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Rebels Continue Road Swing At Georgia

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Sole possession of third place in the Southeastern Conference standings will be on the line, as Ole Miss travels to Athens, Ga., to take on Georgia Saturday (3 p.m., Fox Sports Net). 

The Rebels (16-8, 7-4 SEC) are coming off a pair of mixed results, a home win over Missouri followed by a road loss at Alabama, as they enter the final seven games of the regular season, starting with the Bulldogs (13-10, 7-4 SEC)

"We have seven regular season games left," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "I have a lot of responsibilities as the head coach here, but one of the biggest is to lend perspective. We're at a point in the season, where a month from yesterday, the SEC Tournament starts, and that's hard to believe for me. 

"We have seven games left and there are a lot of opportunities for us moving forward. Perspective is certainly valuable at this time of the year. If last year taught us nothing, it's truly about focusing on the next opportunity, and as long as you have games, you have opportunity. That has to be the mindset of this group."

As evidenced by its last two games, Ole Miss fares better at home (5-0) than on the road (2-4) in conference play. The Rebels shoot better from the field (.453 at home /.388 on road) and from 3-point range (.419 at home /.317 on road) at home and rebound the ball better with a -6.0 rebound margin on the road and an even rebounding margin at home.

The home and away splits are particularly significant for the frontcourt players. Aaron Jones averages 10.2 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game in SEC home games and just 3.8 ppg and 5.7 rpg in SEC road games, while Sebastian Saiz averages 7.6 ppg and 7.6 rpg in SEC home games and just 3.8 ppg and 4.2 rpg in SEC road games.

"We have to shore those things up and become more consistent," said Kennedy, referring to the home and away splits. "You would hope that as we can continue to drive that message home and as guys get more experience, those numbers would change and we can become more consistent, so ultimately we can get the results we want."

Georgia is no different, with a 5-1 record at home and a 2-3 record on the road in conference play, which includes home wins over Arkansas and LSU and a road win at Missouri. After starting the season 1-4, the Bulldogs have won 12 of their last 18 games, including three straight entering Saturday's game.

It is a different team from last season, having replaced Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the league's second-leading scorer a season ago and the eighth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft. They are now led by two sophomore guards in Charles Mann (13.7 ppg) and Kenny Gaines (11.6 pgg).

"Georgia is a team that's found its way," Kennedy said. "They're 11-2 at home, 5-1 in league play. They have done a good job of protecting home floor. They were similar to us in the respect that last year it was about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the best player in our league. He leaves, so now they have Charles Mann, who they have asked to make the play. They have Marcus Thornton and Kenny Gaines. They all played last year, but now they are prominent in whether the Bulldogs win or lose. 

"It took them a little while in the non-league to figure that out. Once they have gotten into league play, they have been playing really well. They went into Mississippi State last night and dominated the game for the last 30 minutes, so we're playing a club that's playing well. Both of us are 7-4 in the league. They have down a really good job of protecting their home floor, so we have to go in and make sure that we take the right approach."

After the loss at Alabama, Ole Miss dropped from No. 51 to No. 61 in the Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com), while Georgia is rated No. 100. With a win over the Bulldogs, the Rebels would improve to 5-6 against top-100 RPI teams this season, highlighted by a win over Missouri, which is rated No. 43. 

Ole Miss then has back-to-back opportunities with two home games against top-10 RPI teams in Kentucky (No. 9) and Florida (No. 4). Tickets for Tuesday's game against Kentucky, Ole Miss announced Friday, are sold out.

"Next week's games really don't have the significance if we don't find a way to grind through some of these," Kennedy said. "We have four home games and three on the road, and we have to win games. Saturday is the next opportunity to do that."

Kennedy: 'It's a huge win'

 

Ole Miss notched its first top-50 RPI win of the season, as the Rebels held on for a 91-88 win over Missouri on Saturday in Oxford. Marshall Henderson led the way with 29 points, including eight 3-pointers, while three other Rebels scored in double figures and Aaron Jones and Sebastian Saiz grabbed double-digit rebounds.

"It's a huge win," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "It's a huge, huge win. It's a huge win because it's a home game against a top-50 team that everybody has slotted ahead us. It's a huge win."

"It was most definitely a must-win for us," Henderson said. "We had the same approach we had with the LSU and Tennessee games. It's the only time we play them during the regular season.  Us four teams (Ole Miss, Missouri, LSU and Tennessee) are going to be battling, especially to get the double-bye in the SEC Tournament. That would be crucial. Missouri is ahead of us. They're one of the last four teams, I'm pretty sure. For us to get the win, it's huge. It puts us one-up on them." 

Henderson had 18 of his 29 points in the first half, as Ole Miss took a 50-35 lead into halftime. The Rebels shot 53.1 percent (17-of-32) from the floor, including 9-of-16 from 3-point range, led by Henderson who was 6-of-8 from 3.

"We could sense it," said Henderson of shots falling in the first half. "It was crazy because it felt like we were blowing them, but they were still right there."

Missouri got to within two at 77-75 with 4:49 left in the game, but Jarvis Summers answered with straight points for Ole Miss to stretch the lead to 85-78 with a minute left in the game. He finished with 16 points, as did LaDarius White who scored 16 on 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Summers' 16 marked his 13th straight game in double figures.

"He's a winner," said Kennedy of Summers. "He's always won. He expects to win. He wants the ball, and I want him to have the ball. It's his experience. He makes plays. He's done it for us all year."

After being outrebounded for the third straight game against Kentucky, Ole Miss won the rebounding battle, 34-33, including 14 on the offensive glass. Jones grabbed 11, including six on the offensive end, and Saiz grabbed 10 with four on the offensive end. None were bigger than back-to-back defensive rebounds by Saiz during Summers' eight-point stretch late in the game.

"Coming into the game, Missouri had won two SEC road games, and in those at Auburn and at Arkansas, they were plus-16 on the glass in both. It's a huge stat. We won the battle of the board by one in a one-possession game." 

Missouri scored five points in 16 seconds and forced an Ole Miss turnover to have the ball and a chance to tie down 91-88 with 0.9 seconds left, but Earnest Ross' deep 3-pointer hit off the front of the rim.

"We have embraced the grind," Henderson said. "We know every game is going down to the wire, no matter who we play. We just have to fight through and get the win."

The Rebels hit the road for back-to-back road games against Alabama on Tuesday and Georgia on Saturday before returning home for a pair of big home games against Kentucky and Florida, which are rated No. 4 and No. 13, respectively, in the RPI.


Ole Miss carries its four-game winning streak into Wednesday night's game at Tennessee (7 p.m. CT, SEC Network), where the Rebels routed the Volunteers, 92-74, in last year's meeting.

As of Tuesday, Ole Miss is No. 57 in the RPI, according to ESPN.com. The Rebels are 2-4 against the RPI top 100, with wins over LSU and Vanderbilt and losses to Kansas State, Oregon, Mercer and Dayton. A win over Tennessee, currently rated No. 53 in the RPI, would be the their fifth road win and their best RPI win of the season, with LSU currently the highest rated win at No. 65 in the RPI.

"We're a pretty confident group," said head coach Andy Kennedy in Monday's media opportunity. "We have won four straight. It's just the next game for us. It's obviously a huge opportunity anytime you get a chance to play a team in the top 60 in the RPI. We all know how the RPI is balanced where they give you a lot more weight if you find a way to break through on the road because everyone realizes how difficult that is." 

Different Tennessee Team From Last Year

With the return of Jeronne Maymon from injury and the addition of Memphis transfer Antonio Barton, it's a different Tennessee team from last year's two meetings, which were both Ole Miss wins. Jordan McRae leads the team, averaging 18.5 points per game, while Maymon and Jarnell Stokes combine for 24.6 points and 17.8 rebounds per game.

Stokes and Maymon are ranked second and third, respectively, in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding. As a team, Tennessee ranks second in the SEC in rebounding margin at +8.9 rebounds per game, and leads the league limiting opponents to 30.6 rebounds per game. The Volunteers also lead the league in defensive rebound percentage (71.5 percent), and rank second in offensive rebound percentage (41.7 percent).

"This (Tennessee) group has experienced a lot, and they're big and physical, so we have to make sure we buckle that chinstrap and understand that there will be nothing easy in Knoxville," Kennedy said.

Ole Miss' Formula For Success

For Ole Miss, the formula for success, as Kennedy said Monday, is pretty simple. It starts with Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers, who are both ranked in the top eight among scorers in the SEC. 

Henderson leads the SEC and ranks third in the nation averaging 4.19 3-pointers per game, and has hit a 3-pointer in a school record 52-straight games. Summers has increased his scoring by 8.9 points per game from last season, and ranks in the top five in the SEC in both assists (3.6 assists/game) and field goal percentage (51.7 percent).

"Marshall and Jarvis are playing as well as any guards not only in the SEC but in college basketball," said Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin on Monday's SEC teleconference. "Jarvis is putting up tremendous numbers, as far as 55 percent from 3-point line and 50 percent from the field at the point guard position. He's physically strong. Marshall does what he's good at doing, which is making shots, getting open and making plays."

Ole Miss also has to get contributions from a number of different guys, particularly in the frontcourt. Anthony Perez has averaged 14.7 points per game over the last three games, including a career-high 22 points at South Carolina. 

Aaron Jones is ranked third in the SEC with 2.6 blocks per game, and has pulled down double-digit rebounds in three of the last four games, while Sebastian Saiz has averaged 8.0 rebounds per game over the last four games.

Replacing Newby

Martavious Newby, another one of those contributors, will be out at least this week as he recovers from a hand injury suffered in Saturday's win over Mississippi State. With Newby's injury, LaDarius White, Derrick Millinghaus and Janari Joesaar will have expanded roles on the perimeter, and it could also mean more minutes for the players in the frontcourt. 

"There's an opportunity there," said Kennedy on Monday's SEC teleconference. "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."

Rebel Review: 3 Takeaways From LSU Game

Three takeaways from Ole Miss' 88-74 overtime win over LSU on Wednesday night:

1. Rebels Finish The Drill

Ole Miss had lost its previous two overtime games and each of its three other losses were by four points or less, but Wednesday night against LSU, the Rebels made the plays down the stretch to force overtime and then outscored the Tigers 19-5 in overtime.

"It was an overall pretty solid performance out of our guys, and it sets a new standard," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "This is what we're capable of, if we take the right approach, so now it's my job to make I hold them to that standard."

"All of the games have been so close," Marshall Henderson said. It's unbelievable. Every single one of our losses, we could have won, a play here or a play there. It's so frustrating, but we know that we're right there. Anything can happen still; there are 15 SEC games left. We're hoping this is one that we can string it together."

LaDarius White hit a three-pointer with 2:16 left to cut LSU's lead to 67-65. And then in the final minute of regulation, Jarvis Summers hit a jumper in the lane to tie the game at 69-69. On the other end, senior guard Marshall Henderson forced a missed shot by Anthony Hickey in the closing seconds, and White grabbed the defensive rebound to force overtime.

In overtime, the Rebels scored the first 11 points, including a five-point swing to extend the lead to 76-69 with an offensive rebound and put-back by Sebastian Saiz, who was fouled, followed by a 3-pointer by Henderson off the missed free throw.

"We made shots," Kennedy said of overtime. "We were always in attack mode. When you go 5-for-6, you got to like your chances. We did a good job defensively coming up with some loose balls at the end."

2. Henderson Makes Splash In Return

Marshall Henderson returned to action after missing the first two Southeastern Conference games against Auburn and Mississippi State. 

After just six first-half points, he scored 19 points in the second half and overtime to finish with a game-high 25 points, to go along with a career-high seven assists. He was 7-of-16 from the field, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range, and 5-of-5 from the free throw line.

A couple of those made shots by Henderson, Kennedy described simply as "Marshall shots," later adding that he's the one guy on the team who can take high-risk shots.

"Do you know what's sick? Is I expect them to go in, and that's sick," Kennedy said. "Of course, I'm the one who lets him shoot them all, so if I don't expect them to go in. I'm crazier than I look. We expect them to go in. Everyone expects them to go in."

Henderson also played with more noticeable emotion, particularly in the second half and overtime, as he made some of those "Marshall shots" and other key plays down the stretch for the Rebels.

"I was there sitting there and I was thinking about it, watching those games, and I was like, 'I can't do this anymore. I can't just be calm. It's hurting me,' which is weird," Henderson said. "I can't do it anymore. I'm sorry; I'm going back to me because we need it."

3. Saiz Breaks Out With Career-High Points

Henderson led all scorers with 25 points, but Kennedy said Sebastian Saiz was the difference in the game. The freshman from Madrid, Spain, scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, to go along with nine rebounds, which was one rebound shy of his first career double-double.

"It felt great," Saiz said. "I was thinking before the game that I haven't showed up the whole year, and I was thinking, 'When I was going to do it.' It's time. SEC play is here."

"He was making moves tonight that I haven't seen him make those moves," Henderson said. "He was spinning and slamming on people. I know that it's going to be good for his confidence, and confidence really for everyone in him. Maybe he's about to get on a roll."


Incoming Ole Miss freshman Sebastian Saiz has represented his native Spain in two international competitions this summer, the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in the Czech Republic, then the FIBA Under-20 European Championships in Estonia.


It was his fifth game of the tournament scoring in double figures and first game rebounding in double figures, with previous highs of 11 points (vs. France, Greece) and 10 rebounds (vs. Russia). 

He averaged 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 17.1 minutes per game. He was 29-of-51 (56.9 percent) from the field and 14-of-23 (60.9 percent) from the free-throw line. He also averaged 0.8 blocks, which ranked 14th, including a highlight block of Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), the 15th-overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Earlier this summer, Saiz helped Spain to a fifth-place finish at the FIBA Under-19 Word Championship in the Czech Republic. He recorded four double-doubles in the tournament, including a tournament-high 18 points and 11 rebounds in a 72-68 win against Canada, as Spain claimed fifth place. He was also 7-of-9 from the field, his best shooting performance of the tournament.

In an earlier consolation game, he posted a double-double with 16 points and a tournament-high 16 rebounds in a 75-64 win against Croatia. He pulled down 10 offensive rebounds in that game and averaged 4.3 offensive rebounds, which ranked second in the tournament.

He nearly averaged a double-double with 9.6 points and 9.4 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game. His 9.4 rebounds per game ranked sixth in the tournament. He was 31-of-58 (53.4 percent) from the field and 24-of-36 (66.7 percent) from the free-throw line.

Here's a story from FIBA, and what others are saying about Saiz, a teammate of fellow signee Janari Joesaar at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas:
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