Day After Observations

Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 80-63 win over Auburn …

It doesn’t really matter that Auburn is a mess on the road.

Ole Miss basketball, after four-straight losses, was much like Mississippi State was a week ago when the Bulldogs celebrated their first SEC win against a Rebels group without Stefan Moody, Sebastian Saiz and Martavious Newby.

State just needed a win that day.

Ole Miss badly needed one last night. They needed to somehow stop the bleeding.

Even if Moody hadn’t played they’d have had a good chance to do that. They showed hustle and determination in an 83-77 loss at MSU, leading much of the game and giving themselves a chance with three starters out.

There’s very little margin for error with this team when Moody is playing and far less when he’s out. Ole Miss, though, was in position for an SEC road win in some dire circumstances. It’s not a stretch to believe the same effort would have helped the Rebels beat Auburn even if Moody hadn’t played.

At the very least the Moody-less effort against MSU gave the Rebels come confidence. Newby told us as much after the game last night.

That’s kind of where this team is right now, finding some confidence, trying to find different players to increase production. Some newcomers who were expected to make bigger impacts have been sketchy, but roles, perhaps, are shifting. Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey comes to mind here. DFD had 16 points at State and had six points on 3-for-3 shooting in 18 minutes last night. There’s an ease about him when he goes to the rim.

I expected to see more from him earlier in the game. While DFD’s stat line at the end has been nice for two-straight games he still needs to score more at earlier points in the game.

It’s not surprising that he wasn’t taking a lot of shots last night, because Moody was back, and Moody was taking shots.

It was an incredible effort by Moody, one we would like to have asked him about after the game, but he didn’t find his way to the media room before leaving the building.

I would like to have heard Moody himself talk about his hamstring and tell us how much or how little pain he felt.

It looked like he felt more pain in the first half. He was grabbing at his hamstring at times. Early on he seemed very interested in a little penetration then passing off.

Rarely did he seem interested in using his trademark explosion to beat the defender off the dribble and get all the way to the rim. That happened only once during the game. Moody was 6-for-12 from 3-point range but only 1-for-2 inside the arc. He missed a short jumper early and got past a defender and took it all the way to the rim late.

It looked like Moody’s hamstring got looser in the second half. I asked Andy Kennedy if that was the case, and he kind of laughed and said when you start hitting shots everything loosens up. Or something to that effect.

Moody really did look tighter in the first half. The most obvious example of that was when he was unable to chase down a ball headed out of bounds on the north end of the floor.

Maybe one day we’ll get the chance to ask him if the hamstring loosened up after halftime. He looked tight early in warm-ups prior to the start of the second half, but when he started shooting he found his stroke.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl credited Kennedy for making adjustments to the switches on Moody the Tigers were making defensively in the first half.

Whatever it was Moody lit it up after halftime. If the hamstring wasn’t strong enough to support him getting to the rim it was still strong enough for him to elevate and knock down NBA range 3s.

Moody from deep is great when you can get it, but sometimes it’s not there. The most consistent part of his game is getting to the free throw line, and that doesn’t happen nearly as often when he’s not getting to the rim. Moody was 4-for-5 from the free throw line last night, just five attempts when he averages 11 in SEC play.

Aside from Moody, Marcanvis Hymon had his best night in conference play, his best night of any kind since getting 20 points against Towson on Nov. 20.

Hymon was just 6-for-18 in his other two starts as the replacement for Saiz. That left Kennedy bemoaning the Rebels’ inability to finish at the rim in Starkville.

Hymon was 6-for-8 from the floor against Auburn looking strong and comfortable with his right hand. Even more impressive was the fact that he was 7-for-11 from the free throw line. The difference was getting up hundreds of shots before practice and assistant coach Bill Armstrong working with him and changing the placement of his feet.

Newby gave Ole Miss a lift on the glass with nine rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. Ole Miss was minus-3 on the glass at halftime but was plus-10 in the second half.

Rasheed Brooks remains an unfortunate mystery right now. He followed his 0-for-10 shooting game against South Carolina by scoring 20 points at MSU on 8-for-15 shooting, 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Without Moody he helped keep the Rebels in the game.

Brooks got into the scoring column against Auburn, finishing with eight points, but he was just 3-for-17 shooting – 2-for-9 from 3 – to move to 3-for-27 from the floor in his last two home games.

A little more from Brooks and Ole Miss might have led Auburn to the woodshed much earlier in the game.

The Rebels would eventually lead by 20 and win by 17. Auburn had been outscored by 21.6 points on average in three SEC road games before getting to Oxford.

The Tigers have beaten Kentucky and Alabama at home, and Ole Miss plays at Auburn on Feb. 20. To borrow a word from Charles Barkley, Auburn’s most famous basketball alum, the Tigers are “turrible” on the road.

That didn’t matter for Ole Miss last night. The Rebels just needed a win.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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