By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Murphy Holloway does a lot of things well for Ole Miss.
Saturday afternoon at Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center, it was what Holloway doesn’t do well that hurt the Rebels at the end.
With his team down by two with less than 30 seconds to play, the Rebels’ top rebounder wasn’t close on a 3-point attempt, and the Blue Raiders held on for a 65-62 win much to the delight of 6,107 fans.
It was a snapshot of what Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said was the real dagger in the Rebels’ first loss of the season – poor execution.
Middle’s senior-dominated lineup forced 18 turnovers against an Ole Miss (6-1) team giving it up just 11.3 times a game, second in the SEC.
Multiple times, Ole Miss guards were stripped of the ball near the key before they could set the offense.
A worst-case scenario of ball-protection played out against the experienced Blue Raiders as Ole Miss point guard Jarvis Summers went to the bench 7 minutes into the game with his second foul and did not return.
“I knew Middle was not going to allow us to have easy cuts, to go where we wanted to go. We had to be resilient, and we had to execute. What I didn’t anticipate was that we would just hand them the ball,” Kennedy said. “We just handed them the ball like happens sometimes when you play with your big brother. They took our ball.”
The Rebels weren’t in better position at the end, because Middle made things tougher in the paint as the game wore on, and shooting guard Marshall Henderson – though he tied the game with a deep 3-pointer with 2:08 remaining – was just 3 for 12 behind the arc.
Holloway and his teammates in the post got the Rebels off to a good start, but Holloway, after scoring seven points in the first five minutes, had just two buckets the rest of the way.
Henderson led Ole Miss with 17 points, shooting 3 for 5 inside the 3-point line.
Middle Tennessee (7-2) was led by wing man Marcos Knight, who had 14 points on 6 for 14 shooting.
Guard Raymond Cintron, who was 4 for 7 from the arc when Middle defeated Ole Miss 68-56 last year in Southaven, was 3 for 4 and scored 10 points in the rematch.
While a number of calls did go the way of the Rebels, two that did not came after Henderson’s shot tied it at 59.
Ole Miss got a defensive stop and had a chance to take the lead, but Summers missed in the lane as there was contact on the play.
On the other end, Middle’s Kerry Hammonds drove into Henderson, and Henderson fell to the floor. Hammonds stepped back and hit a 15-footer to put the Blue Raiders ahead.
Middle then denied the Rebels’ shooters, and Holloway was wide open when the ball ended up in his hands.
“I kind of liked it,” said MTSU coach Kermit Davis, laughing. “I hate seeing that big fella going left to the rim, so you’d much rather him take that one than do what he does best.”
Holloway hit a 3-point shot against Lipscomb earlier this year. He attempted two against Middle and missed them both.
“I would prefer him not (take it), but he’s a senior. I guess he felt based on time and score, we were having such a hard time scoring,” Kennedy said.