Well, it was not pretty, but the Rebels and Andy Kennedy are definitely going to take tonight’s win over Alabama State as they prepare for its biggest contest of the season Thursday night against Louisville in the SEC/Big East Challenge in Cincinnati.
Alabama State jumped out early and blistered the net in the first half shooting 58.6% from the field, while the Rebels posted 42% first half performance from the floor, which put them down five going into half time.
Down five points going into half time is never a desirable position to be in when your coach is Andy Kennedy and the team is already fragile physically and mentally. However, the Rebels came out shooting lights out in the second half, unfortunately Alabama State did not simmer down too much either.
Ole Miss was able to close the Hornet lead thanks to some clutch shots from Chris Warren and David Huertas. They took the lead with just under ten minutes to play and didn’t look back as they preserved an 85-81 victory over the Alabama State Hornets.
Per usual, Chris Warren and David Huertas led the way offensively combining for 41 points (16 and 25 respectively). Huertas continued his lights out shooting going 8-13 from the field and 3-6 from beyond the arc.
The output from Warren and Huertas is not that shocking, but the performances of the Rebels post players, at least on offense, should be cause for optimism for the fans and Kennedy.
Malcolm White may have finally broken out and overcame whatever mental hindrance was causing him to play like John Engstrom and make the decisions comparable to the Auburn Athletic Department. White had 12 points on the night and was one rebound away from a double double. The numbers are nice, but it was his key and one play towards the end of the game that really stood out for White. Kennedy and the Rebels have to be hoping that White is able to use this game to his advantage and help the Rebels, because God knows they will need it, against Louisville on Thursday.
White was not the only post player who showed some things tonight. Murphy Holloway poured in fifteen points on the night and finished the game with 6 rebounds. The Rebels will take what they can get at this point. The overall ball movement looked much better tonight than it has in games past. We had more open looks under the basket and saw more players get an opportunity to do something with the rock. The Rebels need to continue to work on their ball movement and look for easy opportunities with that extra pass. That or just let Huertas shoot every possession.
Reality check though. Alabama State is much better than their record (1-6) and has played decent talent throughout the season. Still, this victory is nothing to get too excited over. Ole Miss only out rebounded the Hornets by one and never really put the game away at any point.
The defense has to show up at some point. I saw flashes of effort from players like Terrance Henry last night with his hustle on the press and even in the post, but it’s just not there on a consistent basis. The post players must continue to develop and keep trying, they cannot continue to rely on Warren and Huertas to shoot them back into games because of their porous defense.
So, do not get too excited over tonight’s victory, I hope you are sane enough to realize that without me having to tell you to. We won, that is good. We won by four against Alabama State, that is kind of bad. This team still has the potential to do well, it is just a matter of time and whether or not the coaches can find a way to make them gel.