By Parrish Alford | NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The question is not whether Murphy Holloway will be available. It’s certain that he will not.
The question for Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy is who will fill the void created while his top rebounder is on the mend?
Holloway sustained what has been called a severe ankle sprain in a 68-56 loss to Middle Tennessee, the second in what has grown to a three-game losing streak.
In their first game without Holloway the Rebels lost 62-50 at Dayton last Friday. They were outrebounded by 10, and Holloway has been good for 9.6 a game through the non-conference season.
Ole Miss (9-4) plays its final non-conference game tonight at 8 against SMU (8-5). The game will be televised by Fox Sports Net.
In addition to Holloway’s absence against Dayton, the Rebels’ leading scorer, Dundrecous Nelson, wasn’t cleared to play until the day of the game, having sustained a mild concussion.
Nelson is averaging 12.3 points a game off the bench. He played a largely ineffective 16 minutes, going 2 for 8 from the floor, 0 for 4 from 3-point range.
“We were inefficient, unable to make timely shots and still bad at the free throw throw line,” Kennedy said. “The difference in the game was defensively, the fact that you take out Murph’s 10 rebounds, and we come up 10 short. We gave up a lot of second-chance points, and that separation ultimately caused our demise.”
Holloway is progressing nicely but won’t play tonight. Kennedy is hopeful he’ll return Saturday in the SEC opener at LSU.
In the meantime he would welcome greater production from two late freshman additions, but he’s challenged his older players to make a more measurable impact.
LaDarius White and Jelan Kendrick both joined the mix at the close of the fall semester. White had 16 points in his debut, against Mississippi Valley State, but has just 11 points in three games since.
Kendrick, the McDonald’s All-American who transferred from Memphis, played 29 minutes against Middle Tennessee but just 16 at Dayton.
“I try to put the onus on our upperclassmen,” Kennedy said. “It’s unfair for the freshmen for us to rely upon them from a consistency standpoint. The reality is they’ve still not been through the grind, day in and day out.”
SMU lost by 19 to Colorado State on a neutral court in the second game of the year.
The Mustangs’ four other losses have been by six points or fewer, including a double-overtime defeat against Oklahoma State, 68-58, on Dec. 28. Three days later the Mustangs won 73-65 against La. Tech and first-year head coach Michael White – Kennedy’s lead assistant for five years at Ole Miss.
SMU runs a motion-based offense with lots of passing and cutting. Forward Robert Nyakundi leads the Mustangs in scoring (16.0 ppg) and rebounding (5.9 rpg).
“They can extend you to the three-point line, which pulls your bigs away from the basket and makes them uncomfortable,” Kennedy said. “They play an amoeba-style matchup zone that keeps you off balance. We’ll have to be aggressive and move the ball, and when the time comes to step up and make a shot, we have to be more consistent in that area.”