By Parrish Alford and Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ORLEANS – Ole Miss knowing it needed to win games to make itself part of the NCAA tournament conversation, and beating Auburn was the first step.
Now the Rebels face No. 2 seed Tennessee, a team that dominated them on the glass in a 73-60 Vols win in Knoxville.
It’s the last loss for a Rebels team that has now won its last four.
Tennessee earned a first-round SEC tournament bye and has won eight of its last nine.
“A number for us tonight was that we outrebounded them by 14,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said following his team’s 68-54 win over Auburn. “If memory serves me correctly, they were plus-11 or plus-12 against us, and we can’t overcome that. It was a close game for 30 minutes, and then they spurted, started knocking down shots, and we couldn’t catch up.”
UT had a 40-28 rebound edge against Ole Miss, led by center Jeronne Maymon, who had a double-double –18 points and 11 rebounds. He was 6 for 7 from the floor, 6 for-8 from the free throw line.
Ole Miss is now 3-5 in SEC tournament games with Kennedy as head coach, but the Rebels have never won more than one tournament game under his watch.
In Kennedy’s first season, 2007, the Rebels had a bye and defeated LSU 80-60 in the quarterfinals before losing 80-59 to No. 6 Florida in the semifinals.
Ole Miss was one-and-out in the SEC tournament the next three seasons, a streak that included a 76-65 loss to Tennessee in Nashville two years ago.
The Rebels defeated South Carolina 66-55 in last year’s opening round, then lost 75-66 to Kentucky in the quartefinals.
Ole Miss won at least 20 games in four of Kennedy’s first five seasons and needs one more win to hit the 20 mark again.
Arnett Moultrie, who many consider a future first-round NBA draft pick, has been unable to play like one against Georgia.
In the teams’ first meeting on Feb. 11 in Starkville, Moultrie was held to 12 points and six rebounds in a 70-68 overtime loss. In Thursday’s 71-61 SEC Tournament loss to Georgia, he recorded just seven points, on 3-of-10 shooting, and eight rebounds.
He was 1 of 3 at the foul line.
On paper, MSU had an advantage on Georgia in the frontcourt. But forward Renardo Sidney got in foul trouble and finished with four points on 1-of-4 shooting and five rebounds. He logged 19 minutes.
Wendell Lewis had a solid game off the bench, with five points and nine boards, including five on the offensive glass.