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VIDEO: Andy Kennedy Media Opportunity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Newby being full-go Saturday:

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

On matching up with Florida:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Wilbekin improving as a perimeter defender:

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

On handling Florida's defensive pressure:

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

On coaching toughness with the frontcourt players:

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



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