December 17, 2011
Just sharing some thoughts while watching Ole Miss look for what could be a key win at Southern Mississippi this afternoon.
A little less than midway through the first half, guard Jelan Kendrick is making his collegiate debut. Kendrick, playing a bit of a point guard position, recorded an assist on his first possession, setting up Dundrecous Nelson's 3-pointer. What you notice with Kendrick on the floor is how big, how long, this Ole Miss team can be. With Kendrick on the floor, LaDarius White is playing a bit of a small forward role with Demarco Cox and Reginald Buckner on the blocks. As USM completes a run to go up, 19-18, however, the inexperience of guys like White and Kendrick is obvious. As Andy Kennedy said earlier in the week, this team remains very much a work in progress.
With 8:21 left in the first half, Terrance Henry just picked up his second personal foul. Kennedy is leaving him on the floor, a sign that Kennedy loves the matchup Henry gives Ole Miss on the offensive end. The Golden Eagles have no one who can guard him on the blocks and keep up with him driving to the basket.
Buckner came to play today after a bit of a disappearing act Wednesday against Louisiana-Lafayette. He's already broken Sean Murphy's mark for career blocked shots in this game and he's extremely active on the boards early.
What's obvious also is freshman guard Maurice Aniefiok is in danger of losing all of his minutes now that White and Kendrick are eligible and playing. Aniefiok's future appears to be bright; he defends well and has a fantastic work ethic. However, his early-season shooting woes appeared to get in his head, and if he's not going to knock down shots from the perimeter, he's going to have a tough time getting on the floor.
Murphy Holloway's rebound and turnaround jumper (yeah, I know; go figure) gives Ole Miss a 34-33 lead at halftime. Larry Eustachy can't be happy, and predictably, he's not. "We haven't been able to get our game on the court," Eustachy said, "and unless we do, it's going to be a long night." Eustachy is right; if the Golden Eagles can't get the rebounding deficit under control (Ole Miss leads by 11 at the half), they'll probably fail to stay in it all that deep into the second half.
Ole Miss gets off to a good start in the second half, capitalizing on USM's inability to guard Henry. Henry has gotten off to a bit of a slow start this season. I still think he's the key to this team. If he'll play with confidence and drive to the bucket under control, there aren't too many teams that can stop him from getting a consistent 16 points a game. Sometimes I don't think he's assertive enough. So far tonight, that hasn't been an issue.
I spoke too soon. Henry just picked up his third personal and USM has regained the lead, building a three-point advantage to force an Ole Miss timeout. This series has been full of tight games; tonight is looking like another installment. The question that hangs over this team _ not necessarily a judgement, mind you, but the one thing no one seems to grasp just yet _ is who takes that key shot late in a game. My guess: Nelson, but he's streaky. It's the one area where Ole Miss might miss Chris Warren. But we shall eventually see.
Down seven with 7:29 left, Ole Miss is being severely tested. They look a little rattled right now. Composure, for the first time this season, appears to be an issue. These moments will happen on the road in the SEC, too. We're about to learn a lot about this team.
Ole Miss now down three with less than four left and a media timeout forthcoming. I can't help but feel the Rebels will need something from Nelson late if they're going to get the win.
I'm being redundant here with 1:53 left, but USM cannot guard Henry. Game is now tied.
Not anymore. Ole Miss failed to contest Neil Watson's 3-pointer on one end, got Jarvis Summers' wild runner in the lane on the other end and then saw Nelson foul out on the ensuing transition bucket. Justlikethat, Rebels down six and in major trouble.
We'll get an AP story to you in a bit and Ryan Moore will be sending me some photos. The final: Southern Miss 86, Ole Miss 82. Here's the box score from ESPN.com. And here's the Associated Press game story, as posted on ESPN.com. It's not a crippling loss, but it's a missed opportunity for Ole Miss. The Rebels play Middle Tennessee on Wednesday in Southaven, Miss. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.