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The Season: Ole Miss Hoops NCAA First Four

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Rebels Apply Lessons Learned in BYU Prep

Talking to members of the local media Sunday before leaving for Dayton on Monday, head coach Andy Kennedy and senior guard Jarvis Summers spoke of a familiarity with BYU, their First Four opponent, from watching the Cougars' 73-60 win at Gonzaga in their regular-season finale for both teams and their 91-75 loss to the same Bulldogs in the West Coast Conference Finals.

After a day of travel and preparation, Kennedy and his players went more in-depth on what to expect from BYU, which had won eight games in a row before that most recent loss to Gonzaga. The Cougars boast the nation's second-leading scoring offense at 83.6 points per game, led by senior guard Tyler Haws, the nation's third-leading scorer and the program's all-time leading scorer.

"It's more than him," said Kennedy of Haws to members of the media in Dayton. "He's awfully good. But it's more than him. Their style of play is such that they're going to put pressure on you really with four guys on the perimeter all night. Their pace of play is unlike any we've seen this season. They're truly committed to playing fast."

The next-highest scoring team that Ole Miss has faced this season has been Arkansas, which ranks 15th nationally averaging 78.0 points per game. 

However, when asked if BYU reminded them of any they had played, Kennedy and his players all said Vanderbilt, a team that shot 54.4 percent from the field and 13-for-23 from 3-point range in an 86-77 win over the Rebels in the regular-season finale for both teams in Oxford.

"We've used that comparison because we told them, like Vandy, if you leave them open, they're not like your teammates," Kennedy said. "They're going to make it. So in practice sometimes when we leave them open and the guys miss, we think it's good defense. No, it's not good defense; it's a bad shooter. When you play Vandy, and they're open, they're going to make it. 

"If you leave BYU open, they're going to make it. That's been proven over the course of 30-some odd games. We've got to be really locked-in understanding personnel."

As a team, BYU shoots 46.7 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from 3-point range, both of which are comparable to Vanderbilt, which shoots 47.1 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from 3-point range. 

The Cougars have four different players, including Haws, who have made 44 or more 3-point field goals and has shot 35 percent or better from behind the arc. Junior guard Chase Fischer leads the group in both 3-point field goals made (97) and 3-point field goal percentage (.411).

"We just have to work harder on running teams like that off the 3-point line," junior guard Stefan Moody said. "Just general mistakes that we made that we have to correct this time."

"We just have to man up and play defense hard and communicate and basically just be aggressive and make them score over the top of us," added Summers. "And like he said, just run them off at the 3-point line."

Rebels Land NCAA Bid, 'New Life'

It took three days of scoreboard-watching and the reveal of the first 66 teams in the field on Selection Sunday, but for the second time in three years, Ole Miss is dancing.

The fourth-to-last team in the field, based on the NCAA Tournament seed list, the Rebels were selected as a No. 11 seed in the West Regional and will play fellow No. 11 seed BYU on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. Should they win, they would play No. 6 seed Xavier in the Round of 64 on Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida.

"We certainly took a circuitous route to get where we wanted to be, and it was certainly not one that I would have chosen, but ultimately we arrived at our destination," head coach Andy Kennedy said.

"I was surprised to see our name pop up there," senior guard Jarvis Summers said. "I felt like we could have had a better season, but we're thankful and blessed it worked out for us. We have to make something of it now." 

To that point, talking to long-time assistant coach Bill Armstrong, Kennedy said he was not sure there has ever been a team with an NCAA Tournament quite like theirs, having won 20 games in the regular season but having lost seven home games.

"Sometimes it's not so much what you do; it's what the people that you're competing against do," Kennedy said. "I feel like we have had teams that have had equally as strong resumes, but maybe the field was a little stronger, and we got pushed out. 

"This year, we certainly did not close as strongly as I would have hoped, but they talk about looking at your collective body of work. Oregon, having that late run, most especially getting to the conference tournament finals, helped us. The year that Cincinnati had helped us. Winning 11 games away from home helped us."

Teams that have been selected as a No. 11 seed have had some success in the NCAA Tournament, as have teams that have played in the NCAA First Four. Most notably, Virginia Commonwealth reached the Final Four as a No. 11 seed that played in the First Four in 2011. 

Last year, Dayton made a run to the Elite Eight as a No. 11 seed, while fellow No. 11 seed Tennessee, which also played in the First Four, won three games in a row to get to the Sweet 16. 

Two years ago, No. 13 seed La Salle also advanced to the Sweet 16, defeating Ole Miss in the Round of 32.

Ole Miss, Kennedy believes, has shown itself capable of making a run, and it's because of the body of work that was enough to get the Rebels into the Field of 68.

"We have had a formula by which we have shown ourselves to be very capable," Kennedy said. "We have won at Oregon, the only team other than Arizona to have done so. We have won and convincingly at Arkansas. Those are two good basketball teams. We played Kentucky to the wire. We have shown we're certainly capable. We have to stick to that formula."

A big part of that formula? Shooting at a 40 percent rate or higher, and it start with the big three of Stefan Moody, Summers and LaDarius White. The Rebels are 18-4 when they 40 percent or higher from the field, with one of those four losses coming at Dayton in UD Arena, where they will play BYU on Tuesday night.

"Moody has to make shots on Tuesday night," Kennedy said. "Jarvis has to make shots on Tuesday night. Snoop has to make shots on Tuesday night. Collectively, we have to finish around the rim on Tuesday. We have to rebound the ball. We are who we are, just like everybody in the tournament at this point. I'm happy for these guys that they stayed the course."

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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