ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 10: Head coach Andy Kennedy of the Ole Miss Rebels reacts against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Georgia Dome on March 10, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
It was a tough second half, but the Rebels gutted out a victory over DePaul last night on the back of Murphy Holloway and his 16/12 game. Holloway played an excellent game, driving to the basket repeatedly, communicating well with Reggie Buckner and Terrance Henry, and attacking the boards. Ole Miss led by as many as 19 but wound up with a tie staring at eight seconds remaining. Luckily, Jeremiah Kelly missed both free throws, and on the ensuing rebound, Cleveland Melvin had the ball stripped by Holloway who raced down the court and put the Rebels up with three seconds remaining. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Reggie Buckner deflected the ball, and Jarvis Summers dove on it to ensure the victory.
The first half was a thing of beauty. The Rebels were attacking the basket (attempting only two three pointers in the first half of play) and playing stifling defense. They were hustling for every loose ball and forcing DePaul's limited bigs into foul trouble. Honestly, if we can play like we played in the first half in SEC play, we can definitely win ten. I'm not saying we'll do that, but it's something of which we've proven capable.
Offensively, our gameplan coming in was perfect for this year's team. Get the ball down low, and let our experienced bigs win it for us. We ATTEMPTED three three-pointers last night. I can't believe it.
There are three noticeable things on which we need to improve:
1. Free throw shooting - The Rebels were 11-28 on the night on a shot with "free" in the title. If we had been even decent at the charity stripe, the game wouldn't have been close.
2. Limiting turnovers - The Rebs turned the ball over twenty times last night. Sure, DePaul's turnover-based defense also allowed us to abuse them in the paint, but we're going to have to show that we can defeat the press more consistently to handle some of the better defensive teams on our schedule. I'm chalking this up primarily to young, inexperienced guards. Hopefully it will improve a good bit during the season.
3. Perimeter defense - This wasn't an issue for much of the game, but in the second half we looked lost on drive-and-dish attacks from DePaul. It's alright to collapse a little bit on drives, but we can't leave good shooters open at the line.
Quick notes follow the jump.
- Murphy Holloway is my favorite player on the team. He should be yours too. The guy just never gives up defensively and knows how to create his own points on offense. One reason to be excited: Jelan Kendrick (who will be eligible just after our next game) is said to be quite similar. It will be fun to have two of those guys on the court at the same time.
- Nick Williams was statistically our second biggest contributor (17 points, 4 rebounds). Williams is easily our most disciplined guard, and he has some pretty shots I'm not sure he had last season. He knows his limitations and thrives off a solid mid-range game. Williams looked good early last season before fading, but I'm hoping the fade was more of a slump than the norm. Either way, he's helping us win right now.
- Reggie Buckner was in beast mode with nine points, nine rebounds, and five blocks. Equally as impressive, he played 30 minutes and only picked up three fouls. His stats don't even tell the whole tale. Buckner was all over the court last night. He had several dunks, several blocks out of nowhere, and intimidated opposing shooters non-stop in the paint. We need more games like this from Buckner is we hope the pre-season All-SEC player will be a post-season All-SEC player.
- Jarvis Summers impressed me at times. He finished with six turnovers, which is incredibly alarming, but he was facing his first college press and didn't absolutely lose it. Summers goes to the basket with the ball, passes adequately, and plays good perimeter defense. He'll be good in time. He is NOT, however, the best freshman Kennedy has ever had (as One Man To Beat texted me last night). Chris Warren was a baller as a freshman.
- The use of Demarco Cox is so strange to me. He started last night's game but ended up playing just eight minutes, four of which came early in the second half in an effort to ensure that Terrance, Murph, and Buckner weren't in foul trouble late. Cox isn't a great player right now, but he's not bad. But more than that, if you only want to play him for eight minutes per game, why start him? Were we just unsure how much Buckner would be able to play coming off the injury?
- I'm not sure how I feel about Dundrecous Nelson. During the game, I was quite upset with his play. He turned the ball over five times and really struggled to handle it. That said, he didn't jack up threes from five feet off the line, and he produced a clutch and-one late in the game. I think Nelson will benefit a lot from Kendrick's entry to the lineup because he can shift over to a more permanent 2 guard and not have to handle the ball as much.
- Terrance Henry absolutely disappeared last night. I have no explanation for it. He finished with four points, two rebounds, one assist, one turnover, and was 0-3 on free throws. He has played well this year, but we can't afford games like this from the only senior who plays in games.
The Rebels face a solid Penn State team Sunday night at 5. I for one will be
watching listening (thanks Big Tenelve Network). This style of basketball is really fun to follow.