Notes and thoughts from Ol e Miss’ 76-72 loss at Mississippi State …
The Rebels’ history at Humphrey Coliseum — now 15 losses in their last 16 trips there — has been well-documented, but that’s not a real big story line to me. Each season brings its own circumstances. Last year the Rebels had a better team, were not missing a key player, and still lost.
The bigger story line for me has been the frontcourt play, and Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy is trying to address that, and he seemed to reach his tipping point during and after Saturday’s game. Nothing speaks to players like playing time, and it appears the Rebels’ most experienced bigs are about to lose some of theirs.
Ole Miss had gone six straight games in which it had lost the rebounding category then went plus-10 on the glass yesterday. It did that with Demarco Cox playing only 10 minutes. Aaron Jones played 21, but that was still the fewest minutes he’s played this season.
When the season began I had cautious optimism that these experienced juniors — both coming off injuries but both reportedly in good condition — could form an effective frontcourt with the help of one or two underclassmen. I didn’t believe Cox or Jones were singly ready to put up double-doubles as consistently as Murphy Holloway or even as occasionally as Reggie Buckner.
Cox had 15 and 12 against North Carolina A&T. Consider the opponent there. Then two games later he had 15 and 13 against Georgia Tech, and I thought the collective effort plan might work. But Cox hasn’t surpassed six rebounds in seven straight games now. He’s providing little on the offensive end, and when he gets to the free throw line there’s only a 56.3 chance for success.
Jones’ numbers are about the same, but he brings a little more with his shot-blocking ability.
In fairness, these two have not been helped much by the younger guys who may be poised to replace them. Sebastian Saiz and Dwight Coleby are still acclimating, Coleby’s development slowed by a lower leg injury from earlier in the year. The freshman group does not include a Holloway, whose energy and savvy helped him grasp the college game more quickly.
I think Saiz and Coleby will be good players, but they might not become good players soon enough to keep the next few weeks of SEC play to be a struggle for the bigs.
What the news guys need are minutes, and Kennedy’s comments after the game indicate he’s ready to give them the minutes.
That started against MSU when at least one defensive possession in the zone included Coleby in the middle flanked by Perez and the lightly used Janari Joesaar, who has now appeared in two straight games.
Joesaar is not getting the minutes of the other freshmen. Maybe that will change. I liked how he handled himself in the exhibition, but that was a long time ago, and Kennedy sees these guys daily. I do not.
Away from the post, guard play was OK. Jarvis Summers continues to impress.
LaDarius White got into the 15-plus range that the Rebels need from him and had an overall solid floor game.
Derrick Millinghaus had 15 points but at 5-for-17 from the floor wasn’t very efficient. He had three turnovers in 37 minutes, which isn’t the worst ratio I’ve seen. He just doesn’t bring the calming influence to the point that Summers does, but the Rebels need Summers playing off the ball.
I’ve seen some comments about yesterday’s officiating, and it wasn’t good. But State didn’t get to the free throw line 42 times because of bad calls. MSU players repeatedly drove by the Rebels and got fouled. Early in the game there was a lot of contact that was allowed without calls made. That changed.
My view on the Summers travel call was blocked. I’d like to hear from those of you who had access to replay.
After the game Kennedy talked about the need to make the plays at the game’s critical times. That begins with defensive energy which leads to easy transition baskets. MSU routinely beat Ole Miss down the floor yesterday.
The Rebels are at home against LSU Wednesday. The Tigers are 10-4, 1-1. They lost at home by 18 to Tennessee in their SEC opener then won by three yesterday at South Carolina.