Ole Miss faces the grim reality of life without Stefan Moody or with Moody in a limited capacity following the Rebels’ 77-74 overtime come-from-ahead loss to No. 24 South Carolina.
The Rebels led by 11 with 4:24 to play. Moody did something to a hamstring with 5 minutes left in regulation when he threw a lob pass from near halfcourt to Terence Davis for a layup.
He left the game then. He subbed in and out a few times but wasn’t the same player after the injury.
There’s no updated word on Moody as I write this morning. After the game last night Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was hopeful that Moody’s hamstring was a strain or pull, not a tear, a lesser of evils so to speak.
Either way it’s not good. Hamstrings only heal with rest, and rest isn’t something the Rebels have time for right now. If the injury is only a pull it’s possible that Moody could continue to play. The big question then is can he be effective? Playing is one thing. Playing at the level to which Moody and Ole Miss fans have come to expect from his very different.
It was a very good Moody night against the Gamecocks until the last 5 minutes, and he’s a big reason the Rebels were in position to win even without their second-leading scorer and the SEC’s No. 2 rebounder. Sebastian Saiz missed the game after surgery to repair a partially detached retina. Also out with an eye problem was senior guard Martavious Newby.
With Saiz and Newby both out the Rebels were missing about 15 rebounds. It’s not surprising the Gamecocks finished plus-12 on the glass. South Carolina had 18 offensive rebounds, repeatedly getting second and third chances on a given trip down the floor. Those opportunities led to 19 second-chance points and a 40-26 edge in the paint.
Moody was 8-for-13 from the floor, 4-for-9 from 3-point range and finished with 24 points. It’s 13th-straight game he’s scored at least 20 points matching Gerald Glass’ streak back in 1989. Johnny Neumann had a much longer streak back in the 70s.
In addition to Moody the Rebels were in position to win because of the first-half play of Anthony Perez. A guy that Kennedy just called “one of the great mysteries” in his 20 years of coaching had 12 points in the first half going 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Perez, thought, didn’t take another 3-pointer until late in regulation. He finished 4-for-5 from the arc and had 16 points.
The absence of Saiz limited what Kennedy could do defensively, and the Rebels stayed in some sort of zone defense all night. Kennedy said he couldn’t remember a game previously in his career where he did not play man defense for a single possession.
The zone was mostly effective. Most shots were contested, but South Carolina also missed some open looks and hit only 38.7 percent in the first half. The Gamecocks were under 40 percent for the second half late until they got more aggressive in their comeback. When the Gamecocks got it in the lane they usually found success.
With Saiz and Newby both out you knew there would be some creative player combinations for Ole Miss.
Marcanvis Hymon got the start and played a career-high 42 minutes. The sophomore gave the Rebels what they needed on the glass but left too many plays on the table on offense. Any one single play might have made the difference. Hymon was just 3-for-9 shooting. We’re not talking about 15-foot jump shots away from the basket. He made strong moves to the glass but couldn’t get enough shots to fall. He drew a lot of fouls, as post players do, but was just 4-for-11 from the free throw line.
It sounds like I’m busting on Hymon here, and I am to a degree, but he’s just first on the list.
Tomas Gielo was 3-for-12 from the floor, 2-for-9 from 3-point range. The Rebels need more efficiency from the post-grad transfer.
Rasheed Brooks was the biggest mystery last night, however. Brooks had averaged 14 points and seven rebounds over the previous four games. He has become Kennedy’s second perimeter scoring option, a legitimate option, it had seemed, to take advantage of the spacing created by the way teams have to guard Moody.
Brooks was 0-for-10 from the floor, eight of those misses 3-point shots. He was 2-for-4 from the free throw line and twice missed the front end of one-and-ones. He didn’t always follow his shots and seemed to lack the energy and aggression he’s shown recently.
There were flashes of production from freshmen Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey and Terence Davis.
Davis made another case for increased playing time with his energy and athleticism. He had seven points on 2-for-5 shooting and two rebounds in 25 minutes.
Fitz-Dorsey had six points on 3-for-4 shooting and three assists in 12 minutes.
I give these guys a little more of a pass than Hymon, Gielo and Brooks because they’ve played a lot less. At the end of the day scholarship players have to make scholarship plays, and guys not named Moody and Perez didn’t make enough of them last night.
Thank goodness the Rebels had a big game for Perez. If not, it wouldn’t have been as close as it was.
What the immediate future holds remains to be seen. Perhaps more on Moody will be known later today, but Saiz at first report was expected to be out a few games.
This is a part in schedule that Ole Miss could have made up some ground. South Carolina, while ranked No. 24, is nothing special as was clearly demonstrated for 35 minutes of regulation.
The Rebels are at Mississippi State Saturday. Yes, the rivalry aspect comes into play. The Bulldogs are not terrible, but they are presently winless in the SEC.
Ole Miss gets Auburn at home next week before stepping out of conference play next Saturday at Kansas State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
The bottom line is Ole Miss won’t wait until Jan. 30 to be challenged. With its two best players ailing every day will be a challenge.