Notes and observations from the Rebels’ 65-49 win over South Carolina …
The main talking point after the game seemed to be that roles are coming into play for this team.
That’s good news and bad. Mostly good though.
I admit that I’ve been underwhelmed by the post-grad transfers this year,
I was curious to see how much help a couple of Ohio Valley Conference guys could be in the SEC. As long as Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy didn’t ask Terence Smith and M.J. Rhett to do too much maybe, I thought, they could do big things.
I thought Smith would be more of a 3-point shooter. Rhett was clearly brought in for rebounding help.
Smith, who shot 43 percent from the arc for Tennesee-Martin last year, hasn’t been much of a factor there for Ole Miss but has settled in as a capable backup point guard, and that’s going to be important given Jarvis Summers’ aches and pains as the season rolls along.
Kennedy will even use Smith and Summers in the game together at times to give Summers at look at the 2 guard.
Rhett went into the South Carolina game averaging 5.2 rebounds and picked up four.
Again, I thought the numbers would be higher. The Rebels needed added physicality up front. Rhett leans more to the athletic than the physical, one example being when he had a rebound taken from him in overtime at Kentucky.
Both of these guys, however, play with effort and play within themselves.
Against South Carolina there was no rebounding monster for the Rebels, but the rebounds were spread around the stat sheet as a number of guys made big plays at crucial times.
Saiz and Martavious Newby each had five rebounds to lead the team. Rhett, Dwight Coleby and Aaron Jones each had our.
The Rebels finished plus-1 on the glass and had 24 of their 33 rebounds on the defensive end, a recent point of emphasis for Kennedy.
Defense was solid, but South Carolina was pretty bad from the perimeter. The Gamecocks’ two top scorers, Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell, were a combined 6-for-21 from the floor. Not all of those misses were the result of smothering defense.
The good news about the clarity of roles is that everyone seems to be buying into defense.
For two years Marshall Henderson was a streaky shooter but a defensive liability. Stefan Moody looked a little bit like that at the start of the second half when he lost his man a couple of times and Carolina got two baskets as a result.
But Moody rallied. He gets his hands on balls, and he can be really helpful in that halfcourt trap.
I don’t think Moody every misunderstood his role as a scorer. The Rebels need him to score. Though he understood that early in the season he looked a bit uncomfortable. Now he’s knocking down shots and has clearly become scoring option 1 or 1A. He and Summers are interchangeable. They bring different threats to the table, Moody as the outside shot first, Summers as the dribble-drive guy first.
As Moody and Summers understood their roles, so does everybody else. The Rebels are not talented enough to get comfortable with those two guys shouldering the scoring load.
Moody cramped up at Kentucky. Maybe the Rebels win the game if he’s available at the end. He wasn’t, and Kennedy, taking no chances, pumped him full of fluids before the South Carolina game.
Summers is Summers. He’s the “oldest 22-year-old” Kennedy knows. Back spasms have been a problem of late.
The way this team is unfolding Moody and Summers need minutes in the high 30s every game.
That’s not always going to be possible, and when it’s not, the Rebels need LaDarius White to be just as consistent offensively.
White’s been good this year, more dependable than a year ago. He wasn’t that good against the Gamecocks, however, just 3-for-10 from the floor.
All in all it’s a much better looking team than it was in December when Ole Miss followed its Destin success with a disappointing home loss to TCU, its win at Oregon with a home loss to Western Kentucky.
Maybe the definition of roles will bring about more consistency.
The Rebels will need that in the weeks ahead.