It wasn’t that long ago that Ole Miss had positioned itself for a strong run through its SEC schedule, but four games can seem like a lifetime when they all turn up L’s.
Alabama set Ole Miss on a path for four straight losses, and the Rebels are desperately trying to find the exit.
“We need to try and find a way to stop the bleeding,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy says.
After a resume-building win, Alabama and Georgia were two road games in which the Rebels shot poorly, rebounded worse but still had a chance.
In the end, they didn’t make the winning plays in either game, an unfortunate circumstance given what was on the horizon for Ole Miss with the SEC’s top two teams – Kentucky and Florida – about to visit Tad Smith Coliseum.
Alabama returns the trip to Ole Miss this week, and it’s still an important week for the Rebels.
With an RPI now in the 80s and no top 50 opponents left, Ole Miss may have played its way into the position of having to win the SEC tournament to reach the NCAAs.
Prospects for doing that are better with the double-bye, which the Rebels secured last year when they won the event in Nashville.
The SEC’s top four teams get to sit out the first two days of play, and right now Ole Miss is one of seven teams tied for the fourth spot with a 7-7 conference record.
After the Alabama game Wednesday, Ole Miss goes Saturday to College Station, where Texas A&M has beaten some good teams.
If Ole Miss is to reverse course, it’s going to need a good dose of the toughness Kennedy has called for from his team.
The Rebels’ inability to rebound effectively has been well-documented, and that shortcoming has been magnified by inconsistent support scoring for the team’s top offensive players, Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers.
Toughness isn’t only about being physically stronger in securing the rebound. It’s a frame of mind.
It’s wanting the ball and making the play.
It’s what Alabama point guard Trevor Releford did when he scored 14 of his team’s last 16 points including the 3-pointer in the final seconds as the Tide defeated Ole Miss 67-64 on Feb. 11.
Who’ll stand up?
Marshall Henderson has some of that toughness. Jarvis Summers shows it more because his game is getting to the rim.
Anthony Perez is beginning to show it more. The Rebels need more from LaDarius White and Derrick Millinghaus because they’ve shown they can provide more.
Without help from the supporting cast – a little extra toughness – the Rebels’ losing streak could easily extend into next week.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.