By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – After his team lost a chance for a key resume-building win, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy wants to see the Rebels execute better at the end of games.
They were out-executed by Alabama on Saturday night, and the Crimson Tide hung for a 69-67, two-overtime win.
Kennedy believes his players are mature enough to shake off the potential lingering after effects and sharpen their focus for Thursday night’s rematch with rival Mississippi State.
The Rebels ended a five-game losing streak against the Bulldogs with a 75-68 decision last month at Tad Smith Coliseum.
“We’ve got to snap out of it. As disappointing as it was, and it was certainly disappointing, we’ve got to be able to move forward, and that starts today,” Kennedy said. “In this league if you hang your head on one loss, one turns into two and two turns into three really quickly.”
The Rebels struggled with turnovers in key situations at Alabama, none bigger than when freshman point guard Jarvis Summers was driving for a potential winning layup with the clock about the expire at the close of the first overtime.
Summers had the ball tipped from behind from Alabama sophomore point guard Trevor Releford.
“He’s (Releford) just a good player, and he made some plays at the end of the game,” Ole Miss guard Nick Williams said.
It’s something the Rebels did a better job with in the non-conference season when they earned wins against Miami, DePaul and Penn State.
Ole Miss showed its own toughness at times against Alabama. The Rebels were down three at the end of regulation when Terrance Henry converted a three-point play with 57 seconds remaining. Ole Miss followed that up with a defensive stop when Alabama was holding for the last shot.
The Rebels were down five with 2:10 left in the first overtime when they rallied to tie with Williams’ 3-pointer from the left wing with 45 seconds left, ultimately leading to the Summers’ miss.
“Early in the season we pulled tough games out. We just have to execute better at the end of games,” he said. “We had some missed opportunities, but we’ll get better.”
The window for time to show the improvement, though, is becoming more narrow.
“We have to do a better job down the stretch of making the play, whether it’s the timely basket, the key rebound or the big stop. There are a variety of ways you win and lose down the stretch. We have to be better prepared the next time,” Kennedy said.
Ole Miss (14-8, 4-4 SEC) has played 11 games decided by four points or less and is 7-4 in those games.
Kennedy draws on those numbers to say he expects the Rebels to face the same situations they’ve faced in their two double-overtime SEC road losses, first at Auburn, then Alabama.
“The way we play that tells me we’ll be in a lot more close games. We have to do a better job down the stretch of making the play, whether it’s the timely basket, the key rebound or the big stop. There are a variety of ways you win and lose down the stretch. We have to be better prepared the next time.”