Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 80-71 loss to Florida …
It became painfully obviously last night just how much Ole Miss relies on Stefan Moody. This is his team, and it will go as far as he can take them.
That won’t be very far if team defense doesn’t improve.
Ole Miss outscored Florida by 10 in the second half, but that meant absolutely nothing when the Rebels were outscored by 19 in the first half.
The Gators led wire to wire, and it looked like they barely broke a sweat. That’s not true, of course. There was a little perspiration from Michael White, the popular former Ole Miss player and assistant coach.
White has 11 years invested in the Ole Miss program, sweat equity is the catch phrase, but he’s got more than that. He’s got life invested in Oxford, bonds created among young adults who are beginning families at the same time. Four of White’s five children were born in Oxford.
Last week when he spoke about returning to Ole Miss for the first time as an opposing head coach he spoke in a deep emotional tone about his time in Oxford.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy has his detractors. It may become necessary to further analyze that in the future, though I don’t think that’s this season.
I bring that up because White has a great deal of support from Ole Miss fans who cheered him before and after the game.
It’s one of those deals where the backup quarterback is often the most popular person on a football roster, but White’s genuine outgoing and friendly nature makes it a little more than that.
Winning against White and the Gators wouldn’t have lessened any of that as it relates to the aforementioned detractors, but losing the game riled them up.
Back to the game …
Even the most popular back-up quarterbacks have nothing to do with defense, and that’s what has failed the Rebels in back-to-back SEC losses.
Kennedy says his team is making scouting report mistakes which seems to be a fancy way to say they’re just plain leaving shooters wide open.
Going into the game it didn’t look like Florida had any shooters. The Gators were last in the SEC in field goal percentage, the only team shooting more poorly than Ole Miss on a nightly basis. I suspect that will change when the next round of SEC stats is compiled. The Gators were particularly awful from 3-point range where they were shooting a collective 29 percent.
Then they arrived at the Pavilion at Ole Miss, and KeVaughn Allen went off. The freshman from Little Rock was 9-for-11 from the floor, 6-for-7 from 3-point range. Allen was shooting 38.3 from the floor, 23.3 from the arc going into the game. There was nothing statistically to suggest he was about to do what he did.
Maybe the Rebels saw those stats and gave more attention to them than they did Kennedy’s suggestions to stay with him at all times.
Kennedy had seen Allen in recruiting. He played on the same Memphis AAU team as did Ole Miss freshman Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, and Kennedy made Allen the primary topic of the scouting report.
Whatever the reason, Allen got good looks, and Florida shot 62.1 percent in the first half. It was the second-straight half in a losing game that Ole Miss allowed an opponent to shoot more than 62 percent.
LSU shot 70.8 percent in the second half in Baton Rouge last Wednesday.
After that game Kennedy talked about the athleticism of the Tigers. LSU shot just 43.3 percent in the first half of that game, a time in which freshman phenom Ben Simmons played only nine minutes.
The Florida situation was different. There was no foul trouble for the Gators. In the second half Florida shot just 30 percent from the floor, 6-for-20. That suggests a different intensity level for Ole Miss and a far different result as the Rebels outscored the Gators by nine.
While Allen got hot early Moody couldn’t stay with him.
Moody would eventually get his. He finished with 22 points, the 12th-straight game with at least 20 points for the SEC’s leading scorer.
But Florida denied Moody shots early. In frustration he picked up a couple of quick fouls. At the under 16-minutes media timeout Moody had more fouls (2) than field goal attempts (1), and the rout was on.
Moody eventually scored, but his percentages were down. He was 6-for-15 from the floor and 3-for-10 from 3.
So who scores for this team next year?
That’s a very disturbing thought, and that’s where the Kennedy question could become larger.
Maybe that answer is Miami transfer point guard Deandre Burnett, a 6-foot-2 former Parade All-American who is sitting out this season.
Kennedy needs to go out and find the next Marshall Henderson, Moody-type impact transfer, but that needs to be the last.
He built this program with somewhat-under-the-radar recruits like Chris Warren, Zach Graham, Terrico White and Murphy Holloway. The program veered off course when he committed to the international players, and only Sebastian Saiz has worked out. He needs to find those other guys again, and it looks like he is.
Maybe one of those guys is Terence Davis.
It’s a little late in the season to expect much from a true freshman that you have already evaluated as one not ready to help this year. A 6-foot-4 guard, Davis had played in only one previous SEC game.
He was inserted in the second half and show a lot of energy, not surprising for a guy hungry to play. He also showed his inexperience as he fouled in 11 minutes of action.
Part of the problem of the present is that when Kennedy needed help he didn’t turn to junior college transfer Sam Finley or freshman J.T. Escobar, a couple of guys who were competing for starting spots in the first half of the season.
Kennedy has mentioned scouting report mistakes when he’s referenced them before.
Kennedy is also getting very little from his stretch fours right now. That’s not a surprise with Anthony Perez, who has fallen somewhat short of his enormous potential before. Last night Kennedy called Perez one of the “great mysteries of my 20 years of coaching.”
It’s disappointing to see post-grad transfer Tomasz Gielo fall off the map, though. Gielo had scored in double figures in five of six games before his current struggles in which he has hit only four of his last 20 field goal attempts.