By Parrish Alford
STARKVILLE – Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy wants to see his team make more plays at the game’s critical moments, and now he may ask his younger players to be the ones to get the job done.
Mississippi State made those plays Saturday in a 7-0 run to rally past the short-handed Rebels and win 76-72.
Ole Miss was playing without senior guard Marshall Henderson, who served the second of two SEC games he was scheduled to miss as part of his suspension announced before the season began.
But it was the play of his bigs, not his guards, that had Kennedy talking about a possible shake-up of his playing rotation moving forward.
‘Turn the page’
“It does you no good if you’re a veteran, and you play as if it’s the first time you’ve been in a college basketball game,” Ken-nedy said. “We may have to turn the page to some of our younger guys and give them the same opportunities we’re giving some of our older guys.”
With a minus-3.4 rebound margin for the season, the Rebels were plus-10 on the boards. Most of the heavy lifting was done without junior center Demarco Cox, who played just 10 minutes.
On one second-half defensive possession, the Rebels’ frontcourt consisted of freshmen Dwight Coleby and Janari Joesaar and sophomore Anthony Perez.
Freshman Sebastian Saiz had seven rebounds, Perez six. They were a combined 4 of 12 from the floor for nine points.
The Rebels led 66-61 after two Jarvis Summers free throws with 4 minutes, 58 seconds left.
That’s when the Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run during which Saiz missed an easy tip-in, Perez missed a 3-pointer early in the possession, and Derrick Millinghaus turned the ball over trying to get it to Perez, who then fouled.
“We’re up 66-62, and we’ve got a 6-9, long athletic kid at the rim for a tip dunk. That would have been a huge tip dunk. Free at the basket, missed it, and it turns into a flagrant 1 on the other end,” Kennedy said.
Missed opportunities late in an SEC road game didn’t keep Kennedy from focusing on the play of his younger guys.
“We were much more aggressive on the glass,” he said. When that happens, “then you’re going to opt to play a younger kid to give him the same opportunities you’re giving the veteran.”