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After an up-and-down non-conference slate that included wins over Creighton, Cincinnati and Oregon, all away from home, and losses to Charleston Southern and Western Kentucky, both at home, Ole Miss learned a lot about itself in the first week of Southeastern Conference play.

In their league opener, the Rebels went on the road and pushed No. 1 Kentucky to overtime, and then four days later, cruised to a wire-to-wire 65-49 win over South Carolina. One of the keys, head coach Andy Kennedy said, has been finding the right combinations on the floor.

"With us, every player has a strength and a weakness," Kennedy said. "I'm trying to have combinations to cover ourselves. We're getting better at that."

For the Rebels, the right combinations start with their two leading scorers in junior guard Stefan Moody (14.8 ppg), the high-volume scorer, and the senior guard Jarvis Summers (14.4 ppg), the game-manager, who are learning how to play together in the backcourt.

"The biggest thing is Moody has more assertive, as opposed to watching Jarvis," Kennedy said. "He's becoming more assertive and, now he's helping Jarvis. A lot of times early in the season, we were ball-watching a lot. Everybody was watching Jarvis dribble around, and nobody knew how aggressive they needed to be. We're starting to figure that out."

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, who saw the duo up close and personal this past Saturday, likened Moody to an NFL defensive back because of his freakish athletic ability and described Summers as "probably the least-heralded player in the SEC that's really good." Through two SEC games, Moody and Summers are averaging a combined 21.0 ppg and shooting a combined 49.0 percent from the floor.

"I thought the way they play, I have always felt that (Jarvis) Summers was the heartbeat of their team," LSU head coach Johnny Jones said. "As solid as he is, is the sense of urgency and toughness that he plays with, even when they had Marshall Henderson on the team.

"The different look right now is the newcomer (Stefan Moody) that they have that did take a lot of those (Henderson-type) shots and played so well against Kentucky the other night gives them the feel of Henderson. He's a very capable scorer that can make shots."

After 1-1 start in league play, the Rebels enter a key stretch, where they play three straight games against RPI top 45 opponents, starting with LSU (No. 45) on Wednesday night.

"These are two teams that everybody has in the tournament," said sophomore forward Sebastian Saiz of LSU and Arkansas (No. 13 in the latest RPI). "At the end of the day, they're going to be in the tournament. So to get both of them is going to be really good for us."

LSU is led by sophomore forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, who are averaging a combined 32.7 ppg and pulling down a combined 19.2 rebounds per game. Martin ranks third in scoring (16.8 ppg) and third in rebounding (8.6 rpg), while Mickey ranks sixth in scoring (15.9 ppg), second in scoring (10.6 rig) and leads the league in blocked shots (3.6/game).

"The conservation with LSU starts with Martin and Mickey, two great players, and they have really taken a big leap forward as you expect from year one to year two," Kennedy said. "They're two guys who caused you a lot of matchup problems because of their size and versatility."

Last season, Kennedy said, their biggest deficiencies were rebounding margin, defensive rebounding percentage, and an inability to finish close to the basket, all areas where Ole Miss has improved from last year to this point in the season. 

Against No. 1 Kentucky, the nation's longest team and the league's leader in rebounding margin, scoring defense, field goal percentage and blocked shots, Ole Miss was outrebounded just 34-32 and outscored the Wildcats 30-26 in the paint.

Led by Martin and Mickey, LSU provides another tough test for Ole Miss in each of those respective areas, as the Tigers rank fifth in the league in rebounding margin (+5.2/game) and second in blocked shots (6.3/game).

"Kentucky is the biggest team in college basketball and they would be the second-biggest team in the NBA, so if we can do that against Kentucky, we can do that against anybody else," said Saiz, who scored a career-high 20 points in last year's meeting with LSU."

The Ole Miss men's basketball team opened SEC play, while the Ole Miss women's basketball team continued SEC play, as we enter the heart of college basketball season. Over the weekend, the men's and women's teams posted wire-to-wire wins on back-to-back days. After the conclusion of NFL Divisional Round, the Rebels are guaranteed to have a representative in Super Bowl XLIX. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team welcomed five newcomers, including two fifth-year transfers and two junior college transfer, and it's been a process for the team learning to play together. After an up-and-down nonconference slate, the Rebels played No. 1 Kentucky to overtime on the road and then notched a wire-to-wire 65-49 win over South Carolina to open SEC play.

"With us, every player has a strength and a weakness and what I'm trying to do is have combinations to cover ourselves, and I think we're getting better at that," head coach Kennedy said. 

"It's a process," junior guard Stefan Moody said. "You can't just throw a bunch of guys together and expect them to mesh automatically. It's a process. It's going to take a little while and we're figuring it out."

- Ole Miss did not get the result it wanted on the road at No. 1 Kentucky, but the Rebels played perhaps their best game of the season, and if they play like that the rest of the way, they have a chance to play meaningful basketball come March. Ole Miss shot 49 percent from the field, including 9-of-17 from 3-point range, and scored 86 points, all season highs for Kentucky opponents.

"It doesn't really get any worse than that, especially when you have a chance to beat the No. 1 team in the country," said junior guard Stefan Moody, who led the Rebels with 25 points before cramping up in overtime. "It's a part of life. You have to take it how you got it. We lost by a few points. It was a confidence booster coming into this game (against South Carolina) and in games ahead. We went toe to toe with (Kentucky). It proved we can go toe to toe with anybody."

- In case you missed it, here's a vine of a highlight-reel dunk by Aaron Jones against No. 1 Kentucky, which earned him top-play honors on Fox Sports Live. (H/T @ColeMissSports)

- After winning 12 of its first 13 games, all in the nonconference slate, by double digits, No. 1 Kentucky has been taken to overtime in back-to-back games, first at home against Ole Miss and then on the road against Texas A&M. Speaking to the way No. 1 Kentucky played in each of the two games, Ole Miss took a better shot, and it came on the Wildcats' home floor. Against Ole Miss, Kentucky shot 42 percent from the field, including 11-of-20 from 3-point range, and went 28-of-40 from the free-throw line. Against Texas A&M, Kentucky shot 28 percent from the field, including 9-of-28 from 3-point range, and went 25-of-35 from the free-throw line.

"I told them, the standard has been changed," Kennedy said. "Through 13 games, we've seen some high points and low points. And then we went into Rupp Arena, in that environment. The only thing that bothered me about the commentary afterwards was a lot of people saying that Kentucky didn't play well. Kentucky played well. We took their best shot. My hope was that our guys saw that this is the new standard, and this is what we are capable of doing, if we take the right approach. If we take the right approach, this team has a chance."

- Watching Ole Miss on film, South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said it was easy to spot their progress through 15 games this season, pointing to the Rebels' nonconference wins over Oregon and Cincinnati, as well as the way they played Kentucky.

"They're athletic," Martin said. "They're seniors. They stay the course. They don't whine and pout. They don't roll their eyes. They play. Moody has given them an unbelievable presence to go with those other guys. Andy's got his guys playing well."

- After a 1-1 start to SEC play, the Ole Miss men has a crucial four-game stretch ahead, all against teams ranked in the RPI top 80: vs. LSU (No. 43), at Arkansas (No 14), at Georgia (No. 38) and vs. Florida (No. 79).

- With wins over Florida and Alabama this week, the Ole Miss women's basketball won back-to-back regular-season SEC games for the first time since the 2011-12, improving to 13-4 overall and 3-1 in SEC play. The 13-4 start is the best since the 2006-07 season, when the Rebels finished 24-11 and made a run to the Elite Eight. 

- "We said before the SEC started, when we were 10-3, that five more wins gets us to the WNIT," head coach Matt Insell said. "We said eight more wins gets us to the NCAA Tournament. I asked them what they wanted, and they said they wanted the NCAA Tournament, so they're fighting every day to get to that eight-win mark because when you get to that eight-win mark in this league in women's basketball, I can't name a team that didn't make the NCAA Tournament after getting eight wins in this league."

- One of the"next four teams" out in the first Bracketology projection from ESPN.com women's basketball Bracketologist Charlie Creme, the Ole Miss women also have a crucial stretch ahead, starting with a home game against No. 19 Georgia on Thursday, followed by a road game at No. 8 Texas A&M, followed by a rivalry game at home against No. 14 Mississippi State.

"Georgia is coming in here, and they're ranked in the top 20 in the country, and you get a chance to get them on your home court, and you get a chance when you have a lot of momentum going within your team and your team is playing well," Insell said. "It's a huge game. If we want to get to the NCAA Tournament, we have to win a couple of those games. This week, we have a chance to play two teams this week to see where we're at and see where we're going."

- The Ole Miss men's tennis team netted a big win off the court with Nik Scholtz's Twitter announcement that he would return for his senior season. The Rebels began the 2015 season this past weekend with singles and doubles matches at the Florida Gulf Coast Invitational. They play their first dual match of the season on Friday at UCF, before starting play at the ITA Kickoff Weekend on Saturday, Jan. 24.

- Five former Ole Miss football players have been invited to play in college football postseason all-star games, headlined by Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt, who will play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 24. Serderius Bryant played in the Medal of Honor Bowl this past weekend, totaling three tackles and two tackles for loss.

- With Brandon Bolden (New England Patriots) and Donte Moncrief (Indianapolis Colts) both advancing to the AFC Championship, Ole Miss is guaranteed to have a former player in Super Bowl XLIX. It will be the 20th Super Bowl featuring a former Ole Miss player, and whether it's Bolden or Moncrief, Ole Miss have its 23rd different former player participate in a Super Bowl.

SEC MBB Teleconference 1.27

Full transcript of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin and South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. The Rebels travel to Knoxville, Tenn., to play the Volunteers on Wednesday (7 p.m., SEC Network) and then return home to play the Gamecocks on Saturday (12:30 p.m., SEC Network).

Ole Miss Head Coach Andy Kennedy

Opening statement:

It's a big challenge going into Knoxville Wednesday night. Cuonzo has a very good basketball team, anchored by those two big boys up front. Jordan McRae is having a Player of the Year-type season to this point, so we know there will be a number of challenges that we will have to face.

On Martavious Newby's surgery and timetable for his return:

We don't know as far as timetable. The surgery was successful. They put a plate in his hand. If it was a football player, they would tape it up, pad it, and he could probably play within a week or so based on pain tolerance. With it involving the ability to catch the ball, that's not an option for us. It will be a day-to-day thing. He will certainly be out this week, and honestly it will be week-to-week depending on how quickly he responds to the procedure.

On replacing Martavious Newby:

There's an opportunity there. And as we discussed after the (Mississippi State) game, even though his numbers don't jump off the page at you, people who cover us understand the importance of Newby and the energy and toughness that he brings. He's probably our best on-ball defender on the perimeter, so there are a number of different areas that he was very helpful to us. We will have to do it by committee, whether that's a guy playing a few more minutes here or there in different combinations, or opportunities for new guys. That will all be determined moving forward.

On Ole Miss leading the SEC with 7.1 blocked shots per game:

Last year, we lost the all-time leading shot-blocker in the history of our program and a guy who I think finished in the top five in the SEC's history in Reginald Buckner. This year, it's a little different. We're doing it by committee. Aaron Jones is leading our team. He is very active, he has quick hands, and he is long. He's a different shot-blocker than Reg, though, in that he probably does as much on the perimeter as he does at the basket. He's really quick off his feet and he has the ability to get his hand on a lot of balls. 

And then the rest of our guys, everybody just has that skill set. Juan Sebastian Saiz, one of our true freshmen, is really long and has good timing. Dwight Coleby is starting to round into shape after an early season injury, and he's athletic at the basket. Demarco Cox, our other big, has length and size at the rim. It's just really who we are. We have to make good decisions, as to when do we try to block the shot and when to stay in rebounding position. We had some real issues leading into conference play. We have gotten a little better once we have gotten in league play about taking ourselves out of rebounding position by trying to block too many shots. As we have garnered more experience, because we're relatively young up front, guys are having a better of sense in when to go try to block the shot.

On riding a wave of momentum with four straight wins:

The numbers say that we have won four in a row, so I certainly like those numbers. Other than that, we're just trying to get a little better. We're getting contributions from different guys, whether it is some of the young guys I just mentioned or Anthony Perez, who played very little last year. He's probably had his best three-game stretch in his career, as he's garnering more confidence. He's being more productive. As a whole, we're getting contributions from new guys, and as a result, we're playing a little better.

Tennessee Head Coach Cuonzo Martin

Opening statement:

We play a very talented Ole Miss team. They're playing very well, 5-1 in league play. They're shooting the ball well. Marshall and Jarvis are playing as well as any guards not only in the SEC but in college basketball. Jarvis is putting up tremendous numbers, as far at 55 percent from 3-point line and 50 percent from the field at the point guard position. He's physical strong. Marshall does what he's good at doing, which is making shots, getting open and making plays. They are a very talented team and do a great job of using their big guys diving to the basket and making plays.

On Jarnell Stokes:

He's done a great job. He comes in and watches film. He was in the gym this morning working out. He's seeing the floor a lot better and making plays. He's better off the dribble. He's aggressive in making moves to the basket. He's rebounding the ball well on both ends of the floor. He's always been a good offensive rebounder, but he's doing a better of getting defensive rebounds and boxing out. He's playing good basketball overall.

South Carolina Head Coach Frank Martin

Opening statement:

Once again, we're excited to play at home. It feels like we have played at home one time all month. Getting around our fans will be great for our players. We play (Texas) A&M, which we just went head-to-head with here shortly ago and then have to turn around, travel again and play at Ole Miss. I'm coaching against two guys with whom I have great personal relationships with and respect tremendously. Both have really good teams. It's an exciting week for us, as every day is, when we realize how lucky we are with what we get to do every day.

On the team's sense of urgency with a 0-6 SEC record:

That is what my job title is directly tied to. I can't put winning games above winning people. Right now, we have to continue to make our guys understand that we're trying to win people. If we can figure out a way to keep our kids excited and connected with who we are, and that we're not that far off, rather than solely focused in on winning and losing games, then that will happen. And eventually, when you win one, your kids feel better because we're so young that you don't them to get discouraged because everyone who reaches out to them in social media is probably discouraged that we're not winning. 

My job is to make sure that our guys continue to stay encouraged because we are close. You're at Missouri, and you are down two possessions with 50 seconds to go, so you're right there. You get a stop, make a shot, and now it's a one-possession game, but it didn't happen. We're fighting our tails off to put ourselves in the same place where we could have two, three or four conference wins right now, so we have to keep our kids focused on that.

On progress when looking at the game within the game:

I'm extremely proud of my kids. I have been unhappy after one game, and that was the Georgia game. We did not fight and we never gave ourselves a chance to win. That's the only game that I have been unhappy about. Early in the year, we went into Oklahoma State, and they made the run in the first half, and we fell apart. We just went into Missouri, which is very comparable and very similar to Oklahoma State, and an equal home-court environment. We got down I think 11-0, and next you thing know, it's 20-16, so we have grown as a team. 

That's my job. It's to keep my guys focused. My kids are really young, and they don't understand anything yet. I don't have any upperclassmen to make them understand reality. It's my job to get them connected with the fact that even though we might not be getting the results from a win-loss standpoint that we are a better basketball team and these are the reasons why. That way they stay excited about what we're doing, which they are right now, and we can continue to progress.

SEC MBB Teleconference 1.13

Full transcript of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from LSU head coach Johnny Jones and South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. The Rebels host the Tigers on Wednesday night (8 p.m., CSS) and then travel to Columbia, S.C. to play the Gamecocks on Saturday (3:30 p.m., FSN).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

Opening statement: 

It's week two of the SEC grind, and we're looking forward to having the opportunity to come back home Wednesday against a very good LSU team.

On playing younger players more, particularly in the frontcourt:

We're still evaluating that. I have not been as pleased with our production as we need to be as a frontline unit. In the second half, we got production out of a number of our young guys, namely Dwight Coleby, who's just not getting back into form after an early leg injury that set him behind. Anthony Perez helped us some at the four. We have played Anthony in a number of different positions in his two years here. We have played him some on the wing. We felt like his ability at the four position gives us more versatility, not only offensively, but he was very active with six rebounds as well. It will be something we continue to experiment with.

On Jarvis Summers' improvement in the mid-range game:

Jarvis has unquestionably been our MVP to this point in the season. He has evolved into a junior in our program. First and foremost, having been in the program for three years, physically he's stronger he has ever been, which enables him to make the plays both physically, and from an experience standpoint, having gone through the battles that he has endured, we're starting to see him play like the all-league player that he's capable of being. Percentage-wise, he's taking better shots. He's stronger, so that he can finish through contact. And he really worked in the offseason at knocking down open looks. When he plays with Marshall, one thing that we missed in our first two SEC games was the spacing that Marshall creates while he's on the floor, not only as our leading scorer at about 19 points per game and shooting close to 40 percent from 3, which are pretty effective numbers, but the spacing that he creates because of his presence and his ability to stretch the defense. Jarvis has done a good job of playing in those gaps.

On Jarvis Summers' role with Marshall Henderson returning to the mix:

We play Jarvis in a number of different spots. When Marshall is not here, he plays predominantly off the ball and Derrick Millinghaus' numbers go up tremendous en lieu of Marshall's absence. With Marshall back, we will continue to play Jarvis off the ball at times when Derrick is in the game, but he will go back more of a lead-guard mentality when he's with Marshall, setting the floor for our team, running our team, and continuing to be aggressive offensively. We have played three games without Marshall, and we have played 12 with Marshall, so he will be able to come back pretty seamlessly and fit right back into what we were doing prior to his absence.

On LSU's Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey:

They are really, really talented, maybe as talented a frontline as there is in our league, with those two combined with Johnny O'Bryant, who's probably the best back-to-basket scorer in our league. It's a tremendous challenge. We have to be very physical and keep our bodies on them. We can't come into this game thinking that we're just going to out-jump them or out-reach them. They're all long and athletic. We have to be very physical at the point of attack. We call it first blood. We have to try to get to the ball first because of their tremendous athleticism, and they are very versatile. When you play those three guys together, with Martin playing the three, it's a long, athletic frontline, so we know they're going to pose a number of difference challenges for us.

On missing out on Cleveland, Miss., native Johnny O'Bryant in recruiting:

We spent a lot of time and energy recruiting Johnny. He's just up the road from us. We knew he was going to be a tremendous talent, and nothing that he has done at LSU has been surprising to me. He was going to come in and have a chance to make an immediate impact, which he did as a freshman. As he evolved into his sophomore season, he was an all-league-caliber player as we anticipated, and now he's one of the best frontcourt guys in all of college basketball. I'm proud to see him develop. He's a good kid from a good family. I certainly wish he was wearing the red, white and blue on Wednesday.

On balancing shots in the backcourt between Derrick Millinghaus, Jarvis Summers and Marshall Henderson:

You take what the game gives you. Sometimes we want to try to predetermine who's going to do what when and where. Basketball doesn't work like that. You have to put yourself into position, you always have to be ready, and you have to take the game gives you. Derrick, for instance, makes three of his first four field goals in Starkville on Saturday and was in a very good rhythm, and as a result, we took an early lead. Those same shots appeared late in the game, and we weren't able to knock them down, and that ultimately is the difference between winning and losing. He finishes the game 5-for-17 from the floor after starting 3-for-4. He wasn't as efficient at the end as we would have hoped.

On the impact of Marshall Henderson:

I challenge the guys every day that the fire needs to burn internally. If they're waiting for me to motivate them every day, then we are all missing the boat. The advantage with Marshall returning on Wednesday is first and foremost his ability to put the ball in the basket. Secondly, it's his ability to be the focal point of LSU's scouting report. I guarantee there will be a lot of Marshall Henderson conversation, and when you don't have him, then the focus shifts to others. Sometimes guys are second or third options for a reason. There are a lot of people who want to be Batman, but they need to be Robin, and we need to get Batman back, so then we can play off the spacing that Marshall creates, and he will be back with us on Wednesday, and I'm sure he will be excited to start SEC play his senior year.

LSU head coach Johnny Jones

Opening statement:

We're looking forward to great challenges this week, one there at Ole Miss, and we're excited about having the opportunity to be back at home against a team that's playing very well in Vanderbilt on Saturday. Obviously, with Henderson returning, it presents a great challenge for us, the great player that he is, and we look forward to that challenge there at Ole Miss Wednesday night.

On preparing for Ole Miss without seeing Marshall Henderson the last two games:

It's tough preparation because it's hard to simulate what he's capable of doing out there on the floor. He's really quick at catching-and-shooting and rising up and making difficult shots and making plays. You have to go back and probably know that he's going to be screened for, and you have to prepare for getting off screens and try to make sure that you're there on the catch with him. It's one of those games that you know you're going to be in a battle all night long, and you're hopeful -- knowing that he's going to score -- that you can contest and contain him most of the night.

On Johnny O'Bryant and his maturation:

Johnny has made some really positive strides for us. He really finished the year strong last year for us. He had a tremendous summer. Johnny is a part of everyone's scouting report now, and a lot times for the teams that we're playing, their defense has been designed to try and take Johnny away for us, and when that has happened, he has made the right decisions, in terms of making extra passes and plays. When he has had the ability to be in one-on-one situations there in the post, he's played well and shot a high percentage for us. It's just a matter of getting that balance for him. He's been terrific for us.

On added motivation for Johnny O'Bryant going home and playing against Ole Miss:

It's a normal reaction for most young men because you have an opportunity to have family and friends, most of the time, there in attendance. You're playing one of the state schools where you have grown up and you want to make sure that you have a great showing there. It's no different, I'm sure, from a lot of pro athletes who feel that same way. You have some added weight, but we try to make sure that they concentrate and focus, in terms of playing in between those lines once we throw that ball up. It's not where you're playing but how you're executing and the impact that you're able to make for your team.

On the Ole Miss frontcourt and its development:

They are really good and able to play off of those guards. Their guards are extremely quick and play really well. Their post guys have an opportunity to benefit because of the help that you have to try to give to the other perimeter guys; you allow those guys to get free, and they have done an excellent job of getting to the offensive glass and making plays around the rim.

On moving Jarell Martin to the bench this past weekend at South Carolina and the flexibility that gives the LSU frontcourt: 

The beauty of our basketball team, and it's early on in conference play, is the versatility of our team. We have about eight or nine guys who we have been playing consistent minutes, and we have to make sure -- whether it's scouting report-oriented or the opponent that we are playing -- that we have the best group out there that we feel like can get us off to the best start in those games. Jarrell has the ability to play inside and out, which is certainly a great benefit for us. We have the ability to move him around.

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin

Opening statement:

It's another great week in the SEC. We go to Texas A&M midweek, and then we host Ole Miss. At Texas A&M, Billy Kennedy is continuing to build that program and they are off to a great start with two great wins out of the shoot. And Ole Miss is a defending NCAA Tournament team and conference tournament winner. They will have Marshall Henderson back after not having him for the first couple of games.

On optimism after Saturday's 71-68 loss to LSU:

We played a really good LSU team. Look at what that team has accomplished up to this point. They lost at UMass, a top-20 team in the country, at the buzzer. They lost to Memphis, a top-20 team in the country, in an absolute dogfight. They got beat at home by Tennessee, which a top-20 team in the country, and unfortunately they lost a tough game to Rhode Island, which it happens to everybody. We went nose to nose with a really good basketball team. We just didn't do enough to win, but that should not take away from some of the really good things we did to give ourselves a chance to win.

On dealing with Marshall Henderson as an X Factor:

As the opposing coach, he's an unbelievable player. He averages 19 points per game. If you're half a step late, or half a second late, it's a 3 and a basket. He's an unbelievable competitor. I don't think anyone gives him the credit that he deserves for the competitor he is. He elevates the players around him because of his competitiveness. I have a lot of respect for what Marshall Henderson does as a player.

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