By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy says what he calls “aggressive non-conference scheduling” will help the Rebels know where they stand.
After five games, he wants to see his frontcourt players stand taller in the box score.
So far, Ole Miss has faced teams from the Big 10, ACC and Atlantic 10 Conferences, going 1-2 in those games, as well as defending Ohio Valley Conference champ Murray State, which reached the NCAA’s second round last year.
The Rebels dropped an overtime game to Dayton at home on Nov. 20. They were down 30 at halftime at Miami Tuesday night before cutting that deficit to nine in an eventual 13-point loss.
Ole Miss got limited assistance on offense from frontcourt starters Terrance Henry and Reggie Buckner. Collectively, the Rebels struggled to guard Miami center Reggie Johnson, who had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The Rebels return home Saturday night at 7 against Southern Miss (5-0).
“We have two guys whose roles have changed, Terrance and Reg, and they have to be more consistent in order for this team to win hard games,” Kennedy said.
Miami finished with a 41-30 rebounding edge.
The Ole Miss comeback was fueled by its outside game, particularly guards Chris Warren and Zach Graham.
Warren started the season slowly from the 3-point arc but has eight of his last 20 attempts (40 percent) over the last two games. He was 5 for 12 at Miami and finished with 23 points.
“Sometimes people think I want to live and die from 25 feet. That’s not true. I’d love to get it in to 2 feet and score, but we’ve not been able to do that,” Kennedy said.
Henry is averaging 8.6 points, 5.4 rebounds. Buckner is averaging 4.0 points, 4.6 rebounds.
Buckner has been a shot-blocking force for Ole Miss but against the bigger-bodied Johnson had just one block.
New roles and expectations are not surprising for Henry and Buckner, who have stepped into the void created by the off-season departure of forward Murphy Holloway, who averaged 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds last year.
“Murphy definitely helped our team last year, but it’s still early,” said Graham, who had 19 points in 30 minutes off the bench at Miami. “As the season goes on our big men will get more comfortable. We’ll continue to go to them, and I’m confident they will produce under the basket.”
Kennedy hopes that comfort level comes sooner rather than later.
Henry and Buckner are the starters, but there’s been little help from reserves Demarco Cox, a true freshman, or Steadman Short, a junior college transfer.
Against the Hurricanes, Short totaled three rebounds and was 1 for 4 shooting in 14 minutes.
Cox, a freshman from Yazoo City – and at 295 pounds, the Rebels’ heaviest player – played just two minutes.
“Right now the game is going very very fast for him. We’ve talked about the way we’ve scheduled early, and it’s been difficult for our young guys to go through the inevitable growing pains. I’ve not been patient in allowing him to play through these games, because they’re so important,” Kennedy said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.