks to my theory, where I don't believe in game-to-game momentum; I believe in in-game momentum. Each game has a life in and of itself, and you have to prepared as such.

On making a run in the SEC Tournament:

Most everyone, especially when you have a lot on the line, you hope that your players would go into with a sense of urgency that the next loss could be your last game. We have one senior, and I know he will be playing with a sense of urgency. When you have a number of different guys who have that sense of urgency, you make plays and special things can happen. 

We were certainly a part of that last year. I had three prominent members of our team, who were seniors, and they were playing with that senior sense of urgency, and we were able to get a last-second win in game one. We had a feeling of relief but also excitement about the potential that the next day held, and that's what you can experience sometimes in tournament play.

On balancing the routine with the excitement of playing in the SEC Tournament:

Heading not the tournament, you try to keep your routine the same. We have been doing this now for a number of months, and you try to stay on the same routine. Once you get into that tournament setting, there's always electricity in that building. The SEC does an outstanding job of creating an electric atmosphere. Guy gets excited about that, and if you can get through that first game, guys are really on edge as it relates to the opportunity that's in front of them.

On Georgia's play through the SEC regular season:

Mark (Fox) and his staff did an outstanding job of getting that team to understand who they were. They were 6-6 in the non-league and when you do that, not many people gave them much hope of moving up in the standings once they got into league play. They looked in the mirror and made the necessary adjustments as to who they were and their best chance to be successful, and they maximized that by having an outstanding run in our league. 

They're playing as well as anybody with a hard-fought win at LSU in the last game. They're playing with momentum and a lot of confidence. They'll be in their home state, and there will be a lot of Bulldogs in the building. Last year, we came into the tournament in a similar mode, where we were tied for second and we got the third seed via a tiebreaker, and then we were able to make our run. Georgia is in a great position.

On the team's mindset entering the SEC Tournament:

I'm like most every coach. We split the season into a number of different quarters going back to our high school days. Now we're in the fourth quarter. This is the postseason. This is the epitome of March Madness, which created this mindset that anything can happen. We lived that last year when we were able to go and have a magical run. That's still fresh on the thoughts of our players' minds. We realized that the task is going to be a daunting one, but at the same time, all coaches try to turn the page and say we're all starting here anew. There's a lot to play for heading into Atlanta.

Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray

Opening statement:

We're getting ready for a well-coached Vanderbilt team. Coach Stallings does about as good a job as anybody in the nation of exploiting some of your weakness, both on the offensive end and defensive end. On the offensive end, for them, they do a great job of running a lot of set plays. When you're playing Vanderbilt, you have to make sure that you rely on your principles more so than just guarding their set because they do a lot of sets, but more importantly they have counters to those sets to exploit anything that you're doing as far as the way you're guarding the basketball.

In the first game against them, Damian Jones got in early foul trouble. He has a world of potential, and he's going to be a really good player in the SEC. Having him available on the court to give them an inside presence, along with their outside shooters and scorers will be a problem for us.

On the team mindset entering the SEC Tournament:

The one thing that we're trying to focus on, because we're playing Vanderbilt, and we played a good game against them. It was a closely contested ball game. We had a couple of chances to cut it to two points under two minutes, and we missed point-blank layups and a couple of tips. You could show them that you had some success against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt, so that's one thing that always helps. The second thing is that we went into the SEC Tournament last year, and it was the first time that we had won a game in the SEC Tournament since 2008 as a program. You try to point to those positive things because the negatives are very obvious.

On the team's depth:

It's a problem. I don't think you can sit here and say that we're on an even playing field with everybody else. Our first year we were playing with six and seven scholarship guys, and this year we played the whole season with seven and eight scholarship guys. There are two things we don't have. We never had the competition for playing time. Any program needs that. The second thing is that I have never had our best teacher, which is the bench. You need that to have that competitive fire in your program all the time. Our guys continue to play hard. Everybody has their bumps and bruises at this point in time. It's more mentally fatigued than physically fatigued. Our guys have to pull it together for the stretch run.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings

Opening statement:

First of all, I would like to congratulate Coach Donovan and the Florida Gator basketball team on their championship. Going 18-0 in our league is an incredible accomplishment, so I congratulate them on a job more than well done. Our team is coming off of two very close games, difficult, similar-type losses from last week. 

We're thankful for the opportunity to play again. Those were two frustrating losses for us last week, but we're hopeful that we can get to Atlanta and play the way we have been playing defensively and maybe play better on offense. Our defense has been good enough in our recent games except for one to really give us a chance to win games, and our offense has not been what we need it to be, so hopefully we can do some things this week can get that rectified and play better offensively and maintain the defensive intensity that we have shown the last few weeks. 

On making a run in the SEC Tournament:

It tends to happen just in the games. You can start to get the feeling in a game. If you win one, maybe you get on a little bit of a roll. There has never been anything that I have sensed going into the tournament when we have done well or when we have done poorly. It's more of thing where you get there, you win a game and then you get a feeling, see some confidence and start playing well, and the confidence gets contagious and it carries you through the weekend. I have never sensed anything in the prior couple days going into the tournament. 

When you win, you gain confidence and momentum is built. In 2004, I remember when we beat Mississippi State, which was league champion that year, in overtime and that was a tremendous situation for us because they had just won the league. That catapulted us not only in that tournament, but that gave us momentum going into the NCAA Tournament as well. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about, winning a big game, winning a tough game, winning a close game, and it continues to provide you momentum.

Georgia head coach Mark Fox

Opening statement:

Our team is excited about the tournament. We're really excited that it's in Atlanta and just down the road for us, so hopefully we will have some support from our fan base there in Atlanta. Our kids are really excited about the tournament, and it should be a great week of basketball in the Georgia Dome.

On this year's team:

Normally, you compare most things in the life to the first time you maybe did something, so I compare of my teams to my first team, which I thought was really a group of overachievers and a team that was picked fourth in the league that won the league and won an NCAA Tournament game and was a joy to coach. Every year, I often compare the team I'm coaching to that group because it was my first one and it was one of my favorite teams. 

This team has been just as much fun to coach. These guys have been a real joy, and I look forward to seeing them every day. They enjoy each other. Throughout the season, whether it is success or failure, they have tried to use things to grow as people and grow as a team. From that standpoint, it's been a process that we have all enjoyed.

On the locker room after the win over LSU:

It was typical. The kids were certainly excited. They had a sense of accomplishment for winning the game because LSU is a good team, and it was a good win. It was typical of a scene after a conference road win. It was not more than that. When you win a road game in this league, it's very hard to do, and so they were excited like they would be for most conference road victories.

On the coach's control of team chemistry:

Coaches do their best to manage the personality of the group, but the one thing that you can't control -- and you can in some instances as you recruit -- is the quality of character. You really have to have people that have great character to strive and achieve, and sometimes you can't control that. You don't know exactly -- even though there is some communication in recruiting -- until you go to battle with someone how they're wired. Fortunately, we have a really good chemistry and some really good character on our team that has allowed us to continue to grow.

On the team entering conference play:

That was a tough time. We had played George Washington in our last nonconference game, and I learned right before that game that my dad was about to pass, and so right before conference play started, I was away from the team for a day or two. I don't know if at that time we had a grasp on what we could accomplish. From day one this year, we felt like we could have a good team. Even though Kentavious left, and we knew there would be some growing pains getting used to his absence, they didn't waver from thinking we could have a good team. It just took a little while to figure out how to do that.

On NCAA Tournament standing entering SEC Tournament:

For the first time, yesterday, since I didn't know whom we would be playing, I took a minute to look at it. I don't know if we will have to win it, but it sure takes the stress out of it if you could do. We would have to advance. To have a legitimate at-large chance, we would have to advance. If you advance, you might as well win it.


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Ole Miss and Arkansas are both looking to improve their Southeastern Conference standing and possibly play their way into a top-four seed and a double bye to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament next week in Atlanta.

The Rebels are tied for sixth in the league standings with LSU, Missouri and Texas A&M and would be the No. 7 seed if the season ended today. Ole Miss is 2-6 on the road in conference play, having lost five straight road games including a 71-60 loss at Texas A&M this past Saturday.

"We're not playing as well as I would have hoped," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We have struggled in a number of different areas. When we put our finger in one hole, another one opens up, whether it's offensive inefficiency or our inability to rebound. We have really struggled, especially on the road, and that continued in our last outing against A&M. 

"We have to come in understanding that there are two games left in the regular season, and there is still somewhat of a logjam in the middle of the pack. We're in the middle of that and we have to try to find a way to win some games and put ourselves in the best possible position heading into Atlanta."

Historically, Kennedy and Ole Miss have had success on the road at Arkansas. The Rebels have won four straight at Arkansas' Bud Walton Arena and have taken nine of their last 10 meetings with the Razorbacks.

"I would like to tell you that those prior four games would have some influence on our game Wednesday night, but unfortunately for us, they will not," Kennedy said. "It's a different set of circumstances, different players and different timing. Arkansas is playing as well as anybody in our league, having won five straight. They are playing with a great deal of confidence and a real sense of urgency that you would expect as they are closing in on trying to get into the NCAA Tournament and we know we will have our hands full."

Arkansas has won five straight games, including a 71-67 win at No. 15 Kentucky this past Thursday to complete the regular-season sweep of the Wildcats. The Razorbacks have moved into a tie with Tennessee for fourth in the league standings, but the Volunteers won the only head-to-head meeting and would be the No. 4 seed if the season ended today. 

"It should be a great game and a great atmosphere," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "It's Senior Night for our players, so we're looking forward to that challenge against Ole Miss. Everyone is trying to jockey for position at this time of year. We're no different than Ole Miss and everybody else in our conference."


SEC MBB Teleconference 3.3

Highlights of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. The Rebels close out the regular season with a road game at Arkansas on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN3) and then host Vanderbilt for Senior Day on Saturday (12:30 p.m., SEC Network).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

On Ole Miss' four-game winning streak at Arkansas' Bud Walton Arena:

I would like to tell you that those prior four games would have some influence on our game Wednesday night, but unfortunately for us, they will not. It's a different set of circumstances, different players and different timing. Arkansas is playing as well as anybody in our league, having won five straight. They are playing with a great deal of confidence and a real sense of urgency that you would expect as they are closing in on trying to get into the NCAA Tournament and we know we will have our hands full.

On how Ole Miss is playing of late:

We're not playing as well as I would have hoped. We have struggled in a number of different areas. When we put our finger in one hole, another one opens up, whether it's offensive inefficiency or our inability to rebound. We have really struggled, especially on the road, and that continued in our last outing against A&M. 

We have to come in understanding that there are two games left in the regular season, and there is still somewhat of a logjam in the middle of the pack. We're in the middle of that and we have to try to find a way to win some games and put ourselves in the best possible position heading into Atlanta.

On the disparity in how teams play at home versus on the road:

That's probably typical of most team in college basketball. For whatever reason, teams don't seem to play as well on the road. I can just speak personally about our group. We have some inexperienced guys at a number of different positions, and even the guys we had returning are playing expanded roles. 

With that comes a little bit of hesitancy and not playing with the same swagger you play with at home, when you can feed off the emotion of the crowd and you're more in the your comfort zone, and as a result, you don't play as confidently as you need to play on the road to make the plays that ultimately decide winning and losing.

On Marshall Henderson's season:

He's certainly been a marked man. His numbers are about the same. He's a volume guy. He broke the record for most threes attempted in a season, and he's leading the nation in 3-pointers attempted again. He's the same guy. He's a volume guy who we need to make shots. He's been more focused this year, and his game has developed as it relates to understanding and staying within the lines and playing with the right sort of focus. He hasn't varied a lot. 

Our biggest problem is we have lost two guys up front who were pillars in our program for a number of years, and we have replaced them with younger and inexperience guys, and as a result, we're not being productive up front.

On Arkansas' roster and depth:

It shows that they have depth and quality of depth. Ky Madden has developed into an all-league level player that everybody envisioned him having the opportunity to be. Michael Qualls has made that huge transformation from freshman to sophomore. They had (Alandise) Harris sitting out and you add a Bobby Portis to that. 

And then all of sudden, Mardracus Wade, who has played a lot of minutes in that program, (Anthlon) Bell, who didn't play as much last year, are now more seasoned and playing with a sense of urgency simply because they obviously want to get on the floor, and Mike (Anderson) has them playing at a very high level.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson

Opening statement:

As we get ready to finish up with conference, we face an Ole Miss team that everyone knows is a very explosive team. They have great guard play with Henderson, and I have always been impressed with Jarvis Summers. He's the head of that basketball team, and Henderson is an outstanding player. 

It should be a great game and a great atmosphere. It's Senior Night for our players, so we're looking forward to that challenge against Ole Miss. Everyone is trying to jockey for position at this time of year. We're no different than Ole Miss and everybody else in our conference.

On Coty Clarke earning SEC Player of the Week honors:

It's good to see his emergence. Being a junior college player, he now feels a lot more comfortable. He's a glue guy and does so many things for our basketball team. He's taken a leadership role, and now we see him doing a lot more things offensively and playing explosively. 

There's a reason why we recruited this young man coming out of junior college. He was one of the better rebounders in the country. He has nose for the ball and the game. To see him have an opportunity to be recognized as a Player of the Week tells you know how well he's playing at this point with our basketball team.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings

Opening statement:

We had a tough week last week. We played fairly well in one game and very poorly in the other. We have a few days here since we don't play until Thursday to hopefully, maybe fix ourselves a little bit. 

Nevertheless, we had a difficult against LSU the first time. We got whipped pretty good. We will have to certainly make some adjustments and play a lot better this time around. They have a very talented team and a very good team. We look forward to the week and hopefully we can play better and have better success than we did last week certainly.

Henderson Sets SEC 3-Point Record In Win

It took just 1:54 of game time before Marshall Henderson hit his first 3-pointer of the game, his 61st-straight game with a 3-pointer, to break the SEC record previously held by Pat Bradley of Arkansas.

Henderson was one of four Rebels in double figures, as Ole Miss snapped a four-game losing streak with a 79-67 win over Alabama Wednesday in Oxford. He finished with 13 points, all in the first half, on 4-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-8 from the 3-point line.

Henderson has hit a 3-pointer in every game of his two-year Ole Miss career and ranks fourth all-time in school history with 248 career 3-pointers, one behind Keith Carter for third place all-time. He has hit multiple 3-pointers in 60 of 61 career games, with last season's game against Georgia, an 84-74 win for Ole Miss, being his only career game without multiple 3-pointers.

"It's an honor to break the record," Henderson said. When you shoot as many threes as I do, records are bound to fall."

Jarvis Summers, logging a team-high 38 minutes, led the Rebels with 20 points, his team-leading 10th 20-point game of the season. Summers was 5-of-15 from the field and 1-of-6 from the 3-point line, but he was 9-of-10 from the free throw line.

The star of the game, however, was Martavious Newby, who returned from a hand injury less than two weeks ago on Feb. 18 against Kentucky, having suffered the injury on Jan. 25 against Mississippi State. He set career highs with 15 points and 10 rebounds, his first career double-double, and provided immeasurable energy in 31 minutes off the bench.

"He was without question the MVP of the game," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "That was the Martavious Newby recruited, the guy that we thought would be energy. That's what he was. He was all over the field. He didn't hesitate. He stepped up and knocked down two big threes, and the timing of those were huge. He kept balls alive. He was without question the energy component that we were looking for to grind out a win."

Led by Newby, Ole Miss outrebounded Alabama, 42-24, including 17-7 on the offensive glass, which led to a 21-8 advantage in second-chance points. The 18-rebound advantage was the largest of the season for the Rebels. Anthony Perez (nine points) was second on the team with eight rebounds, followed by Aaron Jones (12 points) and Demarco Cox (five points) with six rebounds each.

"The stat that jumps out to me, our Achilles' heel all year has been rebounding, and we were plus-18 on the glass. Anthony had a huge one at the end. Newby kept balls alive, and Demarco Cox gave us his best minutes in a long, long time. It was a good team effort."

With the win, Ole Miss remains in fourth place in the SEC standings, tied with LSU and Tennessee at 8-7 in league play, with the fourth-place team earning the fourth and final double bye to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.

"We have to do what we're supposed to do and that's prepare for Texas A&M, who is also in that equation, and try to go and break through on the road," Kennedy said.

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Five Southeastern Conference teams enter Wednesday action with 7-7 league records, creating a five-way tie for fourth place in the standings, which takes on added importance because of the fourth and final double-eye to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.

Ole Miss is among those five teams, as it enters the final four games of the regular season starting with Alabama Wednesday night at Tad Smith Coliseum (7 p.m., ESPN3). The Rebels enter Wednesday's matchup, having lost four straight games since a 91-88 win over Missouri on Feb. 8.

"We need to try to find a way to stop the bleeding," said head coach Andy Kennedy on Monday's SEC teleconference."

The four-game skid started with a 67-64 loss at Alabama on a last-second 3-pointer by the Crimson Tide's Trevor Releford. It continued with a 61-60 loss at Georgia and then back-to-back home losses to top-20 teams in No. 18 Kentucky (84-70) and No. 2 Florida (75-71). 

"It's easy to look back and live in the world of would have, could have, should have," Kennedy said. "You can see the finish line. You have two weeks left in the regular season leading to Atlanta. We know we have five more games. How we play in those five games will determine what happens next. 

"My hope is that we're just anxious to play again because it's been two weeks since we have won a game. It's not a good feeling. I want our guys to share that sentiment and look forward to having the next opportunity."

In the first meeting, Releford scored 16 of his team's final 20 points and finished with a game-high 26 points. Releford leads the team and ranks fifth in the league averaging 19.0 points per game. He also leads the team and ranks among the six players in the league in field goal percentage (50.8%), free throw percentage (88.6%) and 3-point field goal percentage (40.4%).

"He's a first team all-league player," Kennedy said. "They have their ups and downs, as we have all had. If a few games had gone the other way in Alabama's favor, he would be in the conversation for most valuable player in the league simply because of what he means to their team. 

"He's had a terrific career. He's been very steady and very consistent, and he's really improved, which is a credit to Anthony (Grant) and his staff. He was a guy who's always been very good with the ball, fast in the open floor, but his ability to develop perimeter shooting and his ability to make perimeter shots has really made him a difficult cover."

Alabama is 11-16 on the season and 5-9 in the SEC, having played the nation's third-toughest schedule (ESPN.com). Away from home, the Crimson Tide is 0-12, including 0-7 in the SEC. After a 63-48 loss at Texas A&M Thursday night, Alabama rebounded with an 80-73 over Missouri at home Saturday.

"It's been a rough year for us, in terms of some of the tough losses that we have had, in nonconference and conference play," Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. Our guys have had to battle. Some games we have performed well and come up short, one or two possessions. Other games we have not performed well and not been as close." 

When asked about the win over Missouri starting a wave of momentum, Grant said that each game has a life of its own, and Wednesday's rematch with Ole Miss is no different.

"That one game, certainly, was a great character win," he said. "Now, we have to be able to learn the lessons from that, good and bad, and move forward and understand that we're going to get a completely different look when we go on the road here for Ole Miss."

SEC MBB Teleconference 2.24

Highlights of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Alabama head coach Anthony Grant and Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy. The Rebels host Alabama on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN3) and then travel to Texas A&M on Saturday (6 p.m., Fox Sports Net).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

Opening statement:

There are two weeks remaining in the regular season. There is a logjam at 7-7 with a number of different teams. It's an important week for us, as we have one at home and one on the road. We need to try to find a way to stop the bleeding.

On seeing a seven-way tie for anything, anywhere:

I have never seen it. Last year, we were in a situation where we able to win our last two regular season games to tie for second and we got the 3-seed and a double bye in the tournament. It all really was dependent on three or four different teams and playing that last day. Florida has separated itself at the top, but everything else is still up for grabs as it relates to how teams play down the stretch. 

On the importance of the double bye:

We were a beneficiary of that last year. We got the double bye and we were able go and cut down the nets. It's really big if you have aspirations. We go into the tournament needing probably to get to the finals to give ourselves a chance for an at-large. Thankfully, we took it one step further. It plays a huge part of day three, when it was our second game, and it was Vanderbilt's third game. We were playing them in the semifinals. It certainly took a toll on Vandy's legs, and it was an advantage to us. Getting the double bye is a huge advantage. A team that's in that position will be going to be going to Atlanta with aspirations of getting into the field. These last two weeks hold a lot of importance.

On the difficulty of taking each game as it presents itself and not look back:

It's easy to look back and live in the world of would have, could have, should have. You can see the finish line. You have two weeks left in the regular season leading to Atlanta. We know we have five more games. How we play in those five games will determine what happens next. My hope is that we're just anxious to play again because it's been two weeks since we have won a game. It's not a good feeling. I want our guys to share that sentiment and look forward to having the next opportunity.

On Trevor Releford:

He's a first team all-league player. They have their ups and downs, as we have all had. If a few games had gone the other way in Alabama's favor, he would be in the conversation for most valuable player in the league simply because of what he means to their team. He's had a terrific career. He's been very steady and very consistent, and he's really improved, which is a credit to Anthony (Grant) and his staff. He was a guy who's always been very good with the ball, fast in the open floor, but his ability to develop perimeter shooting and his ability to make perimeter shots has really made him a difficult cover.

Alabama head coach Anthony Grant

Opening statement:

We have the second game we have played this year against Ole Miss, this one on the road. They were a very talented team the first time we played them. We're looking forward to the opportunity to try to go to Ole Miss and get a win. And then we come back and play a rivalry game with Auburn here at home. We had a tough loss at their place earlier in the year. It's a big week for us, and I'm looking forward to getting prepare for these two games.

On Levi Randolph:

It was a good win for us against Missouri. Levi was a big part of that. I'm really happy for him that he was able to come out and have that type of performance. I'm happy for our team to be able to get the win. At the end of the day, the most important thing for Levi is for the team to win, and for him to be a big part of that is a very positive thing for him as we move forward in the season.

On Nick Jacobs' status and how Jimmie Taylor has stepped up with the extra minutes:

There is no update with Nick's status. Jimmie, the two games this past week, played 35 minutes at A&M and played 25-26 the other night against Missouri. He's a guy who's developing as a freshman with the experience that he is getting going against some of the elite guy in our league, in terms of frontcourt guys. He's done a really job for us on the defensive end, learning how to rebound the ball in traffic against the size and physicality in the SEC. He's still developing and still continues to need to develop from an offensive standpoint. The more experience he gets, the more comfortable he gets in terms of what he's able to do and understand where he needs to grow. As an 18-year-old freshman in this league he has a very bright future.

On the "character" victory over Missouri:

It's been a rough year for us, in terms of some of the tough losses that we have had, in nonconference and conference play. Our guys have had to battle. Some games we have performed well and come up short, one or two possessions. Other games we have not performed well and not been as close. A lot of times when you see teams going through some of the struggles that we go through, you begin to worry in terms of how they feel in terms of the work that they're putting in and the results they're getting. I called it a character win because our guys have approached practice the right way, in terms of preparing for every game and approach their preparation and putting themselves in position to win. It was a tough loss on the road at Texas A&M on Thursday night. Weather caused us to spend the night in Texas. We came back about 3 o'clock. On the way from the airport to campus, the bus broke down, and the guys had to wait to get another bus to bring them to campus. We had an evening practice in preparation for Missouri the next day. They did a great job of being able to lock in. Coming off a loss like that and to respond the way they did in less than 24 hours, it showed great character by our guys.

On the Missouri win starting a wave of momentum?

Each game has a life of its own. I have been doing this long enough where you understand as a coach that every game presents different challenges. That one game, certainly, was a great character win. Now, we have to be able to learn the lessons from that, good and bad, and move forward and understand that we're going to get a completely different look when we go on the road here for Ole Miss.

Texas A&M head Billy Kennedy

On the seven-way tie for fourth place in the SEC standings and importance of upcoming games:

That's definitely a lot of times team tied. I'm sure there's not another league in the country with that situation. In general, there is parity in college basketball. You have some heavyweight teams in each league. You look at the ACC, you look at the Big Ten, you look at the Pac-12, you look at the Big 12, and we follow the Big 12, having been in it, and you have teams with losing record that were once top-10 teams. It's college basketball. It's just not our league. Our league gets beat up, but it's not any different from any other league. A lot needs to be said about college basketball in general that there are about four to six heavyweight teams, and then it's the rest of us. It's kind of what college basketball is all over the map.

On the importance of the double bye:

It would be tremendous for all these teams that are 7-7 because there's not a big difference, and most of us have depth problems. We're not very deep. We have most of our teams back. It would be interesting to see how many seniors are on those 7-7 teams and how many teams will have guys back. To have some momentum going into the end of the season and hopefully some type of postseason play, and to have all those guys coming back for next year is something to build on.

VIDEO: Andy Kennedy UF Postgame Presser

Marshall Henderson hit five 3-pointers and scored all 22 of his points in the first half, as Ole Miss and No. 2 Florida went into halftime tied 42-42. It was the most points that the Gators, who led the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense (57.8), had allowed in a half this season.

In the second half, Florida held Henderson to 0-of-6 shooting, including 0-for-5 from the 3-point line, as the Gators held the Rebels to 29 second-half points in a 75-71 win Saturday in Oxford.

"In the second half, we had our chances," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We gave a winning effort, but you have to make plays to beat what will be the number one team in the nation in a couple of days. You have to make plays. We had our chances. We were up three or four. We had untimely turnovers, dribbling off our leg, not finishing plays and when Marshall does not score in the second half, it limits our options."

"He had similar looks," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "Maybe we stretched him a little bit in terms of pushing him further out than he was in the first half. I have said this before with him. You're not going to prevent him from shooting the ball. He's just going to shoot it from wherever he gets it, and a lot of times you're at the mercy of whether it goes in or not. In the second half, it did not go in as much as it certainly did in the first half."

Coming out of the under-eight media timeout, Florida scored five straight points to take a 64-59 lead with 4:43 left, and Ole Miss could not cut into the lead the rest of the way, as the Gators made their free throws down the stretch to close out the win.

The shooting numbers and rebounding numbers were comparable, with Florida shooting 44.4 percent from the field, while Ole Miss shot 45 percent. Florida won the rebounding battle, 34-32, but the Gators turned it into a 21-8 advantage in second-chance points.

"You can't keep getting outrebounded," Kennedy said. "We play a possessions game. We shot 45 percent from the floor, and they shot 44 percent from the floor. We have to find someone who can go get hard rebounds. Maybe when those freshmen become sophomores can go get them. Maybe those juniors once they become veterans can go get them. I don't know. It's certainly been an issue for us from day one, and it continues today. We all know what the problem is. We have to keep working on fixing it."

Since a 91-88 win over Missouri two Saturdays ago, Ole Miss has lost four straight entering its last four games of the regular season starting with Alabama at home Wednesday. The rest of the way, Kennedy said, the focus is not on the NCAA Tournament but simply improvement and winning a game.

"I haven't one time said we were an NCAA Tournament team," Kennedy said. "I know that has to be in every sentence and every category. We haven't earned our way into that conversation, so we're not relevant as it relates to that conversation left. This time last year, we weren't relevant either. We still have five basketball games left, and if we can win our share of those five, maybe we earn our way into that conversation."

"We did what we needed to do earlier in conference play. We had a couple of heartbreaking losses on the road. We had two opportunities here at home, and we did not get it done, bottom line. I'm not talking NCAA Tournament with this team. Let's improve. Let's win a game. It's been two weeks since we have a won game, which seems like an eternity. Let's get back focused on Alabama."

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Last time out, Ole Miss rallied to get within six, down 76-70, with 1:49 left, but fell 84-70 to No. 18 Kentucky in Oxford Tuesday. It was the Rebels' third straight loss, having lost heartbreakers at Alabama and at Georgia the previous week.

Ole Miss looks to snap its current losing streak and notch a marquee win, as it hosts No. 2 Florida, which has won each of its first 13 SEC games and a school-record 18 straight games after a 71-66 home win over Auburn Wednesday.

"I know that we have the No. 2-ranked team in the country coming into our building in a couple of days, and my hope is that they will be excited about having that opportunity," said head coach Andy Kennedy of his team's mindset entering Saturday's game.

Florida, ranked No. 3 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com), is not only an opportunity for Ole Miss to boost its RPI, which has dropped to No. 75, but a win over the Gators would give the program its highest-ever win over a ranked opponent.

"They're a very good basketball team," Kennedy said. "The four seniors, they are better collectively than they are when you start breaking them down individually. That's not a slight on them individually, but they are truly a consummate team. It's Billy (Donovan)'s job since I have been a part of the league for eight years, and one of those was a national championship. 

"He's maximized this group, and they have developed guys that were 'role players' in the past into all-league-type players. I have been really, really impressed with them as a team. We're going to have to play an 'A' game to give ourselves a chance from an effort and efficiency standpoint. We have to make sure that we take the right approach to have a chance to beat a team of their caliber."

The Gators lead the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense (57.8 ppg) and scoring margin (+12.8). On the glass, where Ole Miss ranks last in rebounding margin (-4.1), Florida ranks third in rebounding margin (+5.8), second in defensive rebounding percentage (70.7%) and fourth in offensive rebounding percentage (37.3%).

"We have to do what we do," said Kennedy of Florida's defensive pressure. "We have to be efficient. We weren't very efficient against Kentucky, and they exposed us. We have to be efficient because I don't anticipate the game being as many possessions based on the way that they play. We have to be efficient offensively."

Four players average double figures for the Gators, led by two of the four seniors in Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin, who average 15.7 and 13.6 points per game, respectively. Prather also leads the league and ranks fourth in the nation with a 62.8 field goal percentage. Kennedy said he anticipates Wilbekin to guard Marshall Henderson, who leads the SEC and ranks third in the nation averaging 4.48 3-pointers per game. Henderson also ranks third in the league in scoring at 20.2 ppg.

"He's a terrific on-ball defender," Kennedy said. "Our anticipation would be that he is going to guard Marshall off the ball. He's very, very good at fighting through screens and reading defenses. He has improved his ability to make plays with the ball. In the past, he has always deferred, whether it be to Kenny Boynton or whether it be to Erik Murphy, whoever it may be. Now he's the guy. When the game is on the line, he's going to make plays off the bounce."

"Andy (Kennedy) puts him in a lot of really, really good situations for him," said Florida head coach Billy Donovan of Henderson. "Since I have been in this league, I don't recall a players as fast as he is coming off screens and getting shots off. He is incredible doing that. There are times that you play really, really good defense and it doesn't make a difference. That's probably a tribute to Henderson and his ability to shoot the ball. He is a unique, talented player. The thing that I admire most about him is what a great competitor he is and how much he loves playing. He's certainly a handful to get ready for, but they also have a lot of other good players besides who him are playing well."



VIDEO: Andy Kennedy Media Opportunity

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy met with members of the media Thursday, ahead of the Rebels' home game against the No. 2-ranked Florida Gators on Saturday (11 a.m., CBS).

On the team's mindset entering the game against Florida:

I don't know. I know what my mindset is. If I could be a mind-reader, it would certainly help me in my profession. I know this. I know that we have the No. 2-ranked team in the country coming into our building in a couple of days, and my hope is that they will be excited about having that opportunity

On what Martavious Newby brought in Tuesday's game against Kentucky and the difference that he made:

There was a noticeable difference. It's the ability to fight. That's what you want as a coach. You're not always going to win every game. You're not always going to make every shot. Sometimes you can do everything that you're supposed to and still come up short and be out-manned a little bit. You just want to see guys fight. 

He brought us great energy, which he normally does. He got balls and kept balls alive. Those 50-50 balls, those possessions that we always talk about, he did a good job of keeping balls alive, fighting, giving us extra possessions and giving us a chance.

On Newby taking a step back offensively because the team needed him as a defensive, scrappy presence:

When we signed him, I described him as a 6-foot-3 version of Murphy (Holloway). He's a position-less guy, but he's always around the ball. He plays with great physical toughness. He's always in attack mode. That's really the thing that he can bring this team that we lost for the three weeks that he was gone.

On Newby being full-go Saturday:

I hope so. He's been cleared medically. We didn't know how quickly he would respond to the basketball aspect of it. He practiced the day before Kentucky and did well. I went in not really expecting to play him because I didn't want to put him in a position that he wasn't ready for physically. We certainly needed him, and he responded in adverse circumstance. My intention is to certainly play him Saturday.

On matching up with Florida:

They're a very good basketball team. The four seniors, they are better collectively than they are when you start breaking them down individually. That's not a slight on them individually, but they are truly a consummate team. It's Billy (Donovan)'s job since I have been a part of the league for eight years, and one of those was a national championship. 

He's maximized this group, and they have developed guys that were "role players'" in the past into all-league-type players. I have been really, really impressed with them as a team. We're going to have to play an "A" game to give ourselves a chance from an effort and efficiency standpoint. We have to make sure that we take the right approach to have a chance to beat a team of their caliber.

On Florida's 71-66 win over Auburn on Wednesday:

Auburn played extremely well. They made shots. Any time that you can shoot the ball at about a 50 percent clip -- Auburn was over 50 percent from 3 -- and held their own in a number of different areas, which gave themselves a chance down the stretch. For Florida, it was not their best game, and Billy admitted that, and yet they still found a way to win. That's what good teams do.

On this Florida team compared to the 2006 and 2007 Florida National Championship teams:

They are different. Those championship teams had lottery picks on them. Joakim Noah is an NBA all-star, Al Horford is an NBA all-star, and Corey Brewer is an NBA starter. I'm not saying that these kids don't have futures in basketball, but it's a different dynamic from a size and strength standpoint. 

Scottie Wilbekin has to be in consideration for Player of the Year in our league. He's certainly the most valuable player for what he brings their unit. Casey Prather is having a terrific year, going from a 5-to-15 minute a game guy to a guy who's leading them in scoring. Patric Young, it seems like he's been there 25 years. He's certainly been in the weight room about those 25 years. He's a big, strong guy whose game has developed. He's developed a low-post scoring ability that he didn't have in the past. He's always been very, very physical imposing. They have a consummate team.

On Wilbekin improving as a perimeter defender:

He's a terrific on-ball defender. Our anticipation would be that he is going to guard Marshall off the ball. He's very, very good at fighting through screens and reading defenses. He has improved his ability to make plays with the ball. In the past, he has always deferred, whether it be to Kenny Boynton or whether it be to Erik Murphy, whoever it may be. Now he's the guy. When the game is on the line, he's going to make plays off the bounce.

On handling Florida's defensive pressure:

We have to do what we do. We have to be efficient. We weren't very efficient against Kentucky, and they exposed us. We have to be efficient because I don't anticipate the game being as many possessions based on the way that they play. We have to be efficient offensively.

On coaching toughness with the frontcourt players:

It's a lot about who they are, but we have to develop that. You can develop toughness by accountability and by continuing to be consistent in your approach. Some of the things that we're dealing with are youth and inexperience. My hope is that as we continue to pile up these lessons and games, they will grow from that.



VIDEO: Andy Kennedy UK Postgame Presser

Rebel Comeback Falls Short

Five takeaways Ole Miss' 84-70 loss to No. 18 Kentucky on Tuesday night:

1. Rebel Comeback Falls Short

Kentucky built a 42-25 halftime lead, as the Wildcats shot 58.6 percent (17-of-29) from the field and 46.2 percent (6-of-13) from 3-point range. In the second half, Kentucky led by as many as 22 midway through the second half before Ole Miss made a run to get within six, down 76-70, with 1:49 left after a three-pointer from Anthony Perez.

On the next possession, Julius Randle put Kentucky up 78-70 with a layup late in the shot clock. Ole Miss had three looks to cut back into the lead, but Kentucky grabbed the rebound and put the game away with six straight points from the free throw line for the 84-70 win in Oxford For the game, the Wildcats were 27-of-30 from the free throw line, including 25-of-28 in the second half.

"The way we played in the first half, even with all the turnovers, we wanted to play faster," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "We didn't want to get into a slugfest because they can score in spurts. You need to get easy baskets, and we did. I was really proud of them in the first half. I said at halftime, 'They're going to make a run. You do know that, right? Now, let's see how we respond to it, and let's make our own run. 

"We're making strides. I was really proud of Julius, and we made our free throws. We showed courage down the stretch. They made shots, and they make shots."

2. Kentucky Controls The Paint

Like the second half in their earlier meeting at Rupp Arena, Kentucky won the battle in the paint with a decisive advantage in points in the paint (36-26), second-chance points (11-2) and rebounding (39-23). Julius Randle led the way for Kentucky with 25 points and 13 rebounds. He was also 13-of-14 from the free throw line.

"They turned it over 19 times because we couldn't stop them," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "When we did get them to miss, it was the same thing we saw in Rupp. They go and get it. My guys are saying this and that. We're just not tough enough physically to put our nose in there and battle. As a coach, when you're saying that at the end of February, it's pretty sobering. It's pretty disappointing. My fault."

For Ole Miss, Anthony Perez, who plays some in the frontcourt, finished with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Aaron Jones, Dwight Coleby, Demarco Cox and Sebastian Saiz combined for seven points on 2-of-9 shooting.

"We were taking pretty good looks," Kennedy said. "We just can't get anything at the basket. We're 26 games into this, and it has not changed. Our field goal percentage is around 40 percent in league play. It's sobering."

3. Newby Helps Spark Rally In Return

Martavious Newby returned to action, having missed the previous six games after suffering a hand injury against Mississippi State on Jan. 25. Newby did not score and grabbed just one rebound in nine minutes played, but he gave Ole Miss energy off the bench.

He checked in at the 9:08 mark in the second half when the Rebels trailed 62-40, its largest deficit of the game, and they went on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 64-50 with 7:13 left. Ole Miss would later get to within six points before Kentucky closed out the game.

"He gave us great energy," Kennedy said. "He's a guy who was supposed to be out four to five weeks, and he was out about three. He practiced for the first time yesterday. I had zero intention of putting him in the game. I'm just looking for life. I'm just looking for some fight, and he gave us some fight."

4. Summers Bounces Back

After being held to nine points at Alabama and then 11 points at Georgia, Jarvis Summers bounced back with a team-high 22 points, his eighth 20-point game of the season. He was also 9-of-17 from the floor.

"He's just aggressive," Kennedy said. "He cares. He's a competitor. That kid is a warrior. He tweaked his ankle a little bit. It's grind for him because I'm playing him heavy minutes. I had to take him out for that. He's a competitor. You can never question Jarvis Summers in any regard."

5. The Next Opportunity Awaits

Ole Miss turns around and hosts No. 2 Florida, which has won each of their first 12 SEC games and 17 straight games overall since a 65-54 loss at Connecticut on Dec. 2. The Gators look to extend their winning streak to 18 games, as they host Auburn on Wednesday.

Like Kentucky, Florida is another opportunity for Ole Miss to enhance its resume with the Gators rated No. 4 in the Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com) entering Tuesday.

"You have to try to move forward as quickly as possible and hope that you learn some lessons tonight," Kennedy said. "That's what you hope. When you see the ball go in the basket early, it will do amazing things to you."

Opportunity For Rebels This Week

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After road losses at Alabama and Georgia last week, Ole Miss returns to the friendly confines of the Tad Smith Coliseum, where it is 10-3 this season, including 5-0 in conference play.

The Rebels fell 15 spots to No. 66 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com) from last week, but they have two opportunities to enhance their resume this week, as they host No. 18 Kentucky on Tuesday and then No. 2 Florida on Saturday.

It is the first time since the 1998-99 season that Ole Miss has hosted two top-20 teams at home in the same week. Both opponents are also rated in the top 15 of the RPI with Kentucky rated No. 12 and Florida rated No. 4.

"Well, it's out there anyway for sure," said head coach Andy Kennedy of the team's NCAA Tournament bubble status entering the week. "We lost two heartbreakers last week. Really our focus is on winning a game, and Kentucky presents the next opportunity to do that on Tuesday night. We know it's going to be a difficult challenge because we've seen that firsthand a couple weeks ago in Rupp. 

"But for us right now, we've lost two in a row and we're sitting at 16-9 through 25 (games), but those 16 seem like a faint memory simply because we haven't won one in a week. So for us the focus is just on winning a game."

In their first meeting, Kentucky stretched a 35-34 halftime lead to 50-41 with 15:06 left and went on to win 80-64 at Rupp Arena in Lexington on Feb. 4. The Wildcats shot the ball much better in the second half (60 percent, 15-of-25) after shooting 42.3 percent (11-of-26) in the first half.

Kentucky also controlled the paint with a decisive advantage in points in the paint (28-6), second-chance points (14-7), defensive rebounds (12-3) and total rebounds (19-9).

"We stayed around for a while," Kennedy said. "I believe it was a two- or three-possession game maybe until the 10-minute, 12-minute mark of the second half. We couldn't get a rebound, which has really been kind of a broken record for us. But we just could not get a rebound in the second half. We had some dead-ball rebounds, but the first one that an Ole Miss Rebel had I believe was under two minutes to go in the second half."

Marshall Henderson led the Rebels with 16 points on 6-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-12 from 3-point range in their first meeting. Henderson, the SEC's fourth-leading scorer (19.5 ppg), is coming off his team-leading eighth 20-point game of the season, as he scored a game-high 24 points off the bench in a 61-60 loss at Georgia.

"Henderson at any time can make five straight shots," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "Can you keep your head about you if he does? And he seems to do it at home more than he does on the road."

"He's taking 12 3s a game," added Kentucky assistant coach John Robic. "But he is shooting a decent percentage with those shots. One of those is going to be from 35 (feet), the other is going to be an inch behind the line. When he makes them, he's really, really good and their team is really, really good. We just can't give him any open looks because he works extremely hard. He never stops moving to get a shot off."

SEC MBB Teleconference 2.17

Highlights of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Florida head coach Billy Donovan. Ole Miss hosts two top-20 teams at home in the same week for the first time since 1999. The Rebels play No. 18 Kentucky on Tuesday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN) and then No. 2 Florida on Saturday (11 a.m., CBS).


Opening statement:

We're hosting the two best teams in our league, starting with Kentucky on Tuesday night and then Florida on Saturday. They are two tremendous challenges for our group, but also tremendous opportunities.

On the up-and-down play of his frontcourt:

For us, we have a pretty inexperienced front line, and really as it occurs across the league and across the country, kids that are a little more inexperienced, whether it be because they're freshmen or sophomores or because they've never really played the roles that they're currently holding, they typically play better at home. They're more comfortable at home. They play more confidently, more assertively, and that's been the case with our guys. We go on the road and we're not nearly as assertive as we need to be, and as a result we're not nearly as productive.We have to take the right approach. We have done that when we have been at home and we just have not been able to carry with us on the road. You're well aware of the number differential from a productivity standpoint home and away, and as a result we're not having as much success on the road.

On the first Kentucky game earlier this season in Lexington:

We stayed around for a while. I believe it was a two- or three-possession game maybe until the 10-minute, 12-minute mark of the second half. We couldn't get a rebound, which has really been kind of a broken record for us. But we just could not get a rebound in the second half. We had some dead-ball rebounds, but the first one that an Ole Miss Rebel had I believe was under two minutes to go in the second half. We zoned them quite a bit, and they did not make a 3-point shot in the second half, but even the ones that they missed they got every rebound. Willie Cauley-Stein probably played his best game in a Kentucky uniform and just dominated on both ends. They certainly got some run-outs, but they got control of the game at about the 30-minute mark, and then we were just trying to hold on for dear life.

On bringing Marshall Henderson off the bench on Saturday at Georgia and how it worked: 

It worked out pretty good. He's just really been struggling with his shooting percentages in road games, non-league and SEC. Going into Georgia, he was shooting close to 30 percent from the floor and less than 25 percent in the first half. I was just doing something to try to change the way that he approached the game, allow him to see it for a few minutes on the bench and, I don't know if that directly affected his performance but he came out and made shots. I think he had 14 (points) in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting, something like that. As a result, we were leading at the half. Second half, he struggled a little bit and as a result we came up a possession short. But that was the thinking: just trying to find a winning combination.

On NCAA Tournament bubble status entering the week:

Well, it's out there anyway for sure. We lost two heartbreakers last week. Really our focus is on winning a game, and Kentucky presents the next opportunity to do that on Tuesday night. We know it's going to be a difficult challenge because we've seen that firsthand a couple weeks ago in Rupp. But for us right now, we've lost two in a row and we're sitting at 16-9 through 25 (games), but those 16 seem like a faint memory simply because we haven't won one in a week. So for us the focus is just on winning a game.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari

Opening statement:

We're playing two teams that have given us problems. Mississippi at home was anybody's ballgame with six minutes to go in the game. LSU had us down double digits most of the game and almost got it 20, so they'll be two tough games for us.

On Ole Miss this year without Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner:

Those younger guys are pretty good players now too. And they're different. They're more athletic. They may be, you know, more slender. But those two, anyone would be more slender compared to those two. They're athletic, they're long, and they give them a little different dimension. Those other two were veteran, big-bodied guys, hard to go against. But I'm liking Mississippi's team.

On what his team did to have success against Ole Miss earlier this season in Lexington:

With six minutes to go, it was anybody's ballgame. And then we got a couple breakouts and made a shot and all of a sudden it was 12, and then we got going a little bit. But that was late, late in the game. You're at the mercy of them making jumpers. And again, their point guard (Jarvis Summers) makes them go. They have other players on that team that can score baskets, and then (Marshall) Henderson at any time can make five straight shots. Can you keep your head about you if he does? And he seems to do it at home more than he does on the road.

On whether being out of the conference championship race changes the psychology of the rest of the regular season:

I've never been big on conference championships or conference tournaments. Every game we play is to prepare us for March, and that's how we approach it. The history of my teams have done well in conference play and conference tournaments because they're not the goal. The goal is to be at our best in March. And so, with the last game we played, (for) 30 minutes that's as good as we've played all year. What happened down the stretch was that mental discipline that I talked about before the game. But it showed me that we can beat anybody in the country. We've got to shore up how we finish games off. It showed me our goals do not need to change -- at all. And I told the team this: It's about chemistry, energy and a will to win for your team. There were three rebounds you would have figured our best rebounder would have got balls, and he was right there with another guy, and they got all those balls. (Dorian Finney-)Smith got one, (Casey) Prather got one down the middle, they got another one, and they tipped back one for a 3. There was all that will to get that ball that they had more than we had. But, again, our goals haven't changed. I'm happy with my team. What that game showed me: We're as good as anybody in the country; we can play with anybody. Now let's shore this up, let's get this chemistry together and this energy together, let's create a little more will to win down the stretch and execute. They got to the line by driving it. We took bailout 3s. Can't do that. Can't do that late in the game. But again, we're still learning.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan

On Marshall Henderson as an X-Factor:

Andy (Kennedy) puts him in a lot of really, really good situations for him. Since I have been in this league, I don't recall a players as fast as he is coming off screens and getting shots off. He is incredible doing that. There are times that you play really, really good defense and it doesn't make a difference. That's probably a tribute to Henderson and his ability to shoot the ball. He is a unique, talented player. The thing that I admire most about him is what a great competitor he is and how much he loves playing. He's certainly a handful to get ready for, but they also have a lot of other good players besides who him are playing well.

On what impresses him the most about Kentucky's Julius Randle:

Besides what people can see with his talent and his skills, the way he puts it on the floor and his size. And again, John can probably comment better about this than I can because I had him for a short period of time. The thing I was impressed with him is, when I had him he was the same guy every single day. He was the same guy. We went double sessions because there was a lot to get prepared for because we only had about a week of practice before we competed so we had to do double sessions. As a young kid, being in high school and maybe not going through college practices before and playing against other good players, he was always there early, he was getting shots up, he was always ready to go, he had a smile on his face, he enjoyed playing, he enjoyed working and competing and trying to get better, and I thought he was an everyday guy. Now obviously that was only for a couple weeks and a college basketball season is a lot longer. I'm sure like most guys there are going to be ups and downs, but I always appreciated his disposition in practice each day.

Rebels Fall Short At Georgia


Jarvis Summers tied the game at 60-60 after completing a 3-point play with 33.2 seconds left, and Georgia had the ball with a chance to win with the shot clock off. 

Charles Mann held the ball at the top of the key before driving and pump-faking, drawing a foul from Dwight Coleby with 1.5 seconds left. Mann missed the first free throw but made the second for the one-point advantage and the 61-60 win Saturday in Athens.

"It was his inexperience at the end," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "I put him in the game for one reason because he was rebounding. We went small to try to speed the game up. It was our best chance offensively to try to create some baskets. At the end, we subbed him for Derrick to get a little bigger in the zone, and we went man-to-man at the end of the shot clock. We switched the ball screen. It's something we have done all year. It's just inexperience. Mann, a veteran player, shot faked, leaned in and made it happen."

"I thought he was going to drive and then I thought he was going to shoot it, so I jumped up," Coleby said. "I tried to move, but it was too late. He jumped into me."

Ole Miss led for most of the game before Georgia went on an 11-0 run, sparked by nine straight points by Kenny Gaines, including a four-point play, to take a 50-40 lead with 8:31 left in the game. Ole Miss answered with a 14-4 run to tie the game at 54-54 with 3:18 left.

And then it was back and forth, with Gaines putting Georgia ahead 60-57 with 46.2 seconds left before Summers answered on the other end. The go-ahead 3-pointer by Gaines, who finished with a game-high 21 points, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range, came off an offensive rebound by Marcus Thornton.

Ole Miss committed just three turnovers, a season low, and forced 12 turnovers, but Georgia outrebounded Ole Miss 49-39, including 18-13 on the offensive glass. The Bulldogs also had a 20-12 advantage in second-chance points. 

After winning the rebounding batting in a 91-88 win over Missouri, the Rebels have been outrebounded in back-to-back games, having been outrebounded 42-34 in a 67-64 loss at Alabama earlier this week.

"It's toughness," said Kennedy of rebounding. "There are a number of things that we're doing wrong, but this is an issue that's been an issue for us for a while. There are some games where we do better. On the road, we don't do as well, which tells me it's a mental and physical toughness that we have to address."

After starting 14 straight games, Marshall Henderson came off the bench for the first time since Dec. 8 against Oregon, and he responded with a game-high 24 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-11 from 3-point range and 7-of-7 from the free throw line. It marked his team-leading eighth 20-point game of the season.

"I was just trying to change his mojo," said Kennedy of Henderson coming off the bench. "He's shooting 30 percent from the floor and less than 25 percent in the first half on the road. It's not a winning formula, so I was trying to find a winning formula."

Summers was the only other Ole Miss player in double figures, as he finished with 11 points, including the game-tying 3-point play in the final minute. He was limited to 24 minutes, having picked up his third foul with 16:17 left and his fourth foul with 7:39 left.

"Jarvis has big shoes to fill," Kennedy said. "He goes 4-for-12 (from the floor). He rebounded the ball and he didn't have a turnover. He was steady, but obviously when you're getting 17 (points) a game, you have to carry that on the road. Marshall was the only guy offensively that was making plays for us. 

"Jarvis kept us in it with a huge drive at the end. His heart is in the right place. We just have to make some plays."

The Rebels move to 16-9 and 7-5 in Southeastern Conference play ahead of back-to-back home games against No. 14 Kentucky (Tuesday, 6 p.m., ESPN) and No. 3 Florida (Saturday, 11 a.m., CBS). Both teams also entered Saturday rated in the top 10 of the Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com).

"It's another hard game," Kennedy said. "We're playing one of the best teams in the country and followed up by another one of the best teams in the country. We have to get better."
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