By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy could very well become the winningest coach in school history today.
He came up short in his bid for his 145th win at the school when the Rebels lost 63-62 at struggling South Carolina Wednesday night.
Coming up short has become the sub-plot to the stretch run for an Ole Miss team that began SEC play with six-straight wins, its best start ever.
Now one of the opinions among those who get paid to project the NCAA tournament field is that Ole Miss must win its last five regular season games to be a part of the show for the first time since 2002.
The first of those five is at 4 p.m., today against Auburn at Tad Smith Coliseum. Fox Sports Net will provide the television.
“I watch TV, we all watch TV,” said senior forward Murphy Holloway, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds against South Carolina. “I’m glad it’s still up there … last four in. We’ve still got something to play for.”
The Rebels (19-7, 8-5 SEC) have lost five of seven since the 6-0 start.
Auburn was the sixth win as two Marshall Henderson free throws in the closing seconds secured a 63-61 win at Auburn on Jan. 26.
Since then the Rebels have blown out Mississippi State at home but needed a sudden burst of energy to get to overtime and beat Georgia, also at home.
Defense and rebounding have been the primary deficiencies in the slide. The Rebels out-rebounded South Carolina but were unable to hit clutch shots – any clutch shot – as they were held scoreless over the final 5 minutes in the loss.
Auburn (9-17, 3-10) doesn’t exactly arrive on a hot streak. The only thing keeping the Tigers from an 11-game losing streak is a 49-37 home upset of Alabama on Feb. 6. Since then Auburn has lost four straight, the closest margin nine points, and the last three at home.