By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
NASHVILLE – Though the situation for his Ole Miss team is more dire, Andy Kennedy won’t be the only coach in the game looking for more consistency from his players.
The Rebels will try to get in the SEC win column for the first time this year tonight at place not known for success by the visitors – any visitors.
Tipoff at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym is 8 p.m., and the game will be televised by CSS.
Ole Miss (12-6, 0-3 SEC) watched Mississippi State and Georgia shred its defense in back-to-back home losses.
Vanderbilt (12-4, 1-2) is coming off back-to-back road losses where a double-figure second-half lead evaporated each time.
Commodores coach Kevin Stallings says he’s concerned about his team’s ability to close a game.
“We have to play better. We have to play more intelligently, more aggressively. We need to defend better, run better offense, rebound better … everything you can imagine we have to do better,” Stallings said.
But, Stallings concedes, things have gone better for Vanderbilt at its gym.
“We’ve been more inconsistent on the road than at home,” he said.
Home is where the Commodores will be tonight, where last Wednesday they defeated 73-66 the Georgia team that shot 63.5 percent in Oxford on Saturday and came within a bucket of hanging a hundred on the Rebels.
On both ends of their win, the Commodores lost at South Carolina and at Tennessee.
Ole Miss has lost 46 of 51 games at Memorial Gym, where team benches are on the end lines, not the sidelines, a change all SEC teams deal with but one those in the Western Division see only every other year.
“In the second half we’ll be going the opposite way from coach. He’ll be having to yell. We’ll still hear him, because he yells loud anyway,” Ole Miss forward Terrance Henry said. “It’s just him being on the other end. It comes down to us being able to execute as a team.”
Vanderbilt has won eight of the last nine in the series regardless of location and is 9-0 at home this season.
Guard John Jenkins (18.6 ppg) is the SEC’s top scorer and also leads the league in 3-point shots at 3.1 per game.
The Commodores are getting more production from junior center Festus Ezeli (6-11, 255), who is averaging 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots. Guard Brad Tinsley leads the SEC with 4.8 assists per game.
Vanderbilt is third in the SEC in field goal defense at 38.1 percent and No. 1 in 3-point defense at 28.3 percent.
“We know this,” Kennedy said. “If we go in and play like we’re capable, we have a chance. If this was a team that was not capable, I’d be really concerned. We haven’t shown we’re capable in the SEC yet, but we have shown it in our non-league. We have to re-visit some of that success to see how we were playing to get the right result.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600