By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
It would be nice to think that an emotional comeback against Georgia, a fast finish to grab victory from seeming certain defeat, would be enough to light the fire Ole Miss needs to grab the coveted NCAA tournament at-large bid.
To assume that to be the case, however, would gloss over some glaring deficiencies from Saturday night.
How, before a sellout home crowd, do you get out-shot by more than 16 percentage points, out-rebounded by 16 – those are end-of-regulation numbers – and still win?
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy didn’t have the answer for that, but he also wasn’t concerned with the question.
He was focused on his team’s energetic play in the overtime, the uplifting feeling in the locker room and what this can do for Ole Miss moving forward.
In moving forward, the Rebels need a lift from a certain power forward.
It wasn’t that long ago that Kennedy was pumping senior Murphy Holloway for player of the year in the SEC.
More recently Holloway has lacked “exuberance” Kennedy says.
Holloway, known throughout his career as a dynamic rebounder, hasn’t reached double figures on the boards since getting 11 at Auburn on Jan. 26. That’s after posting 10 or more rebounds nine times in the first 18 games.
With Holloway becoming just an average rebounder the Rebels have lost the boards five straight games including an incredible minus-18 effort at Missouri and a minus-15 effort at home to Georgia.
Holloway has scored in double figures the last two games, going 5 for 10 from the floor both at Texas A&M and at home against Georgia.
Remember, earlier in his career, Holloway rebounding his own free throw miss and scoring? It’s happened more than once. He’s at his best when he’s getting to the glass on offense, but he’s had just two offensive rebounds over the last three games.
The stretch run isn’t only about Holloway.
It’s about finding ways to hold down opponent shooting percentages across the floor and to limit the good looks from point blank range.
Some of this speaks to intensity in the post in the absence of Aaron Jones, a key reserve.
Holloway and Reggie Buckner are conscious of their fouls. Maybe too conscious.
If playing careful means getting beaten badly on the boards and giving up points in the paint – Georgia had 34 – maybe the bigs need to get back to reckless abandon, let Kennedy manage the fouls and let the chips fall where they may.
The worst that could happen is the Rebels don’t make the NCAA tournament.
The best could get these players where they’ve never been before.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford @journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.