By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – At a time when Ole Miss needs to play its best basketball, Rebels coach Andy Kennedy would like to see his most talented players play their best at the same time.
Most of the preseason buzz around Ole Miss centered on guards Chris Warren and Terrico White – Kennedy refers to them as his all-league guys – who have shown ability and production but rarely in the same game.
They’ve also shown the capability of disappearing, statistically, in big games.
It’s a big one tonight, as Ole Miss (17-7, 5-5 SEC) takes on No. 17 Vanderbilt (19-5, 8-2) at 6 p.m., at Tad Smith Coliseum. The game will be on ESPNU.
The Commodores enter with an RPI ranking of 17 and present an opportunity for Ole Miss, at No. 51, to climb in a category favored by the NCAA tournament selection committee when awarding at-large bids.
Warren leads the Rebels with 16.2 points a game but scored just three when Ole Miss lost 71-63 at Mississippi State a week ago. He’s been the most consistent scorer but was just 1-for-9 from the floor, 1-for-7 from 3-point range against the Bulldogs.
White, who had considered declaring for the NBA draft last year after his freshman season, is averaging 14.8 points, a figure that has steadily declined from more than 17 points a game early on. He was benched against MSU but played 31 minutes and had 13 points on 6-for-12 shooting. He was 1-for-4 from 3-point range.
“I really can’t tell you why we haven’t played well together,” Warren said. “As a player, I don’t want to speak for Terrico. We go out there and play hard. Some games are better than others. We will continue to battle and give it our all.”
White and Warren scored more than 12 points in the same game seven times against the pre-conference schedule.
Against the SEC they’ve reached double figures together just four times. At Kentucky, White had 19 and Warren 15, but Warren hit some late shots after the game had been decided.
In a road win at LSU, White scored only one point.
Their best combined games have been against Tennessee – White with 17 and Warren with 19 – and against Auburn – White with 19 and Warren with 20.
“Those guys have been tremendous players for us and have put us in a position where we still control our destiny,” Kennedy said. “I expect them to be all-league performers every night. Some nights they perform that way, and other nights we need other people to step up in their absence.”
Up and down
It was White who stepped into Warren’s absence last year. Warren tore up a knee in mid-December. He was done for the year, and Kennedy gave White the ball at point guard. As a freshman he excelled, beating opponents off the dribble and scoring from the perimeter.
Back at the shooting guard position upon Warren’s return, White’s numbers have decreased. Last year he averaged 18.4 points and 2.9 3-point baskets in SEC play. This season against the league, White is averaging 11.1 points, 1.1 3-pointers and is shooting just 25 percent behind the arc.
Kennedy refutes the theory that the position change is the root of White’s trouble.
“Terrico has the ball in his hands more than anybody on our team,” he said. “We’ll continue to put the ball in his hands, and then he has to do what we know he’s capable of doing.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or email@example.com.
No. 17 Vanderbilt at Ole Miss
– TV: ESPNU
– Radio: Ole Miss Network, XM 200, Sirius 213
– Series: Vanderbilt leads 70-39.
– Last Game: Vanderbilt 71-61 in Nashville last year.
– Coaches: Ole Miss – Andy Kennedy (99-59, fifth year; 78-45, fourth year at Ole Miss); Vanderbilt – Kevin Stallings (331-196, 17 seasons, 208-133 11th season at Vanderbilt)
– Notes: Ole Miss is 3-6 against ranked opponents over the last three seasons, 0-4 this season. … Ole Miss is 30-21 against Vanderbilt in Oxford and has won nine of the last 11. … Chris Warren’s 21 20-point games ranks fifth among active SEC players. … Vanderbilt’s A.J. Ogilvy has 22 such games to rank fourth.
Ole Miss (17-7, 5-5 SEC)
F – Terrance Henry 6-9 So. 5.8 ppg 3.0 rpg
G – Chris Warren 5-10 Jr. 16.2 ppg 3.4 apg
G – Eniel Polynice 6-5 Jr. 10.8 ppg 4.2 apg
G – Zach Graham 6-5 Jr. 9.3 ppg 3.1 rpg
F – Murphy Holloway 6-7 So. 9.6 ppg 6.8 rpg
Top reserves: G Terrico White, G Trevor Gaskins, F DeAundre Cranston
No. 17 Vanderbilt (19-5, 8-2 SEC)
F – Steve Tchiengang 6-9 So. 3.2 ppg
F – Jeffery Taylor 6-7 So. 13.9 ppg 5.3 rpg
C – A.J. Ogilvy 6-11 Jr. 13.3 ppg 6.0 rpg
G – Jermaine Beal 6-3 Sr. 14.8 ppg 2.9 apg
G – Brad Tinsley 6-3 So. 7.7 ppg, 3.0 apg
G John Jenkins
F Andre Walker
C Festus Ezeli