Well holy good god almighty. The second half Rebels can fight for their life. Riding eight, yes eight, Stefan Moody 3-pointers, the Ole Miss roundballers shut down human wrecking ball Craig Sword and stole a win over Mississippi State in Starkville, 71-65. The Rebels nudged their overall record to 18-8 (9-4 SEC) and hammered one more nail into their NCAA Tournament bid's body box. Whew.
Ole Miss has played some notoriously bad first-half basketball this season, and Thursday's rumble was no exception. The Rebel men trailed 32-27 at halftime as Clanga's offensive rebounding seemed unstoppable. To be sure, the Bulldogs outscored Ole Miss in the paint 30-18. Also, if anyone can succinctly explain "basket inference" to someone who had a pretty firm idea of what basket inference is, please come collect your Andy Kennedy FatHead.
Bumping on a career-high 29 points, Moody flushed an-also-career-high eight treys, topping his previous best of six against Western Kentucky. Said Andy Kennedy following the game, "He's a monster athlete." Stefan, my man, you should run for office.
For the first time since 1998, Ole Miss has swept a basketball season series with State. Though down by as much as 10 midway through the first half, the Rebel hoopsters clawed back for a pretty much mandatory win.
What three things did we learn from Thursday's fiasco in the Hump?
1. The low post game seemed off at times.
Good lord this game was physical. Clanga's Roquez Johnson took a nasty Martavious Newby elbow to the head midway through the first half that sent the Bulldogs' leading scorer to the locker room. Newby himself began the second half sporting a gauzed-up chin for his troubles. Sebastian Saiz -- tower that he is -- got knocked around plenty, while M.J. Rhett played at times beautiful and at other times quicksand basketball.
Most concerning was the Rebels' 9-1 deficit in the offensive rebounding column mid-way through the fist half. Or perhaps it was the 14 second-chance points State had gained alongside that disparity. Either way, a tournament-bound team needs more up-and-at-'em on the boards to hang with the Iowas and Temples of the world.
2. Terence Smith can ball.
Jarvis Summers didn't bounce back for that scoring spurt as AK (and the rest of Rebel nation) had hoped, but fear not, because Smith's got this. Dude planted eight points and five assists alongside two ever-so-timely threes late in the first half that, had they missed, Rebel morale and stick-to-it-iveness could have easily turned bleak. It's also refreshing to see Smith and Summers complement one another on the open floor, and Thursday night it seemed that AK preferred Jarvis off the ball for the dish from Terence. It's too bad those shots never came, but in any case, thanks, Terence.
3. The Rebels can play from behind.
Say what you will about Andy Kennedy, but the guy can turn this team around at halftime. We've pointed this out before, but for whatever reason these Rebel men play well in the last 20 minutes. Ole Miss came out of the locker room with a 12-4 run that put them in control of the game, and 50 percent field-goal shooting over the second period certainly helped things.
Or maybe we should all just thank Stefan again. Thanks, Stefan.
Ole Miss on Saturday hosts a Tennessee squad that played Kentucky tight for a good long time this week. These two-day-rest weeks sure are getting old.