Notes and thoughts from an 82-63 win over Mississippi State …
The Rebels really looked focused and alert from the get-go, jumping on State with a fast start and never trailing in the game.
MSU recovered from the early — the Rebels were up nine less than 4 minutes into the game — but never really threatened to take the lead.
When Rick Ray pulled his starters about 5 minutes into the second half it looked like a line change in a hockey game.
The Rebels didn’t really blow past those reserves at that point. They scored but were scored upon but regrouped and finished strong to win the game convincingly rather than just surviving as they did at South Carolina.
MSU coach Rick Ray had some very pointed comments directed at his team particularly in its defense — or lack of defense — against Marshall Henderson.
Henderson didn’t hurt the Bulldogs with the 3-pointer, but he did with everything else.
Here’s Rick Ray’s postgame:
Ray is right. If Henderson’s game was winning off the bounce he’d win more often.
Credit Henderson for working to get to the rim. He gives it a shot against all opponents, not just MSU. Yesterday though it was the part of his game that was working. The 3-point looks were few, and he wasn’t knocking them down.
Henderson is going to have to rediscover his stroke if the Rebels are going to continue to win. As Ray points out, he’s not known to beat people off the bounce.
Henderson is just 8-for-34 (23.5 percent) from the 3-point line since going 6-for-12 against LSU. He was shooting almost 39 percent going into the South Carolina game.
Henderson’s MO last year was to be locked in from 3 not every game but every third game or so. He’s due.
On a side note, Henderson has become much more consistent at the free throw line. He had struggled there — by his standards — earlier this season but has now hit 23 of his last 25. He didn’t get to the line against Vanderbilt and ironically, in a game in which he spent much more time in the lane, only attempted three yesterday against MSU and those came off a 3-point shot.
Another side note. It was interesting to see that when Henderson had to come out of the game for medical attention and someone had to shoot his free throws, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy without hesitation turned to little-used freshman Janari Joesaar, who hit both shots. Joessar had not played since the first MSU game and looked somewhat uncomfortable in his 3 minutes of play yesterday, but I like this guy. He looks athletic and smart and should be an asset when he develops.
Several games ago the Rebels were due some improvement in the post, and they’re getting that.
Since scoring 22 points at South Carolina, Anthony Perez continues to factor into the offense. He 13 at Vanderbilt and only nine yesterday, but they were a very efficient nine within the flow of the game. Perez was 3-for-4 shooting, 2-for-3 from 3 and also had seven rebounds.
The scoring was very balanced yesterday, something this team needs. LaDarius White filled the role of “third scorer” with 11 points behind the 19 of both Henderson and Jarvis Summers.
Beyond the three there was Perez, then Anthony Jones with eight and Sebastian Saiz with six, three other guys combining for 23 points.
Kennedy praised the improved physicality in the post from Saiz, who outplayed MSU sophomore Gavin Ware. A much bigger body, Ware had nine points but only three rebounds. He also had two turnovers and played only 18 minutes because of foul trouble.
Saiz was 2-for-6 shooting for six points but had 11 rebounds — six on the offensive end — plus three assists and three blocked shots.
The absence of physical post play was noticeable with Ole Miss early. The Rebels are really only getting the physicality from Saiz right now, but they’re getting lots of contributions in different ways from different post players.
Ole Miss really needed yesterday’s win to get to 5-1 in the league and set up a huge RPI opportunity for Wednesday night at Tennessee.
After the Vols lost yesterday at Florida their RPI dropped to 51 according to ESPN. That leaves the SEC with only two top 50 RPI teams — Florida and Kentucky — but beating the Vols on the road would be a huge resume boost for the Rebels.
While only Florida and Kentucky are in the top 50, Tennessee (51), Missouri (54) and Ole Miss (56) are all in the 50s.
Regarding the NCAAs, it was apparent last year that 12-6 in the league wasn’t going to get Ole Miss into the tournament without doing some work in the SEC tournament. Now, the Rebels would have gotten in without winning the whole thing in Nashville. The selection committee chair told us that on a conference call. It was clear, though, that Ole Miss had work to do after the SEC regular season.
It’s logical to assume that 12-6 alone won’t do it this year. There are few big RPI opportunities remaining for Ole Miss. The Rebels have four games remaining against the league’s top three RPI teams: Twice with Kentucky, at Tennessee and at home with Florida.
The Rebels could lose all four, finish 13-5 and be in the conversation. What they can’t do is lose all four of those games and have one or more of the bad losses they had last year like at MSU, at South Carolina, etc.
Ole Miss is a better team than it was when SEC play began.
Guys like Perez and Saiz need to keep up the pace, and the Rebels need more consistency from other guys to make a run.