Rushed Reactions: Ole Miss 64, Missouri 62

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Ole Miss-Missouri game at the SEC Tournament in Nashville this evening.

Three Takeaways:

Did Andy Kennedy Lock Up His First NCAA Berth at Ole Miss?

Did Andy Kennedy Lock Up His First NCAA Berth at Ole Miss?

  1. A Collapse Befitting Missouri. Missouri has had its trouble with closing out and giving away games throughout the season, but this one took the cake. The Tigers led by 14 in the second half and by 10 with 10 minutes to play. Somehow, they wilted down the stretch, even though Ole Miss never went on a particularly impressive run. With the game tied at 59 and less than a minute to play, Phil Pressey, whose late-game failures have been well chronicled, knocked down an open three from the top of the key to give the Tigers the lead. Derrick Millinghaus then tied the game with a three of his own with 31 seconds remaining. Missouri called timeout, and against the Ole Miss press, Laurence Bowers made an inexplicable pass towards no one in particular at mid-court, and Marshall Henderson got the ball.  After a timeout, Millinghaus hit a jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining to give the Rebels the win. 
  2. Millinghaus to the Rescue.  Early in the second half, Ole Miss point guard Jarvis Summers suffered an apparent concussion and was lost for the game. Rebels head coach Andy Kennedy turned to his backup, whom he referred to after the game as a “spot” player, and Millinghaus answered the call. In addition to knocking down the game-tying and game-winning shots, he didn’t turn the ball over, and played solid defense on Pressey. Without him, the Rebels would be going home. Now, to move on, they’ll need another strong performance from Millinghaus against Vanderbilt, as it’s unlikely Summers will be able to make a quick turnaround for tomorrow’s semifinal.  The diminutive freshman from New York stepped up in his team’s most important game of the season and at a time when it needed him most.
  3. Did Ole Miss Seal the Deal?  For most of the game, it looked like the Rebels would make yet another trip to the NIT, where they’ve been five of the past six years. Now, with another quality win on their resume – and their second over Missouri – a NCAA Tournament berth may be in the offing. Kennedy is convinced that his team has done enough. “No team in a BCS league has ever won 24 games and not made the NCAA Tournament,” he said.  The Rebels will be favored to advance to the championship game, and if they do, it’s reasonable to assume that they’ll punch their ticket to the Big Dance, especially given the failures of so many other teams who came into the week sitting on the bubble.  Even without a win over Vanderbilt tomorrow, Kennedy’s team’s chances to make the Big Dance drastically improved with this quality win, and the relief Kennedy felt after the game was evident in his mood.  

Star of the Game. Derrick Millinghaus.  While Henderson scored a game-high 27 points,  Ole Miss doesn’t win this game without Millinghaus’ heroic play. Tournament play often brings out the best in players in situations such as the one Ole Miss faced with Summers’ injury, and that was the case on Friday night.

Sights and Sounds.  After Kentucky filled Bridgestone Arena in the first game of the session, a letdown was to be expected for this game. But both teams had more fans that anticipated, and both sections were loud. In a league filled with apathetic fan bases, Missouri is a welcome addition, and the Tigers’ contingent trailed only those of Kentucky and Tennessee in terms of size.  Henderson’s taunting of the Missouri section late in the game got it particularly riled up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 6th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Several SEC bubble teams on Saturday made it extremely difficult to make a case for their inclusion into the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, all bubble teams desperate for a win, couldn’t pull through when another victory would have really helped their resumes. The Rebels lost to Mississippi State, a team with just eight wins all year. Alabama had a golden opportunity for a quality win against Florida, but came up short in the last 10 minutes. Tennessee’s loss at Georgia stopped a six-game winning streak that had worked the Volunteers into the bubble conversation as one of the hottest teams in the nation. And Kentucky looked lost against the pressure of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Now, the SEC Tournament is becoming more and more important for teams on the bubble that are not feeling completely confident in their standing for an NCAA berth.
  2. Is Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy back on the hot seat after a loss to Mississippi State on Saturday? The defeat at the hands of the Rebels’ bitter rival has put Kennedy’s team in a situation where they need to win out in the SEC Tournament to feel comfortable with their standing on Selection Sunday. It also put Kennedy in a position where he could be watching the Big Dance from home, a spot he has been in for the previous seven seasons in Oxford. Kennedy admits he understands the frustration, but deferred any conversation about his job status to another point in time. “I understand the frustration of fans. I feel that same frustration. You’re talking about a guy who has blood, sweat and tears in this for seven years. I’ve been dancing on this fence for a long time. All I do, I control what I can control. All of those questions, all of that speculation, should be answered by the person that has the ability to make those decisions. Not by me.” It is clear that Kennedy’s seat is warming up after a loss to the Bulldogs.
  3. Billy Donovan praised the play of junior forward Casey Prather in the Gators’ comeback win over Alabama on Saturday. “He was the only guy that had a level of energy,” the head coach said of Prather. “If he didn’t play well, we probably would have had a hard time winning the game. I thought Alabama outplayed us. They were more prepared than us.” The Gators have struggled on the road of late, losing three of their last four away games. Donovan’s club has just one road game remaining, a Saturday showdown with rival Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Florida hasn’t won in Lexington since February 10, 2008, so rest assured that the Gators will see an opportunity to capitalize on a down year for the Wildcats.
  4. John Calipari is still troubled by the inconsistency of his young Wildcats. “I wake up every day and don’t know how the team will play,” said Calipari. “I hoped that (we were past this) but…” Kentucky had beaten Vanderbilt, Missouri, and Mississippi State in succession at home, but went on the road and showed very little fight in a loss to Arkansas. Calipari attributes some of the behavior he has noticed on his team’s youth. “We’ve got a couple of guys who are overwhelmed by stuff, and that’s typical freshmen,” Calipari said. “When you get overwhelmed, you get anxiety and you back up.” But with inconsistency, there are ups and downs, and Cal’s Cats may turn it on with two important games left in the regular season. Or they might not. We will have to wait and see.
  5. Kentucky assistant John Robic stressed the importance of finishing out the season on a positive note for Kentucky’s chances at an NCAA Tournament bid, considering UK is without freshman center Nerlens Noel. “We’ve been without Nerlens (Noel) for five games now. We took some lumps there without him and then played well with him,” Robic said. “I think there’s still a lot of teams out there that are still being evaluated. You look back at the Arkansas game and there’s only one team that’s gone in there and won this year, and that was Syracuse. There have been a lot of good teams that have not won on the road. We have won four league games on the road. I think it will come down to the remaining games on our schedule. I know the committee takes a lot of things into factor when they make decisions.” Noel’s absence will certainly be taken into account, and the Cats are 3-2 since losing him in a loss at Florida. Finishing the season on a strong note is crucial at this point to prove to the committee that UK can be successful without the super freshman in the middle.
Share this story

SEC M5: 03.05.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 5th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. College basketball conversation in March is typically dominated by who’s in and who’s out, and this season is certainly no exception. This year, however, the SEC is central to the bubble conversation. Missouri and Florida appear by all accounts to be in. After that, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss all appear to be heading into the final week of the season and the SEC Tournament holding their collective breath. The latest bracket projections over with our friends at College Basketball Talk on NBC Sports have the SEC on the wrong side of the bubble. Tennessee, despite a road loss to Georgia, is among the last five teams in. Kentucky, Alabama, and Arkansas are listed as among the last five teams out. And moving further and further away at this point is Ole Miss. The Rebels are now listed among the next five teams out, a spot typically reserved for at-large teams needing to win their conference tournament to work their way back into the conversation. The SEC bubble crew needs a quality win this week, or else.
  2. While the SEC may be downtrodden this year, Florida’s claim to the regular season SEC championship is still quite an accomplishment, according to the Gainesville Sun.  Prior to coach Billy Donovan’s arrival in Gainesville, Florida had won a single SEC regular season title. Under Donovan’s 17-year reign as head coach, the Gators have now won or shared five SEC regular season championships. That is an impressive feat, and as the Sun points out, “I’m not sure there has been a more impressive SEC title than this one because of all the injuries the Gators have endured.” The Gators haven’t been at full strength in quite some time, and it will be interesting to see how the committee seeds UF taking that fact into account. Is a number one seed in the cards for Florida?
  3. Yahoo Sports takes into account Florida‘s injuries throughout the year, and makes the case that the Gators lack the quality road wins needed to make their resume worthy of a number one seed. “Florida has only lost five games all season but all five of its losses have come when the Gators have gone on the road to face a quality opponent, or in the case of Arkansas, a so-so opponent. The Gators lost at Arizona and Kansas State back in December and have lost three times this month on the road in SEC to Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee.” Florida has one remaining road game on its schedule, and beating Kentucky could give the Gators the last and necessary piece of the puzzle for a top seed.
  4. We talked yesterday about the potential for Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy to be on the hot seat after what could be another year of not making the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork remains supportive despite an ugly recent loss to Mississippi State. “My position hasn’t changed despite how painful it was (Saturday) night,” Bjork said after watching the short-handed Bulldogs defeat his Rebels. Then again, what athletic director expresses disgust in his head coach two games before the end of the regular season? These matters are generally best left for the offseason. Replacing the head coach in Oxford seems drastic considering the positive direction in which the Rebels have moved over the past several years. Kennedy is now the all-time winningest coach in Ole Miss history, and it is not as though he took over a program that was accustomed to annual trips to the Big Dance. The Rebels haven’t tasted the NCAA Tourney since a 22-point loss to UCLA in 2002. Replacing him now only seems to stall the progress that has been made.
  5. Two weeks ago, the SEC microsite published a piece examining the likelihood of Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel winning the SEC freshman of the year award. The answer was a resounding yes at the time, and now Noel has been named a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award honoring the nation’s best freshman. Before his injury, Noel turned in one of the all-time best single season performances for a Kentucky freshman, but he also has the numbers to be competitive for the national award. As WKYT in Lexington points out, “Noel led the nation in blocks per game, while also ranking among the top-30 nationally in rebounds and steals per game. He was the only player standing 6’5″ or taller who ranked in the top-30 for steals.” Despite playing in just 24 games, his defense certainly puts him in the conversation, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if he takes home the hardware.
Share this story

SEC M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 20th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. After commenting over the weekend that his players are uncoachable, John Calipari backed off those comments slightly this week. He was still upset about bad habits, but remained cautiously optimistic. “All that aside, we can make what we want of this season,” he said. “We could be the story of the year, of recovery and all that. We can do that if they choose to do that.” The Wildcats, however, are running out of time. Calipari and company may have to rely upon the SEC Tournament of which he hasn’t placed much value on the last several years. This year, it may be UK’s only realistic shot at an NCAA Tournament bid.
  2. After a somewhat frustrating and disappointing year last season, Mike Rosario has become a huge part of Florida’s dominance this season. Part of the turnaround is that the guard received a lot of guidance from his coach. “Part of the reason I challenged him so much was when he’s focused on and locked in, he seems to play his best basketball,” coach Billy Donovan said. “When he’s loose, relaxed and not on edge or really ready, he gets a little carefree.” Some balance in the offense has benefited Rosario. His offensive rating is more than 10 points higher while his percentage of possessions and shots are both the lowest they have been in his entire career.
  3. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy insists that guard Marshall Henderson isn’t a distraction. “Marshall and I have constant dialogue about making good decisions,” Kennedy said. “That was all in fun. He just has fun with a lot of things. Sometimes, I’m envious of his nature. He seems to be enjoying it a lot more than I am.” Kennedy’s comments continue to confirm his unwavering support of Henderson, which has to be comforting for players in the Rebels’ program. And with six games left and the SEC Tournament to follow, what more of the legend of Marshall Henderson do we have yet to come?
  4. After just two points and 10 turnovers in the first match-up with Florida, Missouri’s Phil Pressey played better in the rematch last night (seven points, 10 assists, five turnovers). Frank Haith has faith in his junior point guard. “He’s our guy, love him, and we’re going to continue to help him through it and help ourselves,” he said, “We’ve got to show him confidence and our belief in him. That’s all we can do. I’m not going to shred his confidence by taking the ball out of his hands, for sure. He’s going to be out there at the end of games.” With the best win of Missouri’s season now on the resume, Pressey and the rest of the Tigers have to feel better about the remainder of the season.
  5. The Clarion Ledger makes the case for Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as the SEC Player of the Year. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson agrees. “He’s a big guard that can rebound the basketball,” he said. “He’s a guy that can take over the game. And (Georgia coach Mark Fox) said he has taken over this team. As a sophomore, that tells you what kind of player he is.” Caldwell-Pope is averaging 17.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and has scored in double figures in every game this season. His play had led the Bulldogs to five straight wins in SEC play before a recent two-game skid.
Share this story

SEC M5: 02.08.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 8th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida’s Will Yeguete will undergo surgery to repair loose pieces of cartilage in his right knee. The devastating news means Yeguete will be out for four to six weeks, meaning it’s possible he could return in time for the NCAA Tournament. “It’s Will’s decision,” coach Billy Donovan said. “He wants to do what he can to play this season.” The forward has been a huge boost for the Gators this season, acting as the second leading rebounder with 6.3 rebounds per game and providing excellent defense. His defensive rebounding percentage is the best on the team and ranks in the top 100 in the nation. This is a bad loss for Florida, which didn’t at all look like itself without Yeguete in a road loss to Arkansas on Tuesday.
  2. That sound you heard last night was the pop of Alabama‘s thin NCAA bubble bursting after a 49-37 loss to rival Auburn. The Crimson Tide managed just 37 points in the game after leading at halftime by the score of 23-13. Coach Anthony Grant had no explanation. “I can’t explain it,” he said. “I can’t. I have no explanation for that.” A performance like that has to bring about disappointment. “I’m concerned about my team,” Grant added. “The opportunities that we had in front of us, to come out – I expect more out of our guys.” Any chances of an NCAA berth just went out the window with this embarrassing loss, and has to be of concern moving forward.
  3. Ole Miss announced that center Demarco Cox, who hasn’t played since December 23, will be out for the rest of the season after a stress fracture in his foot hasn’t healed properly. This announcement comes on the heels (no pun intended) of 6’9″ sophomore Aaron Jones also announcing he would miss the remainder of the year with a torn ACL. Head coach Andy Kennedy has an issue in the frontcourt if he has to go to his bench. “I told Reg (Buckner) and Murph (Holloway) that they got to be prepared to play 40 minutes,” Kennedy said. With any additional injuries, he may no longer be joking.
  4. Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope always finds a way to get his points, but he insists that Georgia’s recent four-game winning streak isn’t about him. “The difference is we’re playing together,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We’re helping each other through adversity when we’re down, when we’re not playing well. Our defense got better. We’ve just been finishing out games.” KCP still found the bucket, scoring 24 on 9-of-12 shooting, but it’s clear he’s now getting help. Tennessee’s Jordan McRae noticed the other players surrounding Caldwell-Pope. “We didn’t expect everybody else to shoot as well as they did,” McRae said. “We knew Caldwell-Pope, he could shoot.” The Bulldogs haven’t won four straight SEC games since winning the SEC Tournament in March 2009 and haven’t put together a streak this long in the regular season since 2003.
  5. One of Kentucky’s undergraduate assistants isn’t just a young college student taking game notes for coach John Calipari, but he has a wealth of experience to draw from and teach Kentucky’s young roster. Former Wildcat Marquis Estill, who played for former coach Tubby Smith at UK from 1999-2003, is finishing up his degree and helping Calipari as an undergraduate student assistant coach. Estill’s relationship with Calipari has the potential to create an eventual opening for him. “I would like to stay around here,” he said, “but Cal knows a lot of people and has great connections.” But perhaps before talking about a job in the future, Estill and Calipari can start at the beginning. “He actually knows my name now, which is a good sign,” Estill joked.
Share this story

SEC M5: 02.07.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 7th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1.  Coach John Calipari expressed his excitement about the return of Willie Cauley-Stein because of the intangibles he brings to the team. “Willie Cauley-Stein was unbelievable,” Calipari said. “He just added energy.” He didn’t just bring energy though. It also helps that the seven foot center added 13 points and six rebounds in the home win over South Carolina. Kentucky desperately needed Cauley-Stein’s defensive rebounding abilities as the Cats slipped to eighth in the SEC in conference only defensive rebounding percentage. With the big guy back in the lineup alongside Nerlens Noel, the Wildcats controlled the boards against the Gamecocks on Tuesday night with almost 80 percent of the available defensive rebounds.
  2. Tennessee guard Jordan McRae maintains that the Vols still believe in their abilities despite a 3-5 start to conference play going into Wednesday night’s clash with Georgia. “Our confidence is still way up,” McRae said. “We still have a ways to go in the SEC, so it’s not over for us.” It was around this time last year when a struggling UT team won eight of its last nine to work its way into the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation. Ultimately, the Vols didn’t make it into the Big Dance, but they built confidence heading into this season. Cuonzo Martin’s squad is in desperate need of a turnaround again this February, but it just doesn’t seem like that momentum swing is on the horizon this time around.
  3. While the state of Mississippi turned its attention to college football National Signing Day, Andy Kennedy and company were focused on trying to break Ole Miss’ two game losing streak. The road to redemption began Wednesday night against rival Mississippi State. “We’re on a two-game losing streak and whether it’s the Mississippi State Bulldogs or the Los Angeles Lakers that comes in here on Wednesday, we got to stop this,” Kennedy said. “We’ve put too much work into this.” The Rebels need to establish a consistent scorer to go along with guard Marshall Henderson. Until that point, Ole Miss’ fate will continue to depend entirely on Henderson’s streaky shot.
  4. Don’t look now, but Georgia entered play Wednesday night on a three game winning streak and winner of four of its last five games. Tennessee’s coach Cuonzo Martin spoke before the teams played on Wednesday night to say he thought the Bulldogs were beginning to click. “They changed some lineups, and now I think they have the right lineup more than anything,” Martin said. “They have not changed what they do. Their system and style is still the same, and their guys are playing with a level of confidence.” Georgia coach Mark Fox went small to attempt to find some offense to surround guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The tactic appears to be working as the 1.18 points per possession Georgia managed on Saturday against South Carolina was the highest mark it has achieved all season.
  5. Vanderbilt has left the building. That’s the way it felt at least during the last seven minutes of the Commodores’ loss to Alabama on Saturday. The way the game ended seemed to anger easily frustrated coach Kevin Stallings. “It’s hard for me to stay positive anyway because I’m naturally slanted negatively, which is probably my quality that I hate the most,” Stallings said. “I don’t lose sight of the big picture. … The big picture looks good to me. The immediate picture doesn’t look worth a crap.” The immediate picture had the ‘Dores on a three game losing streak entering Wednesday’s game with LSU.
Share this story

Freeze Frame: Capturing Nerlens Noel’s Defensive Impact Against Ole Miss

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 31st, 2013

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

Kentucky needed a signature win on its resume, and that’s exactly what it got when the Wildcats defeated the fighting Marshall Hendersons of Ole Miss in Oxford on Tuesday night. All the attention was on the Rebels’ Henderson, but it was a 6’11” freshman without a single field goal in the game who had the largest impact on the outcome. Nerlens Noel blocked a school record 12 blocks (though one was actually blocked by Kyle Wiltjer but credited to Noel) on his way to one of the finest performances of his young career. Perhaps the most impressive statistic of all is that Noel blocked five of his 12 total blocks with less than six minutes to go in the second half while saddled with four fouls.

How was Noel so effective? Most players play with hesitation when so close to fouling out of the game, but he did not. He was an even bigger part of Kentucky’s defense down the stretch because the Rebels suspected his weakness in the middle and tried to exploit it. But man were they wrong. What Andy Kennedy’s squad did not anticipate was that Noel would not back off even with the risk of watching the end of a close game next to John Calipari on the bench. But how exactly did he not pick up his fifth foul? As aggressive as he was in attempting to swat the ball into the upper deck of the Tad Pad, he kept the angle of his body straight up and down to avoid any extra contact.

Straight up and down.

Straight up and down.

Note how Noel jumped straight up without making any contact with the shooter. He has an uncanny ability to make contact up top with the ball and nothing else. Despite the fact that Ole Miss drove toward him repeatedly in an attempt to draw his fifth foul, Noel finished the game on the floor. Another key to Noel’s shot-swatting party on defense is how quickly he bounces back from an initial jump. Noel’s “bounceability” led the great Mike Decourcy to compare his defensive game to that of Bill Russell. And here’s why:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Marshall Henderson is the Face of College Basketball, Whether You Like It or Not

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 29th, 2013

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

By now you have already made up your mind on Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson. You either love him or hate him, and every time he makes another appearance likely just serves to further strengthen that viewpoint. The animated GIF of Henderson popping his jersey to a legion of frat stars at Auburn went viral quicker than the newest spoof of the Gangnam style video. [Ed. Note: We are linking to it instead of embedding it because you wouldn't be able to take your eyes off of it and read the column.]  Henderson frequently tweets out Eminem lyrics, and like his idol Marshall Mathers, the point guard for Ole Miss is a polarizing figure to say the least. Whether he’s drinking Coors Light at a party or shoving his tongue down down a frisky co-ed at the club, Henderson is making headlines. And once one sifts through the shenanigans, the fiery guard has done his most newsworthy stories on the court.

Marshall incites strong reactions wherever he goes.

Marshall incites strong reactions wherever he goes.

Ole Miss was 20-14 last year, with an 8-8 mark in conference play. In Andy Kennedy‘s six seasons at the helm for the Rebels, Ole Miss has never made the NCAA Tournament. But in just one year with Marshall Henderson in the backcourt, the Rebs are 17-2, undefeated in the SEC, and a nationally relevant program for the first time in, well, maybe ever (outside of a Sweet Sixteen run in 2001). That’s the power of Henderson. He has become must-see TV at this point, and regardless of your opinion on his erratic behavior, people in college basketball are talking about the Rebels. And most importantly, the hype about the Rebels isn’t just noise, they’re also playing winning basketball. That much is indisputable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC M5: 01.21.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 21st, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Ole Miss‘ win over Arkansas gives the Rebels a 4-0 beginning to SEC play marking its best conference start since the 1936-37 season. That’s 76 years since the Rebels have began this well in league games. It may feel like it’s been about the same length of time since Andy Kennedy’s club has been to an NCAA Tournament (never under Kennedy; the last time was 2002), and the Rebels are hoping to break that streak too. And while they’re at it, they may even try to break into the Top 25 rankings, a faraway land that Ole Miss hasn’t seen since 2001. The players sense that something special is brewing in Oxford as well. “Anybody can see it,” said senior Nick Williams. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to do something great here, and we understand what we need to do because me, Murphy (Holloway) and Reg (Buckner) — we have been here for a while and we’ve been so close for so long.” Could this finally be the year that Ole Miss breaks through?
  2. Florida’s 83-52 thrashing of Missouri on Saturday led to a number of questions. Is Florida that good? Yes, especially at home. Is Missouri that bad? I really hope not. Does Laurence Bowers really make that much of a difference? No. But it’s undeniable that the Tigers are on a downward spiral. They’ve lost two of their last three games, and dropped three of their last six. To make matters worse, guard Keion Bell adds that Missouri simply wasn’t prepared. “I just think that we, as a team, we underestimated the amount of pressure that their full-court press would put on us,” Bell said. “Although the coaching staff has embedded it in our brains throughout the whole week, we just didn’t take heed to the things that they were saying about Florida’s pressure, and we weren’t ready at the beginning of the game.” Missouri needs to regroup before things get worse, and perhaps listen to the coaching staff during its preparation. A softer upcoming schedule of South Carolina, Vanderbilt, at LSU, and Auburn should help.
  3. It was a homecoming of sorts for Mississippi State Bulldog Jalen Steele, who always dreamed of playing in Thompson-Boling Arena. Steele grew up in Knoxville as a Tennessee Mr. Basketball, but then-Volunteers head coach Bruce Pearl went for two recruits you may have heard of instead — Aaron Craft and Josh Selby. Even though his basketball career didn’t work out exactly as planned, Steele finally heard his name called in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday. “To hear my name called and it said ‘Knoxville,’ that felt good,” Steele said. Steele showed he was good enough to play with the Vols too, as he added 15 points in a losing effort for the Bulldogs. I imagine it was a surreal moment, even in defeat, for a player who has been through a lot in Starkville.
  4. When you’re playing as well as Florida is right now, four points probably won’t matter, but it might one day. Gators center Patric Young isn’t satisfied with his free throw shooting after a 4-of-8 performance against LSU. “It’s huge because I’m leaving points on the board whenever you miss free throws,” Young said. “You go 4 for 8, that’s four points that help you with your draft stock or your average on the year. I mean, it doesn’t really matter but when it comes down to the line in a game-winning situation, you need to be able to step up with confidence.” For the sake of his draft stock, Young hit the practice courts to shoot 500 free throws a day, and the hard work is paying off. He entered the Texas A&M game shooting 50 percent from the line, but went 4-of-5 against the Aggies and 1-of-1 against Missouri.
  5. Kentucky has struggled against quality teams this season, but John Calipari’s Wildcats have a surplus of NBA talent on the roster. However, during an ESPNU telecast of the Kentucky vs. Auburn game on Saturday night, Charles Barkley said none of the current Wildcats were ready for the NBA. “John Calipari’s a friend of mine. I love him as a friend. There ain’t one player on this Kentucky team who should go pro early. I hate the one-and-done rule in college basketball. Just ’cause there’s a rule does not mean you have to do it. Listen, Anthony Davis played well enough for him to go pro. … I wish some of these parents would talk to their kids.” Though Cal’s younger Cats will excel in the pro game one day, Chuck has a point for the here and now. Archie Goodwin is probably the most pro-ready of the three freshman Wildcats most likely to be selected in the first round. Nerlens Noel is ready defensively, but his offensive game has a ways to go. But Alex Poythress is the biggest question mark in terms of making the jump. He has tendencies to disappear for long stretches offensively, and did you see his defense on Elston Turner?  The issue is not just directed towards Kentucky’s freshmen but the entire college game. The one-and-done mentality has watered down the talent level, enabling and pushing players like Noel and Poythress who could both benefit from an extra year of development to make the jump after just one year.
Share this story

SEC M5: 01.18.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 18th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. If you’re a fan of an SEC team not named Ole Miss, than chances are high that you entered this season with no idea who Marshall Henderson is. But I bet you know who he is after Tuesday night. Grantland says we need more passion and unpredictability in college basketball these days, like the type of raw emotion that Henderson displayed against Vanderbilt. Of course, the guard contributed more than just energy and on-court antics. He scored 26 points, including a memorable game-tying three in regulation. Henderson, along with the Rebels’ current winning streak, should place Ole Miss as must-see TV in the next couple of weeks with important games with Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
  2. Everybody wants to talk about Henderson’s game-tying shot and the emotion with which he plays the game, including Andy Kennedy, but Ole Miss’ head coach cautioned his junior guard. “Marshall Henderson without that edge isn’t the Marshall Henderson that leads the SEC in scoring,” Kennedy said. “He needs that edge, but it has to fuel him in a positive way.” Henderson had some off the court issues in several previous stops before Oxford, but Kennedy said he hasn’t had any trouble with the Rebels. “There’s a fine line,” Kennedy added. “I want kids to play with passion, and his passion is genuine, but we have to make sure it doesn’t turn into emotion that doesn’t help him or our team.” Kennedy has taken chances on troubled guards before (see: Jelan Kendrick), but it seems this gamble might just pay off.
  3. Rebounding was one of the major concerns for Florida coming into the season, but a team effort has made that area a strength for the Gators. Coach Billy Donovan attributes some of the improvement to going to a bigger lineup that is more focused on the boards. “When you have [Casey] Prather out there and you have [Will] Yeguete out there and you have Mike Frazier out there at the small forward spot, we’re a team that can compete on the glass,” Donovan said. Florida’s poor rebounding numbers last season (2012: 33.7% offensive rebounding rate, 69.7% defensive rebounding rate), are significantly improved in 2012-13 (2013: 38.4% offensive rebounding rate, 73.5% defensive rebounding rate), putting the Gators in the top 25 in both categories.
  4. After a 15-point loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, Mizzou coach Frank Haith is questioning the Tigers’ toughness. “Emotions and toughness, they’re two different things,” Haith said. “I want emotion. I want passion. I want energy. I want all those things. But that to me isn’t toughness.” Missouri rebounded for a victory over Georgia on Wednesday night, though the game was played in the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena. Haith hinted at a related issue for the Tigers – winning on the road. “Because you don’t let the environment make you do something you’re not supposed to do. That’s how I define toughness,” Haith said. Missouri has yet to win a road game this season in just two attempts.
  5. Kentucky coach John Calipari still loves his team, but he also accepts what they are capable and not capable of doing. And he warns UK fans to buckle up for a bumpy ride. “I have coached teams that have absolutely whomped on people, and this ain’t one of ‘em,” said Calipari. “And every game, we are going to be in is going to be a dogfight, and instead of going crazy about it, how about just accept it.” Calipari also cited toughness as a reason the Cats aren’t running away with games. “You’ve got to be a man. This is a man’s game and this is a man’s league we play in. You have to play through bumps. Quit crying about fouls. Everybody is fouling everybody.” Like Missouri, Kentucky has struggled on the road. The Wildcats travel to Auburn on Saturday for a showdown with the 8-8 Tigers.
Share this story

Ole Miss’ Upcoming Home Stretch is Key to an Elusive NCAA Tournament Bid

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 16th, 2013

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

Florida’s Billy Donovan isn’t concerned with low attendance figures for his Gators’ home games. But it’s easy to not worry when fans usually line up to fill the O’Connell Center in Gainesville. Mississippi’s Andy Kennedy takes a different approach. And maybe that’s because he can’t afford to be unconcerned with a factor that has such a heavy influence on his job status for next year. Despite a 20-14 record in 2011-12, including 8-8 in SEC play, Ole Miss only lost two home games (Florida and Vanderbilt) all of last season. But this year’s 14-2 mark has the potential to be the Rebels’ most successful season in over a decade, and so far, the Rebels haven’t yet dropped a contest at the Tad Pad. Fans in Oxford need to continue to show up for Mississippi to continue its recent success.

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy could be on the hot seat without a trip to the Big Dance in 2013.

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy could really use a trip to the Big Dance in 2013.

In a 64-49 win over Missouri on Saturday, Ole Miss had a sellout crowd that helped fuel the Rebels to victory. Kennedy is aware that attendance is crucial for an encore performance. “We had a sellout, which is great,” Kennedy said. “There was a lot of energy in the building. My hope is that the people will continue to support the team. We have a group of guys that are playing real hard and trying real hard.” The players are well aware of the difference a home crowd can make on the result of a game too. The 9,173 fans in Oxford on Saturday represented the first sellout crowd for the Rebels since 2010. However, forward Murphy Holloway had to rein in expectations of the team’s freshmen who were witnessing this environment for the first time. “First SEC home game, it helped that it was the No. 10 team in the country that everybody came,” Holloway said. “The freshmen, they said, ‘Man, is it like this every SEC game?’ I said, ‘Nah.’”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Ole Miss Avoids Destructive Resume Loss With Comeback Win at Vandy

Posted by rtmsf on January 16th, 2013

David Changas (@dchangas) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after last night’s game between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Prior to the season, the Ole Miss Rebels were picked to once again finish in the middle of the pack in the SEC. Little did anyone know that the league would be quite as bad as it has been, with preseason favorite Kentucky leading a throng of disappointing teams that may miss the NCAA Tournament. Given his track record of not having made the Big Dance in his first six seasons in Oxford, it was reasonable to assume that Andy Kennedy’s squad would once again be left out. But the Rebels brought a gaudy 13-2 record and an improving RPI into Tuesday’s contest against Vanderbilt in icy Nashville, and with it the hope that this could be the year Kennedy gets the monkey off his back. With a pre-conference schedule filled with an array of cupcakes and losses only to top-50 RPI mid-majors Indiana State and Middle Tennessee State, it was reasonable to be skeptical about whether this Rebels team was any different than some of Kennedy’s prior squads which, though talented, never did enough to qualify for the Tournament.

Ole Miss Celebrates Its Comeback Against Vandy

Ole Miss Celebrates Its Comeback Against Vandy

What we did not know about the Rebels coming into the season – and what appears to separate this team from prior Rebel teams – is that they would have a difference-making scorer who could lead them from NIT mainstay to SEC contender. But in junior transfer Marshall Henderson,  Ole Miss has just that, and he proved it in the grandest way possible on Tuesday. The Rebels’ 10-point overtime victory in Nashville is one that they clearly were expected to get, especially given that they were coming off a blowout win at Tennessee and a 15-point win at home on Saturday against #10 Missouri. In that game, the Rebels held the Tigers to 36% shooting from the field and forced 19 turnovers en route to a 64-49 victory. But given the way Tuesday’s contest unfolded, this is the type of win that could propel Ole Miss to bigger things, signaling that the Rebels can win on nights when they are not at their best.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story