Fresh off a fun win against then-ranked No. 19 Arkansas, the Rebel roundballers collapsed in Athens Tuesday, 69-64, and handed the other Bulldogs a welcome conference victory.
Such a low-scoring affair begs little exegesis, if only because neither side found enough rhythm to hold the game’s momentum for more than five minutes at a time. In short, we watched hoops-turned-chaos, and Georgia traversed the muck better than Ole Miss. Sigh.
AK’s men have played schizophrenic as all hell this season, so let’s
lay off the peyote take a look at the Rebels’ SEC report card thus far and flesh out some areas of improvement. After losing to Kentucky, beating South Carolina, losing to LSU, beating Arkansas, and now losing to Georgia, what can we say about this clunky Ole Miss squad?
1. Say it with me again: perimeter play will make us or break us.
The Rebels went stone-cold from three-point town last night. Against Arkansas, Ole Miss shot 8-of-15 beyond the arc, while at Georgia they stalled on 4-of-18. A Rebels basketball squad making four three-pointers in one game? Huh?
The simple explanation here is that the Rebels rushed their shot clocks. They pushed offensive possessions down the floor when no urgency loomed and thus they didn’t find solid looks. Such unwarranted speed also contributed to 14 turnovers (four by Jarvis Summers alone, ugh) to Georgia’s 10. Slow down, fellas.
2. Wanted: a more-established paint presence.
As we saw against LSU, the Rebels’ performance in the post against athletic teams this season is less than exceptional. In fact, it’s mediocre; often enough, it’s worse than mediocre. If Ole Miss wants to have any chance against top-tier teams in the SEC or even NCAA tournament, they need to muscle up in the paint. They’ve gotta work that outside-inside passing into an art, because too many dishes from the parabola end up batted away for turnovers.
Further, with Ole Miss as the best free-throw shooting team in the country, last night's gimme-stripe game was all out of whack. The Rebels took only 14 free throws to Georgia's 31. Thirty one damn free throws. In fact, Georgia gets sent to the freebie strip most in the SEC, and last night Ole Miss ran into foul trouble for the first time since Kentucky.
Sebastian Saiz is such a weirdo, but at the same time he’s hilarious to watch. Seriously, the guy turned in nine points and 10 boards before questionably fouling out with 1:39 left in the game. He was there, doing his thing, which too often includes bumbling inside dishes from Summers, Smith, or Moody. Like M.J. Rhett, Saiz’s emotion can impel this Rebel squad to wins, yet, Sebastian’s day-to-day streakiness renders him a questionable presence from game to game.
3. Distribute the ball, by damn.
Stefan Moody can ball, but he can’t carry the team. Five Rebel roundballers went for double-digit scoring against Arkansas, whereas Stefan outscored Saiz, Rhett, and Summers combined last night. Moreover, Georgia’s bench scored fourteen to Ole Miss’s nine points, which really puts the towel on a game in which Dwight Coleby contributed just four whole points.
Yet perhaps all ain’t for naught. Ole Miss hosts Florida this Saturday, and the Gators got bit bad at home by LSU last night. Ole Miss has inexplicably played better on the road than at the Sad Pad this season, so with a few days rest and some AK how’s-it-gonna-be, that weekend game seems downright winnable.