By Parrish Alford / NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – A big game by Mississippi State post player Renardo Sidney against Ole Miss Thursday night may not have been an isolated incident.
While the Rebels have surged in rebounding stats in recent weeks, they have had their post defense exposed in the last two games.
No. 24 Georgia fed the ball inside repeatedly Saturday afternoon, leading to 44 points in the paint, 21 of them by 6-foot-10 power forward Trey Thompkins, as the Bulldogs kept the Rebels winless in the SEC. Georgia’s 98-76 victory came before an announced Tad Smith Coliseum crowd of 7,085.
After attempting a school-record 35 3-pointers in the 69-64 loss to Mississippi State, the Rebels (12-6, 0-3 SEC) were much more aggressive, passing up the perimeter shot and driving to the rim with varying degrees of success early on.
There was no variant for Georgia. The Bulldogs looked inside on almost every trip, and their passes frequently found the mark far too close to the goal, resulting in easy makes.
“I did not see that coming, and I have no explanation for it,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “We went through Thursday’s game and saw a lot of things we did poorly. We immediately changed gears in our one day to prepare. They’re a complex team because of the patterns they run to get the ball inside. We thought we could zone them, and they shredded it. They threw the ball wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted. We couldn’t stop them.”
Ole Miss players were not made available for postgame interviews.
Ole Miss, the media’s preseason No. 2 pick in the Western Division, is winless after three SEC games for the first time under Kennedy, who tinkered with his starting five on Saturday.
Junior college transfer Steadman Short, who had eight points and 11 rebounds against MSU, earned a start along with guard Trevor Gaskins. Regulars Nick Williams and Terrance Henry played off the bench.
Whoever was on the floor struggled defensively.
Thompkins wasn’t the Dogs’ only star. Four other players scored in double figures, led by guard Gerald Robinson with 22 points. He was 3 for 3 from 3-point range but also got to the rim.
“We wanted to get the ball in to Thompkins, because he makes everyone around him look good. He’s so unselfish,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Once the shots started falling, it was contagious.”
Georgia shot 63.5 percent from the floor, the best of any SEC team in any game this season. The Bulldogs (13-3, 2-1) shot 96.3 percent from the free throw line, though they arrived shooting just 65.5 percent.
The 98 points are the most scored by an SEC opponent against a Kennedy-coached Ole Miss team.
Georgia played defense too, especially against the Rebels’ leading scorer, Chris Warren, who was held to single-figure points for the first time since scoring only three at Mississippi State last February.
Suwanee, Ga., native Zach Graham led Ole Miss with 21 points.
“Warren’s name is in bold print on every scouting report we have,” Fox said. “For us, limiting him was the key.”
Ole Miss is back on the SEC road Wednesday at Vanderbilt, which defeated Georgia earlier this week.
Kennedy accepted responsibility for the loss but called on his players to “take ownership” in the team well.
He said the Rebels played like they’ve lost confidence and expressed concern that things may not get better soon.
“As a head coach this is ultimately my responsibility, but until they allow me to put on a uniform and lead on the floor, I have to have guys on the floor take ownership,” he said. “We have to shake this off or three (losses) will turn into four, five and 10 before you know it.”
n Game summary, Page 2B.