Ole Miss basketball: Kennedy sees signs in effort at Florida

By Parrish Alford / NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – A blanket of snow Monday morning slowed production but didn’t stop it for Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy.
Players got a break from class but were able to find their way to the basketball practice facility to start preparation for Thursday’s 8 p.m. ESPN2 home game against rival Mississippi State.
“The snow delayed a few things, but being out of school changed some things,” Kennedy said.
Both teams will be seeking their first SEC win. The Rebels are coming off a 77-71 loss at Florida. Victory would have been nice, but Kennedy was able to take some positives away from Gainesville, most notably in the Rebels’ rebounding and shot production.
Ole Miss had a slight rebounding edge, 33-32, against the Gators who went into the contest with a plus-8.5 rebounding margin, No. 1 in the SEC.
Earlier this season the Rebels ranked last in the league. They have shown steady improvement in rebounding, but Kennedy had his doubts.
“We had done well but not against a team as big and athletic as Florida,” he said. “We came out with a one-rebound advantage, and that shows me that maybe we can hold our own over the course of the SEC grind.”
Sophomore Reggie Buckner led the Rebels with 10 rebounds, the fifth time in the last month he’s reached double figures on the boards.
But Buckner and starting center Terrance Henry missed key minutes in foul trouble, and newcomers Steadman Short and Demarco Cox were not as effective.
Short, who has emerged as the top low-post reserve had only two points and one rebound in 14 minutes. Cox played only four minutes with nothing on the boards and did not score.

Making them pay
“We had some guys who had never been in that environment before, and they didn’t respond as well as we’d hoped,” Kennedy said. “Every time we made a mistake, with an ill-advised shot or a defensive breakdown, they made us pay for it.”
Kennedy was also encouraged by the Rebels’ field goal percentage.
The Gators are second in the SEC in scoring defense with 60.3 points a game allowed. The Rebels shot 47.3 percent for the game, 50 percent from 3-point range in the second half when they rallied to take a lead but couldn’t hold it.
Ole Miss (12-4) leads the SEC in field goal percentage at 47.5 through 16 games.
“We were efficient. We’ve been tops in the league in field goal percentage and that held true in a tough environment,” Kennedy said. “After reviewing the tape I feel good about a lot of things we did, but we’re in a bottom-line business, and you go there to win games.”

Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or parrish.alford@journalinc.com