With wins over Auburn and Texas A&M, Ole Miss has won back-to-back SEC games for the first time since the final days of their six-game win streak at the start of conference play.
Since that hot start five losses over a seven-game span dropped the Rebels from looking like an NCAA tournament lock to familiar territory – having to string together wins at the end of the season to stay in the conversation.
“I think we’ve done that almost every year. I’m glad we weren’t at 4-7 trying to do it. We started 6-0 and had a slump. I’m glad we weren’t 4-7 and trying to make a run,” Holloway said.
The Rebels (21-7, 10-5 SEC) will be an overwhelming favorite to extend their win streak to three games Saturday when they face struggling rival Mississippi State.
The widely held belief is that Ole Miss needs to finish 13-5 in a weakened SEC to have a real shot at its first NCAA at-large bid since 2002.
After MSU, the Rebels have a quick turnaround with a Tuesday night home game against Alabama, then close the SEC regular season at LSU the following Saturday.
In beating the Aggies 82-73 Wednesday night, Ole Miss led by 18 points with 8 minutes, 34 seconds to play and kept A&M’s Elston Turner from lighting it up at the end.
Turner finished 25 points, 12 fewer than he had when Ole Miss lost by a bucket in College Station.
Ole Miss’ best players had average nights – or less than that – in the first meeting, but Marshall Henderson, Jarvis Summers and Holloway picked up the pace in the rematch.
That’s especially true for Summers, who was held to two points on the road but had 15 at home.
“We’re just tired of being that old Ole Miss team. It starts with me. I have to be more of a leader out there on the court and just bring my guys together. We’ve got to just stay focused,” Summers said.
Staying healthy would help too. The Rebels lost another post player when freshman Anthony Perez went down with a knee injury. His status for the remainder of the season is unclear.
“Ever since I’ve been here we’ve lost people. We’re going to be all right,” Holloway said. “I feel like we have a better team. I think we’re going to be all right.”