There comes a time in the life of many games where things look pretty one-sided. For better or worse.
That’s often when game stories begin, and I was well into my game story yesterday when I looked up and thought I should pay closer to attention.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy thought his team’s comeback from 15 points down with roughly 10 minutes to play was pretty special. It was. It takes the kind of roll that Ole Miss was on, forcing turnovers and hitting shots, to get all the way back from a deficit like that, and the Rebels did it with some time to spare.
Jarvis Summers’ 3-pointer gave Ole Miss the lead with 4 minutes to play. At that point you have a different problem to ponder. Did the team expend so much emotion in coming back that it had nothing left in the tank now hat it was a game again? Obviously that wasn’t the case for the Rebels. They kept the pressure applied that helped them regain the lead. In the final 4 minutes South Carolina was 1-for-4 from the floor with two turnovers.
Carolina guard Brenton Williams was 5-for-8 from 3-point range but missed his last two looks, both in the last minute. Williams’ last 3-pointer came with 15:37 to play.
Jarvis Summers hit the big shots, twice giving Ole Miss the lead, but LaDarius White played big in the 29-10 run to the finish with six points and two assists then plus the critical steal that he converted into a layup cut Carolina’s lead to 66-64 with 4:51 remaining.
Kennedy was right to be impressed by his team’s last 11 minutes of play. On paper you can see a South Carolina team that has struggled and is now just 1-7 in SEC play.
This is a team that plays hard, though, a team that played very physical with Ole Miss twice.
It’s a team that in spite of its record has played well recently, and recently is what it’s all about.
South Carolina has a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores, so the youth that all coaches like to talk about really fits.
That may have played a part in the Rebels’ comeback. Twice now in two games Ole Miss has erased a double-figure deficit relatively quickly against the Gamecocks. Ole Miss trailed by 10 at the half in Columbia. South Carolina coach Frank Martin complained about his team passing up good shots as Ole Miss’ confidence and momentum continued to grow.
Before crunch time the Rebels had problems in areas that have plagued them this season: rebounding and allowing penetration to give up good looks and positioning in the paint.
The Rebels were able to correct some of those problems down the stretch. South Carolina guard Sidarius Thornwell was unable to penetrate the top of the Ole Miss zone when Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers were manning that spot, and the play resulted in a turnover right after the Summers’ 3 had given Ole Miss the lead.
The bottom line is frontcourt play remains troublesome whether by penetration of opposing guards or just lack of positioning or physicality by Ole Miss players.
Aaron Jones’ 3-point play with 23.8 seconds left covered up a lot of those sins yesterday, but they’re still there.
February is here, and we may have reached the “you are who you are” stage of the season.
Effort is not the problem for the Ole Miss frontcourt. There’s a great deal of effort from Sebastian Saiz, but he doesn’t have a great deal of experience. He had six rebounds to lead Ole Miss. Jones had four, and the Rebels need more from him particularly on the offensive glass. Jones had 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting, but that’s because he got a couple of jumpers to fall. That’s a nice element of his game, but frankly, the Rebels have other guys to shoot from out there.
I like the minutes I’m seeing from Dwight Coleby. He’s going to be a player when he can stay on the floor longer without fouling.
Anthony Perez had a career-high 22 at South Carolina. He was less a factor in the rematch with seven points. South Carolina did a good job of denying the penetration that Ole Miss had in the second half in Columbia, and much of that was Perez. Perez still shot well hitting 2-for-3 from 3.
Kennedy spoke of Jones’ comeback from the ACL injury but more to the point spoke of Jones’ confidence and how he’s pleading with his athletic junior to become a more aggressive player. This was Kennedy after the game:
“He made a layup, he made a layup! Did y’all get that on tape? I want to show him that. I told him at the last timeout, ‘Dude, stop looking around for Murph and Reg, they’re gone. You’re the guy. Go make a play.’”
Whether Jones, Saiz, Anthony Perez or insert your favorite post player, the Rebels need someone to elevate their game. They’re going to see more experienced and better rebounding teams than South Carolina in the games ahead.