By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
ATHENS, Ga. – Fresh off its first win over a ranked opponent since beating No. 10 Kentucky 71-69 almost a year ago, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy hopes the Rebels can build some momentum on the road.
The Rebels, 75-68 winners over No. 18 Mississippi State on Wednesday, are averaging 73 points in SEC home games but just 54 in regulation in two league road losses.
Ole Miss, which takes on Georgia today in a 3 p.m., tip at the Bulldogs’ Stegeman Coliseum, dropped a 69-68 double-overtime decision at Auburn last Saturday.
Wednesday, the Rebels (12-6, 2-2 SEC) ended a five-game losing streak against their in-state rivals with a 75-68 win. At the same time, Georgia went to overtime at Stegeman to turn back Tennessee 57-53.
“We have to break through on the road where we’re 0-2, and Georgia won’t be easy,” Kennedy said.
It’s a rebuilding team for Georgia (10-8, 1-3), one without athletic power forward Trey Thompkins and guard Travis Leslie, both second-round NBA picks for the Los Angeles Clippers last summer.
Thompkins had 21 points and Leslie 17 as Georgia came within a bucket of 100 points in beating Ole Miss 98-76 in Oxford last year. That game, like this one, came three days after the Rebels’ rival game against Mississippi State. Last year the Rebels were coming off a 69-64 loss.
“Hopefully we can carry a little momentum that we earned,” Kennedy said.
Georgia does return guard Gerald Robinson, who had 22 points in Oxford last year.
Just days after struggling to hit shots against Auburn, Kennedy credited the Rebels’ fast start for an energized approach that carried them throughout against the Bulldogs.
Auburn packed down tight in a zone defense almost the entire game, and the Rebels shot just 36.1 percent against it.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury went to his zone early in the game, but the Rebels hit a couple of early buckets and set a different tone.
“A lot of it had to do with the way they were defending. There was not a lot of pressure. It was a passive zone,” Kennedy said. “The way we’ve shot it the last few games, I’m not questioning the strategy. We just happened to attack it a little better.”
Against MSU, the passing seemed sharper, the movement with more purpose. The Rebels shot 50 percent for the game and had four players score in double figures.
With a 4 for 13 night from 3-point range the Rebels shot at roughly their season percentage, but they got better looks overall than they did at Auburn.
Kennedy credited point guard Jarvis Summers for setting things in motion. The Jackson freshman had 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting with five assists and just one turnover in 32 minutes.
“We tried to keep the ball in our primary ball-handlers’ hands, and Jarvis did a really good job of facilitating offense. We had three guys with double-figure shot attempts and another with nine. The offense was equally distributed,” Kennedy said. “That’s a credit to Jarvis, and the way he ran our team.”