Given the icy conditions in Oxford on Wednesday night, it's unfortunately appropriate that the Rebel roundballers went cold from the field and dropped a rather important conference match to Georgia, 76-72. Don't be misled by the close score, though -- a mushy Ole Miss squad came to ball only here and there, while the other Bulldogs flushed threes all night.
Trailing by 11 points at halftime, and down by 14 with three minutes remaining, Andy Kennedy's men just couldn't quite scrap their way into a tit-for-tat affair. Despite a couple of welcome Terence Smith treys in the second half, Georgia out-muscled Ole Miss for a nasty, foul-laden victory that, excepting some weird-ass calls from the refs, should have been much closer. Seriously, how do Martavious Newby and Smith (Terence? Really?) earn four personal fouls in a game? WHAT?!
Alright. So the Rebs have won eight of their last ten. What do we take away from Wednesday's muckfest in the Tad Pad?
1. The Rebs put up trash defense against Georgia's big men.
The Bulldogs' Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic went batshit insane for 35 combined points. Thornton dragged off 13 rebounds and bulldozed his way to a 7-of-9 mark from the free-throw line. Further, the Rebs absolutely failed to adjust to Djurisic going full Dirk-Nowitzki-mode for 12 points from three-point land. Cover that dude!
All told, Georgia outgained Ole Miss in paint points, 24-20, despite the Rebels swiping more rebounds on the night, 47-43.
2. Ole Miss' perimeter turned to quicksand.
Georgia dropped 11-of-23 treys to Ole Miss' 6-of-29. In fact, the Rebs didn't hit a three in the first half, and they never fought off the 34-23 deficit.
It's been a trend this season to see Kennedy open games in man defense then shift to 1-3-1 zone after the fact. Yet, Georgia found gaps all over the floor on Wednesday and the Bulldogs' 17-10 assist advantage spelled a distribution dagger that Ole Miss couldn't handle. In truth, the Rebel guards seemed consistently stretched, and holes on the wings afforded uncontested Bulldog treys all damn night.
3. It's not so bad, though.
Alright, calm down. This win means far more to Georgia than the loss means to Ole Miss. The Rebs have been firmly in the bracketology math for a month now, while the Bulldogs are celebrating another lifeline win for March. Fear not.
Glancing down the Rebels' Wednesday production, the roundballers' depth continues to assert itself. Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers led the way with 19 and 13 points respectively, while Sebastian Saiz went wild down under for 12 points and 13 rebounds. Jarvis' partner-in-crime, Smith, also partied hard for 11 points on three absolutely beautiful ropes from beyond the arc.
Wednesday's loss stings somewhat down the stretch, since the Rebs' recent conference streak has gained them leverage against a total NCAA Tournament fail; at this point, truth be told, Ole Miss is arguing for seeding bids. AK's men must now turn their attention to LSU, which has lurked just beneath Ole Miss in the NCAA RPI all season. If the Rebs suffer a two-loss week against Georgia and LSU, the Rebs' 8 or 9-seed tournament bid grows much more volatile.