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Journey Ends for Five Seniors

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A four-year starter at point guard, one of the most accomplished players in program history, senior Jarvis Summers saw his Ole Miss career come to an end, as did four of his fellow seniors in LaDarius White, Aaron Jones, M.J. Rhett and Terence Smith.

They helped the Rebels to a 21-13 record and the eighth NCAA Tournament appearance and the fifth NCAA Tournament win in program history. Summers, White and Jones are members of a select group, becoming just the seventh senior class to make at least two trips to the Big Dance.

For Rhett and Smith, graduate transfers from Tennessee State and UT Martin, respectively, they experienced the NCAA Tournament for the first and only time, realizing the goal that they set out to accomplish when they began their respective careers at Ole Miss.

"I hate it for Jarvis," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "He's had a tremendous career for us. He's been a leader, he's been steady. He's had a tough year all year shooting the basketball, and I guess it's somewhat fitting that he would end with his struggles offensively. 

"Without Jarvis and without Snoop and without A.J. and without M.J. and without Terence, the five seniors who the journey ends tonight, you know, we're not here. We're not in the NCAA and we're certainly not in the position that we were to have the chance to advance. I'm proud of those guys and what they were able to accomplish."

Summers finishes his career as just the fourth player in SEC history with 1,600 career points and 500 assists. He is also one of only nine players in Ole Miss history with 80 career wins, serving as a mainstay at the point guard position since the early part of his freshman season.

To the end, despite his performance in his final college game, Summers showed true leadership, putting the team before himself, as he has throughout his decorated career.

"It's really frustrating," Summers said. "All this year, I have been struggling, and I couldn't get things going, but I'm not a person who makes excuses. If it's on me, it's on me, and all I can do is move forward."

Ole Miss has gone through a two-day turn twice, as well as a one-day turn when the Rebels played No. 23 Creighton and Cincinnati in back-to-back days at the Emerald Coast Classic, but they haven't gone through a turn quite like the whirlwind, as head coach Andy Kennedy described it, this week.

The Rebels closed out a 94-90 win over BYU, a game that ended around 11 p.m. local time Tuesday in Dayton. The team walked out of UD Arena around 12:30 a.m., flew to Jacksonville and then arrived at their hotel around 4:30 a.m., before starting preparations for sixth-seeded Xavier that included a shootaround Wednesday evening at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

"Well, for us, it's just about making sure that our guys are physically rested, not only the demands of the travel with such an emotional game, and we had to expend so much energy in order to come back," Kennedy said.

"So we want to make sure our guys are rested physically because we know the challenge Xavier is going to present, rugged, not going to give you anything easy, a little bit different flow than what we faced last night. And we want to give them as much information as possible without bogging us down. We're going to be who we are; Xavier is going to be who they are. We've got to do a good job of imposing our will on the game like we were fortunate enough to do the second half last night."

There are advantages and disadvantages to Ole Miss having played an additional First Four game on Tuesday, while Xavier hasn't played in nearly a week, a 69-52 loss to Villanova in the Big East championship game on March 14.

"The disadvantage that we have per our opponent is obviously what we just described, the physical demands of what it's taken to get here," Kennedy said. "The advantage that we have is we have a win in this tournament. We just scored 62 points in a half. We just overcame a 17-point deficit, which is the biggest since 2007 in this tournament. We've got a lot of guys feeling pretty good about themselves."

The Rebels carry a lot of momentum into Thursday, particularly on the offensive end, having shot 60 percent from the field in the second half to finish the game at 45 percent in the win over BYU. Six Rebels scored in double figures, including all three members of their big three in Stefan Moody, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White.

Moody led the way with an Ole Miss NCAA record 26 points, including 15 in the second half. Summers posted his second career double-double with 11 points and 10 assists, compared to just one turnover. M.J. Rhett added a career-high 20 points, including 14 after halftime.

"Well, it's definitely not emotionally draining," Rhett said. "We're just going to roll off of how we played in the second half. Being that we can come back from a 17-point deficit, if we can just fix our first half performances and play better in the first half and keep our second half, because we're a second half team for the most part. So if we could just hold down our first half and come back in the second half and do what we do, we'll be fine."

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ole Miss returns to Nashville, the site of its 2013 SEC Tournament title, in much the similar position, perhaps in a more favorable position as it relates to an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

Despite the loss to Vanderbilt in the regular-season finale, Ole Miss remains a team projected in the field, as a No. 10 seed in ESPN's Joe Lunardi's bracket, and as one of the last four teams in the field in CBS Sports' Jerry Palm's and USA Today's Shelby Mast's brackets.

At this time of year, it's easy to get caught up in all the numbers and bracket projections, but head coach Andy Kennedy and his team are focused on what they can control, which is their opponent-to-be in Thursday night's second-round game against No. 11 seed South Carolina.

"We have a veteran group," Kennedy said. "They have been through these conversations many times. My hope is that they will just focus on what the thing they can control and that's playing well Thursday night. We have a lot of good memories in this building, so hopefully we can conjure some of those back."

Seniors Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White played key roles on the 2012-13 team that made a run to the SEC Tournament title and an NCAA Tournament bid. 

Summers was the starting point guard, only to have his SEC Tournament run cut short due to a concussion he suffered in the quarterfinal against Missouri. When Summers went down, White stepped into the point guard role, starting both the semifinal against Vanderbilt and the final against Florida.

"We're really just taking it one game at a time," Summers said. "We don't really focused on the bubble or the tournament at all. We still have to play the SEC tournament. For me, I'm just trying to maximize the games and enjoy it while I can."

"I haven't been reading anything about the first four out or the last four in," White said. "My concern hasn't been on that. We're just taking it one game at a time."

Ole Miss has not only has its run in 2013 to draw from entering this year's tournament, but it also has its success away from Tad Smith Coliseum earlier this season. The Rebels have three RPI top 50 wins -- No. 22 Arkansas, No. 29 Oregon and No. 34 Cincinnati -- and they all came away from Tad Smith Coliseum

Their 11 wins away from home are the most since that same 2012-13 season, when they picked up 12 wins away from home, including three wins at the SEC Tournament. 

"We're very confident away from home," White said. "Very confident. That's where we play our best ball, I think. It's weird. I mean, I don't know. I can't explain that."

One possible explanation? They shoot the ball better away from Tad Smith Coliseum.

Ole Miss averages 75.1 points per game and shoots 46.5 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from 3-point range in road and neutral-site games, compared to 71.2 points per game, 39.8 percent shooting from the floor and 30.3 percent 3-point shooting in home games.

"Maybe you do put more pressure on yourself at home," Kennedy said. "I think they'll come in here and play loose and free. I just hope we can make some shots."

The men's basketball team returns to the site of its 2013 SEC Tournament title, looking to punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The women's basketball team awaits its postseason fate, the baseball team hits the road for its longest road trip of the season, during which they will play two top-15 teams, and the football team opened spring practice. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team split its final week of the regular season, finishing with a 20-11 overall and 11-7 SEC record, tied for third place in the league standings. However, by virtue of a tiebreaker, the Rebels will be the No. 6 seed in the Nashville, where they await the winner of No. 11 seed South Carolina and No. 14 Missouri in the nightcap of Thursday's second-round games.

- With the win over Alabama on Tuesday night, Ole Miss picked up its 20th win of the season, the seventh 20-win season in nine seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just seven 20-win season in the 96 seasons before Kennedy's arrival.

- Against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss shot over 40 percent and committed just six turnover, but they were unable to overcome a hot shooting night from the Commodores. As a team, Vanderbilt shot 54.5 percent from the field and went 13-for-23 from 3-point range, tying its season high for 3-point field goals made.

"They put on a clinic," Kennedy said. "They've been shooting the ball well. They're as good a shooting team as we've faced maybe in the nine years here. Basketball is a game of rhythm. You have to disrupt theirs and establish yours. We didn't tonight. We were a step slow. We've been a step slow all year, and I've had to create defenses. We were moving slow, and they were making shots. We didn't have any answers." 

- Looking ahead, Ole Miss returns to Nashville, the site of its 2013 SEC Tournament title, and faces the same path this week, but with an additional second-round game against the winner of the South Carolina and Missouri matchup. Georgia awaits in a possible quarterfinal matchup, a team Ole Miss played in last year's quarterfinals.

- As far as the NCAA Tournament, despite the loss to Vanderbilt, Ole Miss remains a team projected in the field, as a No. 10 seed in ESPN's Joe Lunardi's bracket, and as one of the last four teams in the field in CBS Sports' Jerry Palm's and USA Today's Shelby Mast's brackets. Here's more from Palm, who had the Rebels among his teams "on the fence" in his latest Bubble Watch.

- Earlier in the week, after the win over Alabama, ESPN's Eamonn Brennan considered the Rebels a lock in his latest Bubble Watch, but after the loss to Vanderbilt, he rescinded that. Here's more from Brennan.

"I don't know what has transpired around the country, but our name has not been mentioned one time in any bubble conversation," Kennedy said. "It probably will now. We've probably put ourselves in a precarious situation where we need to look at what other people do."

- One of my favorite sports data and analytics sites, Team Rankings, projects Ole Miss as a No. 12 seed and gives the Rebels a 55 percent chance of making the NCAA Tournament. With one win in Nashville, Team Rankings gives them a 51.3 percent chance, and with two wins, it jumps up to 77.0 percent.

- Bid thieves shrink the NCAA Tournament bubble. And as Brennan noted in his latest Bubble Watch, they are most likely to come from high-major leagues this season. Bubble teams breathed a collective sigh of relief when Northern Iowa won the Missouri Valley Conference on Sunday, making it a two-bid league instead of a three-bid league. On a similar note, bubble teams would also probably like to see Gonzaga win the West Coast Conference automatic bid.

- After a strong end to the regular season, the Ole Miss women's basketball team fell short in a 72-61 loss to Arkansas in the second round of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament. The Rebels, now 17-13 and likely Postseason WNIT bound, will learn their postseason fate on Monday, March 16. It would be their first postseason appearance since 2009-10.

- Here's a couple of great stories related to the Ole Miss pep band, which stepped in as a replacement to act as Kentucky's band, which was unable to make the trip to Little Rock for the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament due to inclement weather. For our story, click here. For the stories from The Clarion-Ledger and The Lexington Herald-Leader, click here and here.

- The Ole Miss baseball team claimed its third weekend series of the season, sweeping Saturday's doubleheader before dropping Sunday's series finale. The Rebels, now 8-6, face a pair of tough road series this week, a two-game midweek series at No. 11 Louisville, and a three-game weekend series at No. 2 LSU.

- The star of Saturday's doubleheader sweep was sophomore right-hander Brady Bramlett, who struck out a career-high 12 batters, joining some elite company in the process. His 12 strikeouts were four shy of tying the school record, the most in a game by an Ole Miss pitcher since Drew Pomeranz struck out 15 in a win over Georgia on April 9, 2010. It was also Bramlett's second digit strikeout game of the season, becoming the first Rebel to record multiple double-digit strikeouts games since Pomeranz, also in 2010.

"He's always fired up and ready to go," said junior left-hander Christian Trent of Bramlett. "I thought he was going to get the record two weeks ago. I thought he was going to get the record today. He was on pace for 27, but 12 is still impressive. I'm sure he will take 12."

- The No. 17-ranked Ole Miss women's tennis team swept the weekend, not dropping one singles or doubles match in 7-0 wins over Arkansas and Missouri. With the weekend sweep, the Rebels improved to 10-3 overall and 2-2 in the SEC. Senior Julia Jones, ranked No. 14 in the nation, won both of her singles matches, improving to 21-5 overall and 11-2 at No. 1 singles this season and picking up her 93rd and 94th career wins.

- The No. 9-ranked Ole Miss men's team dropped a 4-2 decision at Alabama, their first outdoor match in more than a month. Their other weekend match, a road contest at rival Mississippi State, was postponed and will be rescheduled for a later day. Next up is a marquee nonconference home match against No. 5 Baylor on Tuesday.

- The Ole Miss football team began spring practice Tuesday. Here Some storylines to follow, as the Rebels get into the heart of spring practice after Spring Break: The three-way quarterback battle, some position changes on defense and the return of Laquon Treadwell and Denzel Nkemdiche from injury. Check out some notes and quotes already on the blog and stay tuned to more coverage.

- NFL hopefuls Cody Prewitt, a projected second-round pick by CBSSports.com, and Senquez Golson, a projected fourth-round pick, continue to impress in pre-draft workouts, most recently at Ole Miss' Pro Day on Thursday. Three other hopefuls, Deterrian Shackelford, Carlos Thompson and Deterrian Shackelford also made some impressions. For more, check out my recap of Pro Day.

- Ole Miss played a couple of tribute videos before Saturday's home men's basketball game against Vanderbilt. Here's one to Tad Smith Coliseum, and here's another to graduating seniors Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White, two Mississippi natives and the first members of their respective immediate families to graduate from college.

With the Rebels' 82-74 win at Alabama on Tuesday night, Ole Miss has posted 20 wins for the seventh time in nine seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just seven 20-win campaigns in the 96 seasons before Kennedy's arrival.

Also, with the win over Alabama, Ole Miss positioned itself to earn the No. 3 seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament with a win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. But the Rebels could also finish fourth, fifth or sixth with a loss, depending on other outcomes in the league.

The No. 3 seed would not only mean a double-bye into the quarterfinals, but it would also place Ole Miss on the opposite side of the bracket from top seed and undefeated Kentucky.

"It was a huge game," said senior guard LaDarius White after the win over Alabama. "It was important and we needed this game."

As far as the NCAA Tournament, the win over Alabama kept Ole Miss around the No. 9 and No. 10 seed lines, depending on the bracket projection, and according to ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan, the win also locked up an NCAA Tournament bid.

"Either way, both teams are straddling the No. 8/9 seed lines at this late date," said Brennan of Georgia and Ole Miss in his latest Bubble Watch. "For either to miss the tournament, they'd have to drop two straight this weekend and next, and somehow have the dozen-or-so teams between them and the cut line pass them in the next nine days. Not going to happen."

That being said, the Rebels, now No. 44 in the latest NCAA RPI, can eliminate any doubt about their NCAA Tournament hopes and perhaps play their way up a seed line or two, between now and Selection Sunday, starting with a win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. 

There's not much reward playing the Commodores, ranked No. 102 in the RPI, but they have won four in a row and seven of their last nine games, dating back to the start of February.

"We get one more win, we have a secure seed in the NCAA tournament," sophomore forward Sebastian Saiz said. "That was the goal this season -- to get to the NCAA tournament and do well in it." 

Senior Send-Off for Five Rebels

Ole Miss will also honor its five seniors, three fourth-year seniors in Aaron Jones, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White and two graduate seniors in M.J. Rhett and Terence Smith.

Jones, Summers and White have been a part of three of Kennedy's six 20-win seasons, including Summers who is the SEC active leader in points (1,587), assists (507), minutes (3,762) and wins (83). 

"It's Senior Night, so it's got to be the most important game for those guys who are leaving Ole Miss," Saiz said. "I expect them to come out with a lot of energy and show everybody they have been thankful for their time at Ole Miss."

Summers and White showed signs of a return to form in the win over Alabama, while Jones provided a spark with 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting, to go along with five rebounds, in 21 minutes off the bench.

Summers showed the decision-making that made him an All-SEC type player, dishing out seven assists compared to zero turnovers 32 minutes of action, while White exploded for 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range. For White, it was his first double-digit scoring game since scoring 16 points in a win over Florida on Feb. 12.

"Snoop has struggled in the last two or three weeks," said Kennedy of White. "He has not shot the ball well. For him to go seven-of-nine, four-for-five from three, huge, huge effort for him. My hope is that it will give him the confidence that he needs to finish this thing strong."

Kennedy, Rebels Look to Flush LSU Loss

BATON ROUGE, La. -- With an opportunity to perhaps lock itself into the NCAA Tournament, or at the very least enhance its resume, Ole Miss lost back-to-back games for the first time all season, falling on the road at LSU on Saturday afternoon after dropping a home contest against Georgia on Wednesday night.

The Rebels used a 12-0 run to take a 26-15 lead with 5:57 left in the first half. The Tigers cut the lead to 27-23 going into halftime and opened the second half on a 13-2 run to take a 36-29 lead with 15:14 left. 

Ole Miss got to within four on three separate occasions, but they were unable to string enough plays together on both ends of the court to get any closer the rest of the way in a 73-63 loss in Baton Rouge.

"We knew coming in, from a length and talent standpoint, that if this game was pretty, it was not going to be good for the Rebels," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We needed to make it ugly and dirty it up. In the first half, we did a good job of that, keeping them off-balance and not letting them for us with second-chance points, but the margin shouldn't have been four. We should have been up eight, nine, 10, 11, but we didn't close the half very well."

"In the second half, when you have opportunities on the road, you better take advantage of them. We didn't; they did."

Stefan Moody led the Rebels with 15 points, but he was just 3-for-17 from the field and 1-for-7 from 3-point range. Along with Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White, the Ole Miss big three combined for just 25 points on 7-for-29 shooting.

"We have been in a lot of close games," Kennedy said. "Tonight notwithstanding, we have been very competitive in almost every game, a possession here or possession there, and it's really been the timeliness of Stefan Moody. It's not as if Jarvis and Snoop don't have their moments, but we have struggled in a number of regards with manufacturing offense."

Entering Saturday, Ole Miss was 17-3 in games in which it shot 40 percent of better from the field, with the only losses coming to Dayton, Kentucky and Georgia, all road games, and three games decided by a combined 12 points.

The Rebels did not reach that benchmark, as they shot 38.3 percent from the field, including 4-for-14 from 3-point range, and 13-for-21 from the free throw line, and they committed 17 turnovers, their most in a game since committing 18 in a road win at Arkansas on Jan. 17.

"Why is that?," said Kennedy, referring to the benchmark. "It's because we make free throws at a high rate and we don't turn it over. Today, we shoot under 40 percent, we didn't make three throws, and we turned it over."

Ole Miss, now 19-10 overall and 10-6 entered Saturday as the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament and a No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and with the loss to LSU, they fall to the No. 6 seed in the SEC Tournament and will likely see a fall in their seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The last two losses, notwithstanding, Ole Miss remains 8-7 against the RPI top 100, including a 3-5 mark against the RPI top 50, with wins over No. 20 Arkansas, No. 31 Texas A&M and No. 39 Oregon. 

When the new bracket projections come out, the Rebels will likely see their name in the field, although closer to the close line, going into their final two regular-season games on the road at Alabama on Tuesday and then back home against Vanderbilt next Saturday. 

"They're disappointed," Kennedy said. "It's the first time all year we have lost games in a row. They're disappointed. It took me a little bit longer (in the locker room) because now I'm playing psychologist, and the reality is we didn't play well today. We lost against a good LSU team. We have to flush it. We have a Tuesday swing and we have to get ready and close strong in Week 9 (of SEC play)."

QUOTABLE: "You have to be honest, but at the same time, there's not going to be a drill we can do tomorrow to change some of the things we do. We are who we are. Guys who are struggling know they're struggling. I'm a big believer in owning it. Let's own it and let's try to figure out how to fix it. I have played this game and I have coached this game now for number of years. You fix it by seeing the ball go in the basket. You don't allow the negative to weight you down. Your self-talk has to positive. It's easier said than done, when things aren't going well, and you have to man up and close strong. That's what we're going to do." - Andy Kennedy

Despite the most recent home loss to Georgia on Wednesday night, Ole Miss remains a team projected to be solidly in the field, as the Rebels put their school record four-game SEC road winning streak on the line when they travel to LSU on Saturday.

Ole Miss, 10-3 in games away from Tad Smith Coliseum and 8-6 against the RPI top 100, Oregon, looks to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume with a road win at LSU, ranked No. 55 in the latest NCAA RPI.

"We better play better," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We better play like we're playing for our NCAA Tournament lives because we are. We have to play with a hunger and a desire. I don't think it was an energy thing (against Georgia). Our energy was fine. You have to make some plays. When you get hit with contact, you have to go through it. When you have an open 3 off a ball reversal, you have to step up and make it. That's what NCAA Tournament teams do."

Georgia made those plays, while Ole Miss did not in the Rebels' loss earlier this week. The same was true in the Rebels' loss to LSU earlier this season. 

The Ole Miss big three -- Stefan Moody, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White -- were a combined 14-for-45 from the floor, while the LSU duo of Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey each recorded double-doubles, and Keith Hornsby led all scorers with 21 points on 6-for-13 shooting, including 5-for-10 from 3-point range.

Martin and Mickey average a combined 33.0 points and 19.1 rebounds per game, with both ranked among the top four players in the league in both categories. Mickey also leads the league in blocked shots (3.7/game), while Hornsby ranks fifth in the league in 3-pointers made (2.0/game), shooting 37.5 percent from behind the arc.

"We'll battle," said Kennedy of Martin and Mickey. "We have to put bodies on bodies. They're big, fast and strong. They're a handful for everybody. We'll have a chance to try to game-plan and do the best we can to put our guys in position to be successful."

Coming into Saturday's matchup, Ole Miss, ranked No. 45 in the latest NCAA RPI, is a No. 8 seed in the latest brackets from ESPN's Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports' Jerry Palm and a No. 9 seed in the latest bracket from USA Today's Shelby Mast, while LSU is a No. 9 seed in Palm and Mast's brackets and a No. 10 seed in Lunardi's bracket.

Here's more on the Ole Miss-LSU matchup from CBS Sports' Chip Patterson in this week's Viewer's Guide:

The SEC schedule has not given tournament hopefuls like Ole Miss and LSU too many opportunities for quality wins. The winner gets a resume boost while the loser might sweat a little more on Selection Sunday.

Here's more on Ole Miss and LSU from ESPN's Eamonn Brenann in the latest Bubble Watch:

There's little reason to worry about the Rebels, even after this week's home loss to Georgia -- that's the kind of defeat you can manage when you've built this kind of good-if-not-great at-large case. That said, it doesn't get easier for Ole Miss in the next week. Saturday brings a trip to LSU and Tuesday involves a trip to Alabama. Ole Miss is in good shape right now, but two straight losses would introduce some measure of suspense in the last weeks before Selection Sunday.

The Tigers' past two weeks have been a success. Since narrowly falling to Kentucky in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Feb. 10, Johnny Jones' team is 3-1 with wins over Tennessee, Florida and Auburn. That may not get your blood pumping, but it's a more successful run than many fellow bubble teams have made in the same span, hence LSU's slight move off the cut line and into the bracket. With Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, the Tigers have NBA talent at two front-line positions, and they're playing top-20 efficiency defense nationally. They finish with Ole Miss and Tennessee at home before a trip to Arkansas next Saturday. They're trending in the right direction.

Rebels Ready for Rematch with Georgia

If recent history is any indication, Ole Miss and Georgia are likely to go down to the wire on Wednesday night.

Four of the last five meetings over the last three seasons have been decided by five points or less, with Georgia winning the last three meetings, including a 69-64 win on Jan. 20 in Athens. 

In their first meeting, junior guard Stefan Moody, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, led all scorers with 26 points on 7-for-16 shooting and a 10-for-10 mark at the free-throw line, but Georgia held the rest of the team to single-digit scoring.

Since their first meeting, the Rebels have won eight of nine, including a six-game winning streak, and head coach Andy Kennedy hopes to see a different, evolved version of his team in their second meeting.

"In preparation for the game, I watched it, and it wasn't easy to watch because we made a lot of miscues," Kennedy said. "I hope we have evolved since that game."

"I feel like we're a different team as far as the way we handle things and how we just go at it coming down the stretch," Moody said. "I guess we're a much better closing team, I would say."

Georgia, on the other hand, has gone 5-4, with a road win at Texas A&M, an NCAA Tournament bubble team, as well as a pair of losses to South Carolina and a home loss to Auburn, both of which are tied for 12th place in the Southeastern Conference standings.

All five Georgia probable starters average in double figures, a veteran group that includes two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore. In league games, the Bulldogs rank second in the SEC in defensive rebounding percentage (.719) and third in rebounding margin (+4.1/game).

"Georgia is the same Georgia in that they really don't have any weaknesses," Kennedy said. "They're a solid team. (Georgia coach) Mark (Fox), unfortunately, has had to deal with some injuries. They've had a number of guys who have had concussions and guys have missed a game here and missed a game there. 

"They had one really bad week where they dropped a couple of home games and in this league, and we certainly have experienced it, if you don't play well you're going to get beat. But they're a very good team who has had our number. We have to make sure we play well Wednesday to give ourselves a chance."

For Ole Miss, Moody, the league's fifth-leading scorer (16.4 ppg), has averaged 20.3 points over his last seven games, including 25.5 ppg in leading the Rebels to wins at Mississippi State and against Tennessee this past week. He went 15-for-30 from the field, including 14-for-23 from 3-point range.

Senior guard Jarvis Summers also finished in double figures for the second time in seven games, scoring 13 points and dishing out eight assists in the win over Tennessee. The other member of the "Big Three," senior guard LaDarius White, has been held to single-digit scoring in each of the last three games since scoring a combined 36 points in road wins at Auburn and Florida.

"I think it's all confidence, honestly," Kennedy said. "He needs to see the ball go in a little bit. I thought it was very promising to see Jarvis back and playing with the pop that I like to see. He still missed some shots, but I thought he was more assertive offensively, and we need Snoop doing that as well. I think shots come, shots go, but I just want him playing in the offense. He looks a little tentative to me and the reason being he's not making shots."

And in weather-related news, here is the latest:

National Signing Day has come and gone, the Mike Smith Era began in earnest, and the men's basketball team has run its winning streak to five games, its longest win streak since the 2012-13, when the Rebels won the SEC Tournament Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- Head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff won some and lost some on National Signing Day, as they put together a 22-member class, ranked as high as No. 15 in the nation (247Sports.com), and as low as No. 21 in the nation (RIvals.com). The class included 18 players rated a four-star prospect or higher by at least one recruiting service, the most in program history, including offensive lineman Javon Patterson and wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge, the seventh and eighth five-star prospect signed under Freeze

"You lose some battles when you are battling for some of the nation's best," Freeze said. "Every school does. We had a few of those, but we also won many, many battles for kids who really wanted to be at Ole Miss and this program representing this great university. I'm excited to get to work with them."

- Among the battles won were the last three players signed in Lodge, who announced his college decision live on ESPNU, choosing the Rebels over Texas and Texas A&M, defensive lineman Austrian Robinson, who chose them over Maryland, and wide receiver Van Jefferson, the son of 13-year NFL veteran Shawn Jefferson, who chose them over Georgia, Michigan and Oklahoma, as well as linebacker Shawn Curtis, who flipped his commitment from Pittsburgh.

- Speaking to some of the recruiting battles lost, Freeze said he and his staff will revisit the entire recruiting process, including allowing commitments to take other visits, gong through every kid on their board and talking about the outcome, the good and the bad, why it did not their way in the end, and could they have done anything different. On a related note, looking ahead to 2016, Freeze said of addressing needs on the offensive line, defensive line and linebacker with mid-year signees, whether it's JUCO or high school players.

- One of the more underrated aspects of the 2015 signing class are the five mid-year enrollees, a group that includes the top junior college quarterback (Chad Kelly), defensive lineman (D.J. Jones) and cornerback (Tony Bridges). All three players, as well as junior college linebacker Terry Caldwell and early enrollee Javon Patterson are expected to feature prominently in spring practice and push for playing time come the fall.

- In case you missed it, here's a National Signing Day link roundup of videos and stories related to the signing class as a whole and videos and stories related to individual signees.

- The men's basketball team extended its winning streak to five games, defeating Texas A&M 69-59 Wednesday night, its third top-50 RPI win of the season, and then going on the road and defeating Auburn 86-79, moving to 3-2 in SEC road games this season. With the wins, the Rebels remain in a three-way tie for second place in the SEC standings and moved up to No. 37 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA.

- The story against Texas A&M was a locked-in defensive effort, holding the Aggies' two leading scorers, Jalen Jones and Danuel House, to a combined 14 points on 5-of-19 shooting, and two key 3-point plays by LaDarius White and M.J. Rhett to push the lead to 59-50 with 6:26 left.

- LaDarius White led the way with 20 points, making big play after big play, but it was a team effort throughout the lineup, as five Rebels finished in double figures in the win over Auburn. The nation's top free-throw shooting team, the Rebels closed out the game from the line, going 10-of-12 in the final 1:28 to finish 28-of-38 for the game.

"Ole Miss is really comfortable with their nine players," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. "That's what makes them a really good and a contender is that they don't drop off at all when they go to their bench."

- Watching the Ole Miss-Auburn game on television, you could sense the energy in Auburn Arena, whether it was the memories of the Marshall Henderson jersey-pop, or the culture change under first-year head coach Bruce Pearl. The Pavilion at Ole Miss, set to open next season, will have a similar design and capacity, so fans watching the game got a taste of what the game day atmosphere might be like next season.

- Looking ahead, the Rebels have their first of two Thursday-Saturday swings, traveling to Florida on Thursday and playing host to Arkansas on Saturday. The Gators are ranked No. 67 in the latest RPI rankings and No. 35 in the latest KenPom.com ratings, while the Razorbacks are ranked No. 25 in the RPI and No. 31 in KenPom.

- The women's basketball team, looking for its first win at Vanderbilt since Jan. 8, 1987, led for 27:00, leading by as many as 16 early in the second half, but the Rebels were unable to overcome 42 second-half points from the Commodores in a 58-54 loss on Thursday night.

- Ole Miss, now 14-9 overall and 4-6 in SEC play, has six regular season remaining, starting with a home game against No. 6 Tennessee on Thursday. Head coach Matt Insell has said his team likely needs to get to at least eight SEC wins to garner NCAA Tournament consideration, so the Rebels likely need at least a split of the final six regular season games.

- The Ole Miss softball team kicked off the Mike Smith Era with six games in four days at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, going 3-3 with wins over San Jose State, Fresno State and Western Michigan. The Rebels are on the road for five games in three days next weekend, before returning home for the Red and Blue Classic (Feb. 20-22), playing host to UT-Martin, Nebraska-Omaha, Southern Illinois and Middle Tennessee State.

- The Ole Miss baseball team opens the 2015 season next weekend with a three-game home series against William & Mary, starting with the series opener Friday at 4 p.m. The Ole Miss baseball preseason press conference is set for Monday, so stay tuned for more coverage leading up to the season opener.

- The No. 24 ranked Ole Miss women's tennis picked up a pair of road wins, defeating No. 29 Texas Tech and No. 32 Rice. The Rebels return home for each of their next three matches, starting with Tulane on Friday (2 p.m.), before opening SEC play on Friday, Feb. 27 with a road match at Kentucky.

- The No. 19 ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team was off this past weekend, returning to action Monday for its home opener against Troy, before traveling to Chicago for the ITA National Team Indoor (Feb. 13-16).

Ole Miss looks to reverse history, as the Rebels (9-4) travel to No. 1 Kentucky tonight (6 p.m., SEC Network), the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Ole Miss is 0-15 all-time against the nation's top ranked team, last playing No. 1 Kentucky in 2012. Kentucky is 102-13 all-time against Ole Miss, including 48-2 in games played in Lexington. The Rebels have one win all-time at Rupp Arena, coming in 1998.

"Excited to get the SEC schedule under way, and we obviously do it in grand fashion in Rupp Arena tomorrow night," said head coach Andy Kennedy on the SEC teleconference Monday. "So I know our guys will be excited about the opportunity, playing in the most storied venue in all of college basketball, against arguably the best team in college basketball. So I know our guys will be looking forward to the opportunity."

The Wildcats are a perfect 13-0, as they pursue the first undefeated season in college basketball since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, a team that included Tom Abernathy, the father of Todd Abernethy, the coordinator of recruiting development and acting assistant coach.

By defeating Louisville by eight points, 58-50, Kentucky's school-record run of consecutive double-digits to begin the season ended at 12, a run that included double-digit wins over No. 5 Kansas, No. 25 Providence, No. 6 Texas and No. 18 North Carolina.

"Cal doesn't get the credit he deserves for the job he does," said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin on the SEC teleconference Monday. "I watched them the other day. They're magnificent. They're defending as well as any team in the country, and as well as any team I've seen in a long time."

Their defense, Kennedy said, is what gives gives them an opportunity an opportunity to undefeated this season. Kentucky leads the nation in scoring defense (47.8 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.297) and blocked shots (8.2/game). The Wildcats also lead the SEC and ranks seventh nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.267).

"They're a special defensive team," Kennedy said. I've certainly watched them casually when I could throughout the course of the season, and then as we gear up for them in preparation. That is what gives them an opportunity to do what I know is a topic of conversation not only in Kentucky but throughout the country: Can this team go through the regular season undefeated? 

"It'll be a monumental challenge, obviously, but defensively is the reason that I think it's a valid question, simply because they don't give you anything easy, and as a result teams have really struggled to score against them."

Because of their defense, along with their size and length, Kennedy has stressed the importance of making jump shots, and defensively, keeping them off the offensive glass. Kentucky leads the SEC and ranks ninth nationally in rebounding margin (+10.4/game), leading the league in both offensive rebounds (15.2/game) and offensive rebounding percentage (.460).

"We're going to have to make jump shots, which is not easy to do in any venue, much less Rupp," said Kennedy after the win over Austin Peay on Saturday. "Because of their length and ability to alter everything in the paint, you have to make jump shots. Defensively, you have to do an incredible job off the defensive glass. We've improved on our rebounding margin and guys are pursing the ball more consistently. If you allow them to live off the offensive glass, you have no chance."

Kentucky head coach John Calipari, looking at Ole Miss, stressed the importance of defending jump shots, particularly perimeter shots, noting that the Rebels' three leading scorers, all perimeter players -- junior Stefan Moody (13.9 ppg), senior Jarvis Summers (13.3 ppg) and LaDarius White (12.5 ppg) -- account for 52.6 percent of the team's scoring and 53.2 percent of the team's field goal attempts.

"Mississippi is going to shoot 25 threes in this game or maybe more," said Calipari in his media opportunity Monday. "If they make 20, then we lost our first game. They're shooting 25. Their three guards are their leading scorers and take more than 50 percent of their shots. 

"They offensive rebound 13 or 14 per game. They're going to play a zone where they're changing defenses. It could confuse us. If they're making shots, then we have to try to drive them off the 3-point line. When you're playing teams that are willing to shoot that many, you just don't know."

SEC Appears Stronger Entering Start of League Play

Looking at the SEC as a whole, all metrics point to a stronger league from top to bottom and perhaps more NCAA Tournament bids for a league that received just three bids last season. And it starts with Kentucky's dominance at the top.

"Kentucky has sort of separated themselves in the nonconference from the rest of the world, not only in our league, but from everybody else's league as well," said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings on the SEC teleconference Monday. "Our league is deep and I think the conference season will be an absolute grind because there are so many teams that are probably competitive and equal enough that a lot of teams can win on any given night."

The SEC is one of four conferences with five teams in the RPI top 50 and one of three leagues with 10 teams in the RPI top 100. The SEC also has five teams in the top 50 and 11 teams in the top 100, according to KenPom.com. Ole Miss is rated No. 93 and No. 67 in the two metrics, respectively.

ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi released his first full bracket of the season, and it included five SEC teams, and in his conference-by-conference forecast, he forecasts four teams from the SEC to receive an NCAA Tournament bid.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review

Dec. 15-21, 2014

Men's Basketball

- Ole Miss overcame a 17-point deficit to knock off Coastal Carolina 71-68 Thursday night.

- Senior LaDarius White scored a career-high 26 points including a career-best 6 3-pointers in the victory.

- The Rebels will face Southeast Missoui Monday night in Southaven before an eight-day holiday break.

Women's Basketball

-Ole Miss extended its win streak to three straight with wins over Southern Miss and Alabama A&M. Ole Miss who had dropped its previous two contests is moves to 9-3 on the seasons with a chance to close the non-conference slate with a 10-3 record, which would be the best  non-conference record since 2011-12. 

-Tia Faleru posted her 23rd career double-double against Alabama A&M with 24 points and 14 rebounds. It was her first double-double since nabbing 29 points and 19 rebounds in a win over Southern on Nov. 20. Additionally, with Faleru's 24 points Ole Miss had its first 20-point scorer since the Nov 28 Utah game when Toree Thompson had a career-high 23 points. 

-A'Queen Hayes earned her first career start against Southern Miss and also started the Alabama A&M game. In her first career start Hayes tallied 10 points for her second career game in double figures. In her two carer starts, Hayes is averaging 9.5 points. 

-Tia Faleru played her 100th career game against Alabama A&M joining Danielle McCray as active players to play in 100 career games. Amber Singletary will also join the century club this season. Additionally, head coach Matt Insell earned his 20th career victory against Southern Miss. 

Ole Miss continued its strong bounce-back from a season-opening loss to Charleston Southern, improving to 5-1 on the season and knocking off two previously unbeaten opponents in No. 23 Creighton and Cincinnati to capture the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic.

"We hadn't really found any rhythm through our first four games, either offensively or defensively," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We had been playing hard, but I didn't think we established any rhythm whatsoever. That was surprising to me based on what I had seen this summer and the extra work. I thought we would be further along in developing an identity. We took a huge step toward that this past weekend."

Senior guard Jarvis Summers, a preseason All-SEC first team selection, leads the team in scoring averaging 14.7 points per game. He is joined in double figures by junior guard Stafan Moody (13.0 ppg) and senior guard LaDarius White (12.2 ppg). 

Moody exploded for a career-high 26 points, including 17 in the second half, as Ole Miss defeated Cincinnati in the Emerald Coast Classic Championship Saturday. He knocked down as many 3-pointers against the Bearcats (3-of-7) as he had all season (3-of-21).

"He hadn't really made any threes prior to us going to Florida, and he really struggled," Kennedy said. "The first one he made, he banked in against Creighton, which is not what we intended to get him out of his slump. He made a couple early against Cincinnati. They pressed us, which allowed him to get in the open floor, and he made some spectacular finishes."

"It took a while, trying to get used to the offense and things like, but then I finally got it going, got in a good rhythm, got some good looks, and the shots started falling," Moody said.

White, Kennedy said, has probably been their consistent player this season. He is averaging 13.0 ppg during the last five games, all wins for the Rebels, and is shooting 58.9 percent from the field, including 8-of-15 from 3-point range.

"He came out of that big class with Johnny O'Bryant, Rodney Hood, Jarvis Summers, and I really felt like Snoop had a chance to be a tremendous player," Kennedy said. "My hope is that this senior year, he will embrace the approach you have to take, and he will be consistent. He has certainly showed moments."

Through six games, Kennedy has used a deep rotation with all 12 healthy scholarship players averaging nine-plus minutes per game, including nine players averaging 14-plus minutes per game. 

"We have done it so many times, I'm used to it," said Moody of the deep rotation. "Any five that's out on the floor, I feel like we can mesh together, regardless of who's coming in and coming out. We have been doing it for so long."

The rotation has not included sophomore forward Terry Brutus, who missed last season with a torn ACL, but he is expected to return to full practice and game action soon. Kennedy noted his ability to help the frontcourt with rebounding and ball-screen defense.

"He's unique in that he gives us a four-man that we haven't had since he got hurt," Kennedy said. "He has some of the same Murphy (Holloway)-like qualities in that he's a bit undersized, but he's so explosive and he's so quick. He's been practicing with us for about 10 days. We have increase his workload in contact, and so forth. He gives us great energy. We'll see if he gets cleared, and we're pretty confident that he will, and we'll see how quickly we can get him into game action because it's been a while since he has played."

Coming off wins over Creighton and Cincinnati, Ole Miss turns its attention to two more marquee non-conference opponents, as the Rebels host unbeaten TCU (7-0), coming off a 61-52 win over Mississippi State, and travel to Oregon (4-2), an NCAA Tournament team last season.

"We have already stubbed our toe," said Kennedy, referring to the season-opening loss to Charleston Southern. "We have talked about wanting to protect your home floor, simply because I know how difficult it is to win on the road. And then we'll have a challenge at Oregon on Sunday. We're playing two opponents from quality leagues, and I understand the importance of those games."

The Ole Miss men's basketball team wrapped up its Bahamian exhibition tour with a perfect 2-0 record. Head coach Andy Kennedy recapped the trip, talked about the chemistry, depth and experience of a new-look roster heading into the fall. The Rebels will open the 2014-15 season at home Nov. 14 against Charleston Southern. 

Below are the highlights from Tuesday's media opportunity:

On what he learned about the team from the trip to the Bahamas: 

I learned a lot. We had 10 practices here. We were over there for five days and we got two games. I treated it like an exhibition in that you obviously want to win, but I played all 12 guys. Terry Brutus is not healthy enough yet. He hasn't been cleared for full contact. Hopefully, he will be by the end of August or early September. 

Our 12 scholarship guys who were healthy and eligible to play all averaged double-figure minutes. I had seven of those guys average 18-plus minutes, three of which were new guys. It was very beneficial to see us in game action. We were able to put in some offensive and defensive stuff that we feel like we can build on and tweak. It was good for us.

The depth and experience of this group is probably as good as I have had. We have five seniors, three of which have matriculated through our system in Jarvis (Summer), Snoop (White) and AJ (Aaron Jones). We have two fifth-year guys in Terence Smith and M.J. Rhett, two experienced, focused guys. 

We then bring back a Martavious Newby and Anthony Perez who are now juniors. You guys have heard me say a bunch that when a kid becomes a junior, that is who he is. 

You then add two junior college kids in Stefan Moody and Rod Lawrence, two guys who have started at the Division I level. And then you have Sebas(tian Saiz) and (Dwight) Coleby, two guys who were thrown in the fire as freshmen and you look to take that next step, and they have done so. And then you add a freshman in Marcanvis Hymon. 

You have a bunch of upperclassmen who have been through this before. Trying to mix and match and see what we have as a group was very educational to me. When we start back at the end of August, early September, this experience will give us a head start in preparing for the season.

On establishing chemistry: 

It's really important. I'll be going into my 10th year as a head coach. I'm not smart enough to know how to push all the buttons so that the chemistry aligns. It has to evolve and it has to be owned by the team. 

That's really the biggest thing that I have challenged this group with, especially the seniors. M.J. and Terence, they're new to the situation, but they don't have time to feel your way through it. I want them to attack it with a sense of urgency that last year guys didn't play with. 

Snoop, Jarvis and AJ have all been good players in this program and all have been vital parts of us having some success. This is it. This is the last go-around, and I want them to own it. This gave us an opportunity to put that in play early.

On the roster: 

I felt like last year, the difference in winning 27 games and advancing to the NCAA Tournament to winning 19 games and not going to the postseason were evident to me. We needed to get more athletic. We needed to get stronger on our frontline. We had a rebounding deficiency that we weren't able to overcome. We weren't as proficient as we needed to be in a number of different areas. 

Bringing in the two fifth-year guys and bringing in the two JUCO guys, we filled some of those voids. We return seven of our top eight, with Marshall (Henderson) being the lone ranger who was obviously pivotal in what we have been the last two years.

But the core of our team is back. You add a Stefan Moody who will have a Marshall-like impact honestly. I'm not sure from a sensational standpoint, but here's a kid who is a terrific player and brings a wow factor from an athleticism standpoint that's going to give us some pop in that void that Marshall left with volume shooting and volume scoring. Rod Lawrence is a very solid piece. I tell him all the time, he needs to be our (Manu) Ginobili, a guy who can help us in a lot of different ways, and that's what he does. He's athletic, he's energetic, he's a great defender, he can do this and he can do that. 

And then you bring in two fifth-year guys. Terence Smith scored 1,300 points and started a bunch of games. He's been through college basketball and he's been through it at the level that he's never experienced this. He's excited about this, being in the SEC and having that opportunity. And the same for M.J. Rhett. He was eighth in the nation in double-doubles and led a league in rebounding. He has never experienced this. He has never experienced the NCAA Tournament, so those guys are hungry for that. 

It's been a good edition based on what we have been able to bring in and what we have coming back. I feel pretty good about our core.

On the new players: 

I wanted to throw them into some adversity. In our first game, we allowed it to affect us a little bit. We were looking around at what was going on, and it was good for us in game two when the same thing happened against a better team. Yet, we battled through it. We didn't give in. That was a valuable lesson and something that I will be able to use throughout the course of the season. Those new guys were a valuable part of that, seeing how we reacted to adversity and see how we deal with being in unusual circumstances.

On Jarvis Summers:

He's the most experienced and most productive returning player in the SEC. He has a chance, with a senior year on par with his junior year, to go down historically as one of the best players in the history of our program. He's very focused and very confident. Physically, he's probably in the best shape of his life. Jarvis came here at about 170 pounds, and he's about 190-195 pounds now. He's stronger and he's always had to be a physical guard. Last year, what he was able to accomplish has done wonders for his confidence. He knows this is his team, and he's leading that accordingly.

On the impact of Sebastian Saiz's international experience:

Last year, he was all arms and legs. He was gangly and he got knocked off his spot. He's gotten stronger and his base has gotten stronger, so he's not as easily moved. He played about 21.5 minutes a game, and he was our most productive big. He averaged close to a double-double (with) 11.5 (points) and 9.5 (rebounds). Some of that was because he was more familiar with international rules, like live ball off the rim, and he took advantage of a lot of that. 

He's active. He's confident. He's always played with a motor. For him, it's a matter of figuring out the size and speed at this level and getting stronger. With him having been in the program for a year, you can see him physically stronger. 

Dwight Coleby, as well. ... He's another one that I think you're going to see huge improvement in his physical conditioning and the way his body has reshaped. He's a big kid, both of those kids with Sebas at 6-(foot)-9, about 235-238 (pounds) and Dwight at 6-(foot)-9, about 245 (pounds). 

You add a M.J. Rhett, who's about 6-(foot)-9, 245 (pounds). AJ, I remember the goal for us was to consistently keep him in the 210s, between 212-218 pounds. Now, he's in the high 220s to about 230. He's matured physically going into his senior year. 

Hopefully we can get (Terry) Brutus back healthy. It's been a while -- last September -- since he played, when he tore the ACL. He's anxious to get back. Before the year, he was vital in us making that run, when we had Bear's (Demarco Cox's) injury, and he became that third post (player). You could always count on him. His quickness is somewhat Murph-like (Murphy Holloway-like). His skill isn't yet, but his quickness and ability to make plays. 

You guys are going to really like Marcanvis Hymon. It was great to see him in game play. He has a natural feel and natural ability to find the ball, much like Murph did. I'm really excited about our frontline. That's six guys, not even counting Anthony (Perez), who can still slide down some in that spot. The competition is going to be great for us, and that's what's going to leads us to become a better team.

On Marcanvis Hymon:

He's a face four. He will play all his time at that four-spot until he evolves. He's only about 6-(foot)-7. He's long, he's a quick jumper, and he's athletic. He's a lot like Murph. He has a natural ability, and the ball finds him. He can shoot it out to about 15-18 (feet). Terrance (Henry) evolved into a 3-point shooter, and (Hymon) will in time. He played all post in high school. He's raw, but he's athletic, he's quick, and he did some really positive things.

On the team's depth:

When you talk about experience, with Jarvis as the most experienced guy in the SEC, Snoop who's been through it and we hope that he can take that next step, AJ who was coming as a sophomore. This time last year, he was walking around on crutches, and then I throw him into a starting role. It had mixed reviews, but now he's had a year. He's healthier and he's bouncy again as a senior, with a sense of urgency. 

You bring in two fifth-year guys who have been tremendous assets to us. Terence Smith, I knew from watching him that he was an open shooter, but he's a lot like Jarvis. He's a very efficient guy. He's solid, much more athletic than I thought. He's an angled defender. He always made open shots for us. I'm playing him at some backup point and he did a great job. All his turnovers were bad-rule turnovers -- backcourt violations that aren't backcourts for us and traveling that not's traveling for us -- and he's very steady with the ball. It allows me to play Moody with the ball and without the ball. Moody is a guy who can play a little bit everywhere. He averaged 16 (points) a game at the Division I level. 

We added some pieces, along with Anthony (Perez), who went from a freshman who didn't play very much to a sophomore who helped us to win games, and Newby, who broke his hand and came back at end when we were playing a little better and evolved into a starter. All of those guys have been there and gained some experience and now they know through this trip what's expected of them moving forward. I'm excited about what I see and where we are.

On the third assistant coach position:

It's kind of on the back burner. I'm still going through due diligence. You guys are pretty smart and you realize what I'm doing, and if it evolves like I want it to. ... The positive and the reason I don't have a huge sense of urgency is because of Todd (Abernethy). I brought Todd in here to a position (Coordinator of Recruiting Development) that men's basketball had never had before. I credit Ross (Bjork) and the administration for having the foresight to empower me to have the position, so we created a non-coaching, recruiting development, off-the-floor position. 

When this transpired, I moved him up and allowed him to recruit to give us another body. He has done a great job for us and has gotten us involved with some really good players that he's a point guy for. He was great on the floor and it adds to his credibility with the guys, if and when that spot gets changed. 

They will view him differently because here's a guy who jsut finished a professional basketball career, he was an All-SEC player, and he can still play. He's out there and he's interacting with them, which has helped his relationships and helped him get to know the guys. 

That's another advantage of the trip. We had a lot more interaction for him and Tony (Madlock). They are now much further ahead in their relationships with the players than they would be before because of the experience. All of that has been helpful. 

(Todd's) a natural coach. He will be a coach, sooner rather than later. He's like me and he's like everybody else, you get in where you get in and you try to move your way up. He's had a great opportunity and he's taken advantage of it. It's opened my eyes to the fact that he's a valuable piece to us, so I don't feel like I have to name somebody tomorrow because we're understaffed. We're really not.

Summers Sparks Second-Half Comeback

Ole Miss outscored South Carolina 29-10 over the last 10:53, as the Rebels rallied for a 75-71 win on Saturday in Oxford. 

With the win, Ole Miss improves to 15-6 overall and 6-2 in Southeastern Conference play. The Rebels also remain in a tie for second place in the league standings with Kentucky, ahead of the teams' meeting on Tuesday in Lexington, Ky.

"I don't know if I have ever been more excited about what I just witnessed than about those last seven minutes," head coach Andy Kennedy said of the team's sense of urgency. "That was big-time basketball. You're down 15 against a team that's playing as well as they have all year. You're on your heels and you made everything happen. 

"You made it happen defensively. You made timely shots. You executed. You came up with loose balls. You made free throws. That was a tremendous effort for a group of guys who deserved it for the work they put in."

Marshall Henderson scored a team-high 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting, followed by Jarvis Summers with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Summers had 10 of his 15 points in the second half, including eight of the Rebels' last 11 points of the game.

"I know Marshall Henderson gets beat up a lot, but he's one of my favorite players because of his charisma, enthusiasm and the way that he elevates he elevates his team in difficult moments, especially," South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said.

Summers hit his first and only 3-pointer of the game to give Ole Miss its first lead since late in the first half at 67-66 with 4:00 left, and after South Carolina regained the lead, Summers answered with a jumper to go up 69-68 and then extended the lead to 71-68 with a contested lay-up at the rim.

"He's been playing like a first-team all-league players," Kennedy said of Summers. "I played him 37 minutes tonight and I'm trying to get a lot of out of him. I have to manage him better, so that he has the energy that I need him to have down the stretch. He's a very good player and works extremely hard. He's been doing this for us from game one. He's been our most consistent guy."

"He took shots and made them," Martin added. "That's what good players do."

LaDarius White and Aaron Jones joined Henderson and Summers in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Jones completed a 3-point play with less than a minute left after South Carolina cut the lead to two at 71-69, as the Rebels closed out the win.

"I told him at the last timeout, 'Stop looking around for Murph(y Holloway) and Reg(inald Buckner). They're gone. You're the guy and go make a play. I need you to make a play and get a ball. We can't ask Sebas(tian Saiz) or Coleby to do it. They have never been in that circumstance before. You have had limited experience, but that's all we have, so you have to go make a play,'" Kennedy said.

Rebel Preview: 3 Keys To LSU Game

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy meets with members of the media to discuss Wednesday night's game vs. LSU.

Three things from the SEC teleconference on Monday and the Ole Miss media opportunity on Tuesday, previewing Wednesday night's game vs. LSU: 

1. The Return Of 'Batman'

Senior Marshall Henderson, the Rebels' leading scorer and the fourth-leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference, returns to action after missing the first two league games last week. He has made a 3-pointer in a school-record 48 straight games and ranks third in the NCAA with 4.42 3-pointers per game.

"The advantage with Marshall returning on Wednesday is first and foremost his ability to put the ball in the basket," head coach Andy Kennedy said Monday. "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."

Henderson came off the bench in his first seven games this season. That, Kenendy said, won't be the case Wednesday night against LSU.

"He goes right back into the starting lineup," Kennedy said Tuesday. "We're going to play our best players."

2. Winning The Battle Up Front

Kennedy said LSU has as long, athletic and talented a frontline as there is in the SEC, led by sophomore forward and Cleveland, Miss., native Johnny O'Bryant. He leads the team in scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 rig), followed by freshman forward Jordan Mickey, who averages 13.9 ppg and 7.2 rpg. Another freshman forward, Jarell Martin, is fourth on the team in scoring (8.6 ppg) and third in rebounding (3.7 rpg).

"It's a tremendous challenge," Kennedy said Monday. "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 different challenges for us."

3. Finding A Third Scorer

Henderson leads the team in scoring (18.8 ppg), followed by junior guard Jarvis Summers (17.9 ppg), who has increased his scoring by 8.8 ppg over last season's average. 

When asked about finding a consistent third scorer, Kennedy specifically mentioned junior guard LaDarius White, who is fourth on team in scoring (7.7 ppg). He is averaging 13.0 points per game through two conference games after averaging 7.7 ppg in nonconference play.

"If there's any silver lining through the first two (SEC games) without Marshall it's that Snoop had to be more aggressive and make some plays," Kennedy said Tuesday. "In the second half in Starkville, when we were making a run and developing a lead, Snoop was the one making the plays for us. If he can carry that confidence moving forward, now that we're into league play, which is when he started playing better for us last year, that would be an added bonus."

Rebels Fall Short At MSU

With just over a minute left in the game, junior guard Jarvis Summers tied the game at 72-72 with a 3-pointer. Mississippi State made one of two free throws on the other end to take a 73-72 lead. 

On each of the next two possessions, the Rebels (10-5, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) ran possessions to Summers and came away with no points, as the Bulldogs (11-4, 1-1 SEC) held on for a 76-72 win Saturday night in Starkville.

"Some things have become pretty apparent about the Ole Miss Rebels through 15 games," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "There's a pattern that's been formed. We're not going to blow many people out, and we haven't been blown out. Our guys scrap and fight, and it's not always the most pleasing to watch from any vantage point, but we stay in games. 

"And then it comes down to the stretch, and you have to make plays, and the games in which we have made the plays, i.e. two days ago on Thursday night (vs. Auburn), we win. The games in which we don't make the plays, and Mississippi State does, then they win."

Summers finished with a game-high 23 points, his sixth 20-point game of the season, on 7-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range.

On the first of those two possessions, he was whistled for traveling on a questionable call. On the second possession, after Mississippi State made two free throws on the other end, Summers drove to the basket, and there was a collision at the ball, but no foul was called.

"Jarvis has been our steadiest player," Kennedy said. "We have said that a lot. At the end, we ran both possessions to him in a one-possession game." 

Junior guard LaDarius White (16 points) and sophomore guard Derrick Millinghaus (15 points) joined Summers in double figures for the Rebels. They each knocked down three 3-pointers, as did Summers, and Ole Miss was 10-of-29 from 3-point range for the game.

It was the second straight game in double figures for White and Millinghaus, and it marked a season high for White. 

"Snoop had maybe his best four or five-minute period where he was making shots and being aggressive, and we certainly need production out of him," Kennedy said.

Four underclassmen -- sophomores Anthony Perez and Martavious Newby and freshmen Sebastian Saiz and Martavious Newby -- played double-digit minutes off the bench, and it marked a season-high for minutes played for Perez with 21 minutes. Kennedy credited the Rebels' rebounding edge (47-37) in part to their aggressiveness and energy.

"The advantage to having a veteran team is the kids plays like they have experience," Kennedy said. "It does you no good if you're a veteran and you play as if it's the first time you have been in a college basketball game, and then you're going to opt to play a younger kid to give him the same opportunity that you have given the veteran.

"We may have to turn the page to some of our younger guys and give them the same opportunity as we're giving some of our older guys because we're not playing as experienced as I would hope our upperclassmen would."

Tomorrow will be an off day and a much-needed rest after a Thursday-Saturday swing, especially for Millinghaus and Summers, who logged 72 and 68 minutes, respectively, over the last two games.

Leading scorer and senior guard Marshall Henderson will also return to action, as Ole Miss hosts LSU next Wednesday (8 p.m., CSS). The Tigers (10-4, 1-1 SEC) are coming off a 71-68 win at South Carolina, having lost their SEC opener at home to Tennessee 68-50. 

"I'll give them tomorrow off because we're a little battle fatigued playing guys heavy minutes," Kennedy said. "We had a quick turnaround from Thursday to Saturday to start league play. We have a tough LSU team coming into Oxford on Wednesday, so you have put it behind you and try to get ready for the next challenge."

Supporting Cast Lifts Rebels To Win

Ole Miss hung its 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament Champions banner from the rafters before the game, and the Rebels (10-4, 1-0 SEC) began their title defense with a 65-62 win over Auburn (8-4, 0-1 SEC) in the league opener Thursday night.

Without leading scorer and senior guard Marshall Henderson, four Rebels scored in double figures, led by sophomore guard Derrick Millinghaus with 16 points, followed by junior guard Jarvis Summers with 14.

"We found a way to win," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "Ultimately, that's what we were trying to do and were fortunate enough to do. I played guys heavy minutes. 

"Jarvis has been our MVP from day one this season, and he certainly didn't have his best game. He looked a little battle-fatigued. Derrick Millinghaus played 35 minutes. That's a lot. He made some big plays for us."

Ole Miss trailed 21-16 with 8:25 left in the first half when freshman forward Janari Joesaar checked into the game, his first action since the North Carolina A&T game on Nov. 26. 

Joesaar sparked a 9-0 run, hitting a 3-pointer and then scoring on a put-back, as the Rebels took a 31-28 lead into halftime. The Tartu, Estonia, native finished with five points and three rebounds in nine minutes, all career highs.

"It was an opportunity for him," Kennedy said. "With Anthony being down, and we had Snoop pick up two early fouls, so we went deeper into the bench than we have been. 

"They're zoning us, and the one thing Janari can do is make open shots. He gave us great minutes and good energy. I told the team that I thought he was the MVP of the game because when we were stagnant offensively, he gave us a big lift."

Early in the second half, Auburn went on a 10-0 run to take 38-33 lead before junior LaDarius White answered with a 3-pointer, his first points of the game. He then hit his second 3-pointer to tie the game at 41-41 with 10:39 left. He finished with 10 points, his first game scoring in double figures since the Louisiana-Monroe game on Dec. 18.

"Snoop stepped up," Kennedy said. "He missed a couple of big free throws. It would have been easy for him to drop his head, and then he stepped up and hit a huge three. He had a couple of really strong drives to the basket and was able to make some plays."

Down the stretch, junior forward Aaron Jones played big for the Rebels. He hit a jumper and then threw down a dunk to extend the lead to 62-57 with 1:46 left. He also grabbed a defensive rebound after a missed Auburn three-pointer when the Tigers were within three at 62-59. He filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, five steals and five blocks.

Auburn had the ball down 65-62 with 16 seconds left, but the Tigers missed a three-pointer and were unable to corral the offensive rebound.

"The only guy on this year's team who had the same role as last year's team is Marshall Henderson, and he was not dressed out tonight," Kennedy said. "Everybody else has an expanded role, and with that comes more responsibility. You can't look around and think somebody is going to bail you out. Now, you're the guy, and you have to accept that responsibility, but that is a process"

Ole Miss continues SEC play on the road at Mississippi State on Saturday (3 p.m., ESPNU). The Bulldogs (10-4, 0-1 SEC) are coming off an 85-63 loss at No. 14 Kentucky in the SEC opener, having led 40-37 at halftime.

"They have the same cast as last year," Kennedy said. "Those guys have gotten older in Craig Sword, Fred Thomas, Gavin Ware, and Colin Borchert is a senior, so I know they have a number of different weapons. That place has never been very friendly to the Rebels."

As Ole Miss prepares for its exhibition game Friday night against South Carolina-Aiken and its season opener Nov. 8 versus Troy, it will be without senior guard Marshall Henderson due to suspension. 

"We knew there was going to be a suspension, and as we were preparing our team, he's been on the second team the entire time simply because we wanted to get some continuity," head coach Kennedy said. 

"We had a closed scrimmage against Arkansas-Little Rock last week, and I didn't play him a lot simply not knowing what to anticipate as it related to him being a part of our team early. Now we know, and we can game plan accordingly."

Henderson will also miss the Rebels' first two Southeastern Conference games Jan. 9 versus Auburn and Jan. 11 at Mississippi State, But for now, Kennedy said he is focused on preparation for the exhibition, then the season opener Nov. 8 versus Troy.

"I have never dealt with that," Kennedy said. "It's kind of unprecedented in the way that it's laid out. For us, we'll deal with it as it relates to him not being there for the opener, and then he'll be back in the mix. 

"And then when we approach Auburn, by then, a lot of the guys like Anthony (Perez) and (Martavious) Newby will have gotten experience. We'll deal with it like we would if we lose anybody at that stage in the season. I don't think about it big-picture right now. We just think about him not playing Friday and not playing in our opener."

For the exhibition and three regular season games, without Henderson, the Rebels will turn to two juniors in Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White and a trio of sophomores in Perez, Newby and Derrick Millinghaus.

"We have a veteran group in our backcourt when you start talking about Jarvis (Summers) as a two-year starter, Snoop (White) who had an opportunity to emerge in his role last year, Derrick MIllinghaus, and we have seen a huge improvement, as I have said from day one, from Anthony (Perez) and Newby in year two," Kennedy said. 

"I think we'll be OK. Obviously, when you lose your leading scorer, different guys are going to have to step up and fill that void."

White, who was sixth on the team in scoring (6.4), having also scored in double figures seven times with one 20-point game, will be expected to carry a larger load and be more consistent this year.

"I need him to take that next step," Kennedy said. "I thought we saw a natural progression between year one and two. He needs to that next step and be a guy we can depend on to be a double-figure scorer. 

"He needs to be a lockdown defender for us on the wing. And he needs to be a rebounder and a facilitator off the dribble. I need him to be involved in every statistical category in order for him to play to his potential and help our team like we need."

For Perez and Newby, who averaged just 6.8 and 6.0 minutes per game last year, there is an opportunity for more minutes this year and to make a progression similar to White last year.

"They're more comfortable," Kennedy said. "Physically, they're stronger. The opportunity is much bigger for them now. We had Nick there last year as a fifth-year senior, and he was guy we were comfortable with because we knew we could trust him. Now, there are minutes to be had, especially early."


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    Boy, I surely hope the Rebels don't have anymore nail biters like the Bama game. My nerves won't take it.

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    Rebs stay healthy, they can win it all!!!

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    I am not and never have been an Ole Miss fan. I am however a Coach Freeze fan. I like what he represents in today's world of big time sports and what he stands for in leading young men of today into a more responsible role. He is everything that Ole Miss has never had. I am on his band wagon winning or losing.

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    How can I get my hands on one of these?

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