OXFORD – The Ole Miss basketball team got back in the national rankings this week, and sophomore guard Trevor Gaskins wants to do his part – from 3-point range – to help the Rebels stay there.
The Rebels were last ranked the last week in January in 2008, coach Andy Kennedy’s second season. They broke into The Associated Press Top 25 in the No. 25 spot after Saturday’s 81-79 win over Southern Mississippi.
The Rebels (7-1) trailed much of the game and were down six with about a minute left, but back-to-back 3-pointers by point guard Chris Warren helped fuel the comeback.
Gaskins, noted for the toughness he brings to defense but also for his perimeter touch, was just 1-for-4 from behind the 3-point line and has hit just one of his last 14 behind the arc.
“Coach has been telling me I haven’t been following through on my shots. I agree with that. Shooters go through slumps, and you’ve just got to keep shooting.”
‘Doing good things’
Gaskins scoring average has dropped from 7.3 to 3.6 points a game. His minutes have decreased in the process, but he continues to be an effective rebounder and a guy who brings an increased tempo to the defense.
“Coach tells me even though I’m not making shots, I’m still doing good things on defense. Just keep doing them, and your shots will come.”
At 82.1 points a game Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC and 18th in the nation in scoring. Guards Warren (17.5 ppg) and Terrico White (17.0 ppg) are the SEC’s No. 4 and No. 5 scorers.
Ole Miss could be 9-1 heading into a road game at No. 6 West Virginia on Dec. 23.
The Rebels lost 80-78 to the Mountaineers in Oxford last year. Warren had not yet torn up his knee. He had 20 points but missed the front end of a one-and-one in the closing seconds.
Kennedy was hired at Cincinnati by West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
The Rebels have three games before their trip to Morgantown – McNeese State on Saturday, Texas-El Paso in Southaven on Wednesday and Centenary College on Dec. 19.
UTEP is unbeaten but has played only five games.
There is one common opponent; The Miners defeated Arkansas State 82-56 at home. Ole Miss defeated ASU 79-57 in Jonesboro.
‘Great for the kids’
“The ranking is great for the kids,” Kennedy said. “Obviously anytime you put a number in front of your name it means more publicity, which is always good for your program as you’re trying to build. I don’t get too caught up in it because it’s such a long season and those numbers tend to change pretty quickly.”
First up in the quest for 9-1 is McNeese State with a 1 p.m., tip in Oxford. The Cowboys (3-4) are getting out-rebounded by an average of 2.9 a game and are averaging 69 points.
McNeese will be the second of two Southland Conference teams on the schedule for Ole Miss. The Rebels defeated Texas A&M Corpus-Christi 73-58 on Nov. 29.
Regardless of conference affiliation, Gaskins is ready to get opponents’ best shot.
“It’s a big target. Teams look at it and say Ole Miss is ranked in the top 25, and that gives us a chance to get on the map. So we just have to come out here and play Ole Miss basketball.”
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal