By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
COLUMBIA, Mo. – It’s been almost a month since Ole Miss really announced its presence this basketball season with a dominant performance against then-No. 10 Missouri.
The Rebels have come full circle since then. Maybe the Tigers have, too.
“I think they’ll have a chip on their shoulder. We will, too. We haven’t really proven ourselves,” Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway said Wednesday as the Rebels closed the first half of SEC play with a 7-2 record following a 93-75 win over Mississippi State.
It’s a noon tip today at Reed Arena with television provided by CBS.
No. 21 Missouri – coming off a 70-68 loss at Texas A&M in which the Aggies hit the winning shot with 12 seconds left – will have a different look with Laurence Bowers in the middle.
Bowers was his team’s top scorer when he missed five games with an MCL sprain, the first one in that stretch the Tigers’ 64-49 loss at Ole Miss.
In the three games since his return, Bowers has averaged 9.7 points and 3.3 rebounds. His minutes have decreased each game going from 32 at LSU to 20 against Auburn and 12 at A&M.
Missouri hasn’t won an SEC road game but hasn’t lost at home.
Playing without Bowers for the first time, Missouri at times looked disoriented offensively in Oxford. Ole Miss held Missouri to just 36.8 percent shooting, and the Tigers were 2-for-18 from 3-point range while turning it over 19 times.
holloway bounces back
Holloway had a field day with 22 points and eight rebounds. He was 8-for-12 from the floor, numbers very similar to Wednesday night when he broke out of a shooting slump to go 9-for-12 from the floor for 24 points.
Holloway was just 9-for-30 in the two previous games, both losses, and had gotten off only a combined 10 shots in the two games before that.
Noticeably unhappy with his players after the MSU game, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy questioned his team’s sense of urgency as it tries to play its way into the NCAA tournament for the first time in his seven seasons, the first time for the school since 2002.
“We didn’t rebound the ball at all. We just tried to coast through the second half,” Kennedy said.
“Give Mississippi State credit. They kept attacking us, and when you’re passive defensively, you’re susceptible to drives. That’s what happened.”
Holloway stopped short of full agreement with his coach but acknowledged a need for heightened intensity and greater consistency from he and his teammates.
Ole Miss could use Florida’s blueprint in that regard.
“I’m a senior. I have a sense of urgency,” he said. “I think it’s just hard for us. Florida jumped on us, and they didn’t let up. I told some of the guys on the team, ‘You see how they up 20, and they still acting like they down 20?’
“That’s something we need to get better at as a team.”