By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy is trying to light a fire under his senior frontcourt guys, and his other senior, Nick Williams, is providing the kindling.
The Rebels play at Texas A&M tonight at 6 in danger of losing for the fourth time in five games if some things don’t change, namely defensive focus.
The game will be seen on CSS.
Last Thursday, the Aggies (14-9, 4-6 SEC) defeated the same Missouri team that throttled Ole Miss over the weekend but proceeded to score just 46 points in a 52-46 loss at Georgia on Saturday.
Ole Miss (18-5, 7-3 SEC) is trying to get more from Murphy Holloway and Reggie Buckner.
“I think going into the game Murph was leading the league in rebounds per game and Reg was in the top five. That’s what they have to do for themselves and for us to be successful,” Kennedy said.
Missouri was plus-18 in rebounding against Ole Miss, and Holloway was limited to one rebound. He remains the SEC’s leading rebounder, but his average has dropped from 10.9 per game following the SEC-opening win at Tennessee to 9.7 per game.
Holloway and Buckner have been held below their averages in three of the last four games, all SEC losses for the Rebels who began conference play with six-straight wins.
Buckner has been efficient, shooting 53.3 percent in the three losses, but has gotten off only 15 shots.
Kennedy called out Holloway after the losses to Kentucky and Florida when he was 9 for 30 from the floor.
Both players had big games against Mississippi State, a physically overmatched opponent, but they were dominated at Missouri when Tigers center Alex Oriakhi had 22 points and 18 rebounds.
Williams had another word for it.
“We didn’t come out with the right mindset, and they punked us,” Williams said. “I was surprised we weren’t more physical than they were. The big thing is we’ve got to be tougher. We got punked a little bit down there. Oriakhi was way more physical than us, and the outcome of the game showed it.”
In conference play Texas A&M is the No. 5 rebounding team at plus-3.5, Ole Miss the No. 8 team at minus-0.4.
The Rebels have also played this stretch without sophomore Aaron Jones, a key post reserve lost for the season with a torn ACL. That plays in the back of the minds of Holloway and Buckner and has at times limited their aggressiveness, Holloway said.
“If they’re not aggressive, they’re not affective. They have to be aggressive,” Kennedy said. “They have to be aggressive offensively for us, and they have to do what they do best, and that’s rebound the basketball.”