For the second time in as many weeks, Ole Miss embarks on a Thursday-Saturday swing, returning home to host Tennessee on Saturday after a 71-65 win on Thursday at Mississippi State.
During the previous week, Ole Miss was on the right side of a one-point game in a 62-61 win at Florida on Thursday and on the wrong side of a one-point game in a 71-70 loss to Arkansas on Saturday.
"It was a little bit different because we had played Arkansas before," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We haven't played Tennessee, and they play an unusual style with that matchup zone."
Junior guard Stefan Moody scored a career-high 29 points and knocked down a career-high eight 3-pointers in the win over Mississippi State. He has averaged 20.0 points over his last six games, upping his season average to a team-leading 16.2 points per game, which ranks fourth in the SEC.
Senior guard Terence Smith has also emerged as a key piece for the Rebels, picking up some of the slack at the point guard position. He finished with eight points and five assists in 17 minutes off the bench in the win over the Bulldogs. He was 2-for-4 from 3-point range and assisted on each of Moody's three 3-pointers in a 1:22 stretch late in the game.
"He was really good for us with his decision-making," Kennedy said. "He made a couple of huge shots in the first half, which kept us afloat when we struggling in other areas... Terence Smith has been very valuable for us."
With the win over Mississippi State, Ole Miss jumped up five spots to No. 33 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA and remains a team projected to be solidly in the field as a No. 9 seed in the latest bracket projections by CBS Sports, ESPN and USA Today.
Ole Miss is 7-5 against the RPI top 100, and Tennessee, ranked No. 82 entering Saturday's game, presents another opportunity for the Rebels to continue to enhance their resume and move one step closer to a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
"I was excited at the end (of the game Thursday), simply because I didn't think we played well and I was proud of my guys for winning a hard road game when you don't play well," Kennedy said. "We've won four straight on the road, and it's probably the first time in those four I didn't feel like we played well. For us to win under those circumstances, it's something positive we can build on."
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The game hung in the balance.
Mississippi State had just regained a 54-52 lead with 6:25 left, taking advantage of a 6-0 run. Head coach Andy Kennedy challenged his team, and junior guard Stefan Moody answered the bell.
"Coach was looking for somebody to step up and make some plays," Moody said. "I told him I wanted the ball, and he gave it to me."
As part of a 9-3 run, the junior from Kissimmee, Florida, knocked down three straight 3-pointers, his sixth, seventh and eighth of the game, all from around the same spot on the floor, on the wing nearest the Ole Miss bench.
The spurt turned a two-points deficit into a four-point lead, and the Rebels did not trail the rest of the game on the way to a 71-65 win on Thursday night at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville.
"I challenged guys in the huddle, and he was the only guy who responded," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "He was the only guy who even showed a pulse, so we ran action through him. He made one, and you know me well enough that if you make one, I'm going to see if you make seven, and he made three straight huge ones."
Moody finished with a career-high 29 points and knocked down a career-high eight 3-pointers, joining Marshall Henderson, Chris Warren and Keith Carter for second place in school history, two shy of Henderson's school record, set last season against Oregon.
The Rebels' leading scorer, Moody has been on a tear in recent games, averaging 20.0 points over his last six games, a stretch that has included SEC Player of the Week honors, a game-winning 3-pointer at Florida, and now a career high at Mississippi State.
"He's starting to accept the role as our go-to guy," Kennedy said. "That's difficult for a guy to do right out of the gate, especially for a guy who had not played at this level. He's much more comfortable understanding that we're going to go to him in those situations.
"When he gets it going, again eight big 3-pointers for us tonight, he's difficult to stay in front of."
The win gave Ole Miss its first win in Starkville since 2009 and its first season sweep of Mississippi State since 1998. More importantly, the Rebels, ranked No. 38 in the latest RPI released by the NCAA, avoided a loss to the Bulldogs, ranked No. 180 NCAA RPI.
"Mississippi State is much better than their numbers," Kennedy said. "Their RPI is the lowest in the SEC, borderline 200. This is one of the games, as difficult as it is to come in here and win, where it doesn't give you the pop from a numbers standpoint.
"I think our team has passed the eye test. It has. Now, our numbers have to makes sense. That's why this game was so important, to keep our numbers moving forward."
Ole Miss and Cal will play a home-and-home football series in 2017 and 2019, the schools and ESPN announced Thursday. It marks the Rebels' first matchup with a Pac-12 school in football and will be only the program's second visit to the Golden State, having traveled to Fresno State in 2011.
With the addition of Cal, Ole Miss now has matchups against other Power Five schools in seven of the next 11 years:
2016 vs. Florida State in Orlando
2017 at Cal
2019 vs. Cal
2022 at Georgia Tech
2023 vs. Georgia Tech
2024 at Wake Forest
2025 vs. Wake Forest
The neutral-site matchup against Florida State marks the first time the Rebels will play a power-five conference team in the regular season since a home-and-home with Texas in 2012 and 2013.
Ole Miss continues to work toward finding matchups for the 2018, 2020 and 2021 season, which would satisfy a new Southeastern Conference strength-of-schedule component that requires all schools to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basis, a component that goes into effect in 2016.
Here's a rundown of other scheduling news:
Ole Miss announced the dates for the Rebels' nonconference opponents for 2016:
Sept. 5 vs. Florida State in Orlando
Sept. 10 vs. Wofford
Oct. 1 vs. Memphis
Nov. 5 vs. Georgia Southern
Ole Miss also announced the movement of nonconference matchups of a road game at Memphis, from 2017 to 2019, and a home game against Tulane, from 2017 to 2019, and the addition of nonconference matchups, all home games, against Tennessee-Martin (2017), Southeastern Louisiana (2019) and Tulane (2025).
The road game at Memphis in 2019 marks the fourth game of a four-year contract to renew the football series, a series resumed with a home game in 2014 and will continue with a road game in 2015 and another home game in 2016.
For more, check out Ole Miss Future Football Schedules.
Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Feb. 10-16, 2015
- Ole Miss saw its six-game winning streak snapped with a one-point loss to No. 23 Arkansas Saturday night. Junior guard Stefan Moody and senior forward M.J. Rhett each scored 16 points to lead the Rebels, but Ole Miss fell in the last seconds to the Razorbacks.
- That was the second winning streak of six games or better against SEC foes under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just three such winning streaks in the 71 years before Kennedy's arrival.
- Moody scored a game-high 18 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds on the clock to lift Ole Miss to a 62-61 win over Florida.
- The Rebels overcame a five-point halftime deficit to knock off the Gators, thanks to Moody, who was 5-of-10 shooting from the floor - including a 4-for-7 mark from 3-point range - and senior G LaDarius White, who scored 16 points off the bench.
- The win marked the Rebels first in Gainesville since 1999 and gave Ole Miss its first season sweep of the Gators since 1990.
- Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting 78.9 percent of its attempts, which would rank second in the NBA. The Rebels have hit 280 of their last 347 (.807) attempts from the line.
- Moody leads the SEC and ranks seventh in the nation shooting 90.4 percent from the free throw line.
- Ole Miss started the season winning two out of three against William & Mary, improving to 14-1 in season openers under head Coach Mike Bianco
- The Rebels have now won 11 season-opening weekend series during the Bianco era
- Ole Miss recorded 11 doubles during the series to tie for the most in the SEC
- The Rebels clinched the series with a 16-2 victory in game two of Saturday's doubleheader, the most runs scored by Ole Miss since facing Arkansas State last season, May 13, 2014
- J.B. Woodman smacked three doubles in the series finale, becoming the first Rebel to accomplish that feat since Alex Yarbrough did it against Arkansas, April 20, 2012
- Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in attendance in 2015 after bringing in an average of 8,489 fans during three games over the weekend for a total attendance of 25,469
- Senior forward Tia Faleru is 10 rebounds shy of her 800th career rebound. She will become one of seven players with 1,000 points and 800 rebounds and 150 steals.
- Additionally, Faleru is approaching her 100th career assist and should she reach that, she will become one of a mere four players in program history with 1000 points, 800 rebounds, 150 steals and 100 assists.
- With her 18 points and 15 rebounds against Missouri, Faleru picked up her 30th career double-double. It moved her into the top five all-time at Ole Miss and gave her 10 double-doubles on the season. After going three straight games without a double-double, she has posted one in two of the last three games.
-A'Queen Hayes had a career-high 16 points against Missouri for her eighth game in double figures this season and her first since scoring 12 against Mississippi State.
- Fellow freshman Kiara Golden knocked down two triples against Missouri for her first points against an SEC foe and her third game with multiple three-pointers this season.
- Ole Miss posted a 3-1 performance at the Battle at the Beach this past weekend, winning the tournament with victories over Iowa State, St. Bonaventure and Coastal Carolina.
- Junior OF Bri Payne tied the school record for RBI in a game with six RBI against Iowa State on February 14, tying the mark set by DeDe Justice in the 2003 season.
- Three Rebels were named to the All-Tournament team, including junior OF Bri Payne, sophomore OF Miranda Strother and freshman OF Elantra Cox.
- Strother hit .586 for the weekend, while Cox hit .571 and Payne turned in a .556 performance with eight RBI, sparked by a grand slam in the first inning against Iowa State.
- With the offensive outburst that led to the three-game win streak to close out the weekend, the Rebels now have four players hitting above .300 for the season - four over .400.
- Srother leads the Rebel offense, batting at a .533 clip for the year with five RBI and a team-leading seven runs scored, joining with Elantra Cox to hit above .500 on the year.
- Senior P Lauren Lindsey picked up her first win and save of the year, working 6.0 innings with no earned runs on Saturday in a win vs. Iowa State and save vs. Coastal Carolina.
- Sophomore P Emily Gaitan improved to 3-0 on the season with a win over St. Bonaventure with one earned run and a career-high 12 strikeouts against the Bonnies.
- The No. 24 Rebels won a pair of matches over the weekend, downing Tulane 6-1 and defeating William & Mary 5-2 to improve to 8-1 on the season.
- The 8-1 start equals their best start since the 1997 season.
- Senior Julia Jones rose to No. 7 in the nation this past week in the singles rankings and earned the highest ranking for a Rebel since two-time All-American Kristi Boxx was ranked No. 9 on April 10, 2012.
- The No. 19 Rebels participated in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships this past weekend. They lost a close 4-1 match to No. 2 Oklahoma, who made the final, and then rallied to defeat No. 10 UCLA 4-3 on Saturday. The Rebels concluded play with a 4-0 loss to No. 6 Duke.
- Stefan Lindmark was up in the third set and Vinod Gowda had split when Oklahoma clinched 10-8 in the third set tiebreaker at No. 4 singles.
- Senior Nik Scholtz picked up another ranked this weekend, beating Oklahoma's Andrew Harris, who is ranked No. 26.
Track & Field
- The Rebels had their final tuneups for the SEC Indoor Championships at two of the best track meets of the season this past weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas (Tyson Invitational) and Seattle, Washington (Husky Classic).
- Ole Miss athletes achieved a total of 15 personal-best marks between the two meets.
- Among the highlights for the men were Branden Greene's personal-best 7-1 in the high jump (ranks him fourth in school history), Craig Engels' personal-best 4:01.19 in the mile (ranks him fourth in school history) and MJ Erb's personal-best 14:11.34 in the 5,000 meters (ranks him fourth in school history).
- The women were led by personal bests from Shannon Ray in the 200 (23.92, ranks her fourth in school history) and Mary Alex England in the 5,000 (16:49.86, ranks her second in school history).
- Ole Miss men that rank top 40 in the NCAA are Jalen Miller in the 60 (3rd, 6.55), Robert Domanic in the mile (38th, 4:00.62), Robert Semien in the 60 hurdles (36th, 7.90), the distance medley relay (18th, 9:40.51), Branden Greene in the high jump (20th, 7-1), Adam Aguirre in the high jump (37th, 7-0.25) and Phillip Young in the long jump (23rd, 24-9) and triple jump (7th, 52-9.5).
- Ole Miss women that rank top 40 in the NCAA are Brooke Feldmeier in the 800 (9th, 2:05.27), Kierra White in the long jump (40th, 19-9.5) and Fabia McDonald in the pentathlon (17th, 4,057).
- The Rebels dropped a pair of matches this past weekend, falling to Navy at home before traveling to Jacksonville State.
- Freshman Jessica Haig turned in a career-best performance in air rifle against Navy with a 591. She then fired a personal best 573 in smallbore on Sunday.
The men's basketball team marches on toward March, the baseball team opened the 2015 season with a series win over William & Mary and the softball team prepares for its home opener under first-year head coach Mike Smith. The winter sports are in full swing, while the spring sports have begun in earnest, so there are no shortage of thoughts and opinions on the week that was. Let's get into it:
- Valentine's Day was a busy day on the Ole Miss campus, with a baseball doubleheader, followed by a men's basketball nightcap, and Rebel Nation turned out in full force. Swayze Field was business as usual and will get better as the weather warms up, while the atmosphere at the Tad Pad was as electric as I can remember. It was fun spending the day with all y'all.
- The Ole Miss men's basketball team saw its its six-game winning streak, as the Rebels were on the right side of a one-point game in a 62-61 win at Florida on Thursday and on the wrong side of a one-point game in a 71-70 loss to Arkansas on Saturday.
- Impressive Stat #1: It was the second winning streak of six games or better against SEC foes under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just three such winning streaks in the 71 years before Kennedy's arrival.
- The Rebels have been a regular on SportsCenter top 10 plays this season, and Stefan Moody became the latest to make the highlight, landing the No. 4 spot on Thursday night with his game-winning 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left on the clock.
- Where Ole Miss made the play in a one-point win over Florida, the Rebels did not make the play in a one-point loss to Arkansas. Ole Miss had the ball up 70-69 with less than a minute to play. The Rebels had an offensive possession to extend the lead, a defensive possession to secure the lead and a final offensive possession to regain the lead, but they could not make the play in any instance, while the Razorbacks made the play in each instance. It happens.
"We made the shot Thursday night (against Florida) in a highly-contested game," Kennedy said. "We missed the shot tonight, and Arkansas made the play. I told the team that I didn't think we lost the game; I thought Arkansas won it."
- The Rebels continue to get production from their ever-improving big men, highlighted by M.J. Rhett's 16-point, nine-rebound game against Arkansas, perhaps his best game in an Ole Miss uniform, as they won the rebounding battle, 45-31, a margin that included 21 offensive rebounds compared to nine for the Razorbacks.
- Since big games in wins over Florida and Mississippi State, Jarvis Summers has seen a dip in production, averaging 6.8 points and shooting 25 percent from the floor, including 2-for-12 from 3-point range, over the last five games. For the Rebels to reach their full potential and perhaps make a run in March, they need more of the Summers from last season.
"He has been hesitant," Kennedy said. "We've tried to do some things to get him to his strength, and we'll continue to do that."
- Despite the one-point loss to Arkansas, Ole Miss remains a team projected to be solidly in the field as a No. 9 or No. 10 seed, depending on the projection, but a potential RPI landmine looms large this week. Ole Miss play Mississippi State, a team ranked No. 187 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA, on the road in Starkville, where the Rebels have not won since 2009.
- The No. 18 ranked Ole Miss baseball opened the 2015 season, taking two of three in a weekend series against William & Mary. The Rebels showed a strong bounce-back, routing William & Mary 16-2 in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader after suffering an 8-1 loss in the first game of the doubleheader.
"The first game was disappointing, but it was encouraging to bounce back in game two," head coach Mike Bianco said. "We needed that effort from Bramlett to shut them down and let us swing. That's the knock against us. There are a lot of young guys playing, even though they played some last year. We have to take the punch and do something bad but not let it blow up."
- Impressive Stat #2: Ole Miss improves to 11-0-1 in weekend series to open the season under Bianco.
- J.B. Woodman, who moved to centerfield and the leadoff spot, is off to a fast start in his new role. He went 5-for-9 with three doubles, two runs scored and three RBI. Just as notable, he walked three times and did not strike out on the weekend.
"He's not your prototypical leadoff guy," Bianco said. "It's not that he can't lead-off and it's not that he doesn't have the skill-set to do that, but he also has a skill-set to hit a double and a home run. Some guys like Braxton Lee and Jordan Henry don't have that skill-set. You have to let (Woodman) swing, but he can also walk, steal bases and do a lot of different things."
- It will be interesting to watch how the weekend rotation evolves this season. Sam Smith took the loss in game two of the weekend series, while Brady Bramlett earned the win in the series-clincher and Sean Johnson, another candidate for a spot in the weekend rotation, worked out a scoreless inning out of the bullpen. There are three more weekends remaining, before the Rebels open SEC play on the road at No. 2 LSU.
"He couldn't get the ball into the strike zone," said Bianco of Smith's outing. "He had to stop throwing the two-seam fast ball and went to the four-seam fast ball. He basically had no other secondary pitch. It got away from him. Give credit to them. It was a just tough day, really uncharacteristic of him. Usually we're asking him to get the ball out of the strike zone and live on the edges. Today, he couldn't get close enough in there."
- ICYMI #2: Newsreel: Ole Miss Baseball 2015, shot with old-school film.
- Time is running out for the Ole Miss women's basketball team, as the Rebels fell short at home against No. 6 Tennessee on Thursday and on the road at Missouri on Sunday, a game they likely needed to move closer toward NCAA Tournament consideration.
- Ole Miss, now 14-11 overall and 4-8 in SEC play, has four regular-season games remaining and then at least one game the SEC Tournament. With one more win, the Rebels can clinch an overall record of .500 or better and eligibility of an at-large berth in the Postseason WNIT.
- As far as the NCAA Tournament, opportunities remain on the schedule, as Ole Miss plays three teams ranked in the top 65 of the RPI, including two in the top 30, and then there's the SEC Tournament.
- The Ole Miss softball team wrapped up its 10-game road swing to open the 2015 season, going 3-1 at the Battle at the Beach hosted by Coastal Carolina. First-year head coach Mike Smith and the Rebels return home to host the Red and Blue Classic at the Ole Miss Softball Complex, where they will play four games in three days, starting with Tennessee-Martin on Friday night (6 p.m. CT).
- The No. 19 ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team went 1-2 on the weekend at the ITA National Team Indoor in Chicago, highlighted by a thrilling 4-3 win over No. 10 UCLA in consolation play on Saturday. It was the Rebels' second top-15 win of the season, and they rallied from the brink of defeat, despite losing the doubles point and Nik Scholtz, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, dropping his first singles match of the season.
- The No. 24 ranked Ole Miss women's tennis completed a sweep of Tulane and William & Mary over the weekend, improving to 8-1 on the season and equaling its best start since 1997, when the Rebels also started 8-1. Julia Jones, ranked No. 7 in the nation, dropped her first dual match, only her fourth loss overall this season.
Riding a six-game winning streak, Ole Miss hosts No. 24 Arkansas in a battle for sole possession of second place in the SEC standings. The Rebels are looking for its fourth season sweep of Arkansas in the last five attempts, having won 96-82 on Jan. 17 in Fayetteville.
Junior guard Stefan Moody, a Kissimmee, Florida, native, knocked down the game-winning 3-pointer to give Ole Miss a 62-61 win at Florida on Thursday night, extending the winning steak to six games. The win also marked the Rebels' first in Gainesville since 1999 and gave them their first season sweep of the Gators since 1990.
Moody finished with a game-high 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting - including a 4-of-7 mark from 3-point range - while senior guard LaDarius White scored 16 points off the bench. Sophomore forwards Dwight Coleby (11 points, nine rebounds in 24 minutes) and Sebastian Saiz (six points, seven rebounds in 15 minutes) also provided key contributions in the frontcourt.
"We're playing well enough to win," said head coach Andy Kennedy on the SEC teleconference Monday. "I don't think we have not maxed out by any means. We're doing it a different way every game. My group is coming together. We're realizing the approach we have to take to be successful. Guys are giving great effort, and we're making enough plays to find a way to win."
Ole Miss, a team currently projected to be solidly in the field as a No. 8 or No. 9 seed, depending on the projection, looks to move one step closer to the NCAA Tournament with a win over Arkansas, ranked No. 23 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA, which would be the Rebels' second top-25 RPI and fourth top-50 RPI win this season.
For Ole Miss, Saturday marks the back-end of the first of two Thursday-Saturday swings, while Arkansas has two extra days of rest after a 101-87 win at Auburn on Tuesday night.
"The luxury is we have played them before," said Kennedy of Arkansas and the Thursday-Saturday swing in a media opportunity Tuesday. "It's not something we have to ready ourselves for us, other than they're a quality opponent on a quick turn.
"You look at it two ways. The reality is we have more time on the front-end to prepare for Florida, and another day of rest during this time of year, which you can never undervalue. The flip side is you have to turn really quickly and get ready for another quality opponent. Everybody goes through the turn. Such is the life in this day and age of TV."
After advancing to the College World Series in 2014, the Ole Miss baseball team is set to open the 2015 season with a three-game series at home against William & Mary, starting Friday at 4 p.m. CT.
Here's a look at the opening day lineup via @CoachMikeBianco
Ole Miss enters the 2015 season ranked in three of the six major national polls, coming in at No. 18 in D1Baseball.com and USA Today Coaches' polls and No. 19 in the NCBWA poll.
More From OleMissSports.com and Ole Miss Blog:
More Big-Picture Stories:
Closer look at opening day lineup, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com
How will Ole Miss baseball look in 2015?, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Deep, talented SEC looks for another run at CWS, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press
Ole Miss baseball has talent to keep good times rolling, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Rebels not sitting on last year's success, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal
More Player Feature Stories:
Bramlett recovered and ready to start, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com
Knight Time, writes Jeff Roberson from the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
Freshman Blackman expected to make impact, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com
More from D1Baseball.com:
D1Baseball.com's breakdown of No. 18 Ole Miss from Kendall Rogers
Ole Miss is picked to finish third in the SEC West and second baseman Tate Blackman was named preseason SEC Freshman of the Year in D1Baseball.com's SEC preview from Kendall Rogers
Ole Miss is projected as a No. 2 seed in the TCU (Fort Worth) Regional in D1Baseball.com's Preseason Field of 64
D1Baseball.com's survey of head coaches on the new lower-seamed baseballs and their impact on college baseball from Aaron Fitt
More from Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com:
Pre-SEC Ole Miss opponent capsules, looking at the nonconference schedule prior to SEC play
Bjork clarifies baseball student guidelines, talking about the new student guidelines for right field at baseball games
Freshman Kyle Watson vying for time in left field and other notes
Ole Miss takes its five-game winning streak on the road at Florida, the team which the Rebels defeated to start the winning streak back on Jan. 24. The Gators have gone 2-2 since the first meeting this season, defeating Alabama and Arkansas, before dropping their last two games on the road at Vanderbilt and at home against No. 1 Kentucky.
More notably, Florida will be without Michael Frazier, who head coach Billy Donovan said "won't be in a position to play Thursday night" and could be out "a couple of weeks" with a high ankle sprain.
Frazier averages a team-high 13.2 points per game and shoots 40.1 percent from 3-point range, which ranks third in the Southeastern Conference. In the first meeting against Ole Miss, Frazier scored a game-high 27 points, knocking down six 3-pointers and going 7-of-7 from the free throw line.
"We had to play the whole second half without him on Saturday (against Kentucky)," said Donovan in his weekly press conference Monday. "I thought our guys competed well. Again, it's not one guy that is going to have to make up for a player like Michael. It will have to be several guys to contribute and help. Hopefully guys like Devin Robinson and (Chris) Chiozza will have more of an opportunity on the perimeter than they had previously because Michael is not playing."
Without Frazier, watching Florida on the tape, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said they adjusted by spreading the floor and using their quickness, playing two smaller guards for the majority of the game. The big thing, Kennedy said, is it's one less guy to locate, especially when they play zone defense.
On the other sideline, the Rebels' leading scorer, Stefan Moody, a Kissimmee, Florida, native, was held to a season-low six points on 2-of-10 shooting from the floor and 0-of-5 shooting from 3-point range in the first meeting against Florida. Entering this second meeting, Kennedy expects a better approach from Moody, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, coming off a week in which he averaged 17.0 points per game in wins over Texas A&M and Auburn.
"I think his mindset is in a good place right now," Kennedy said. "He's coming off SEC Player of the Week. He's battled through almost everything, whether it's first-half foul trouble and coming through us big in the second half, or making the big play. He's been in hostile environments. I know he will be excited because he's playing in his home state. I'm sure he will have a lot of family and friends there. He's in a better place mentally because he's been productive and his confidence is where we would like to see it."
Ole Miss hasn't won in the O'Connell Center since 1999 and hasn't swept Florida in a season series since 1990, a testament to the quality of teams under Donovan and the frenzied environment the fans create in Gator Alley. Handling the Gators' defensive pressure, which can be dialed up by that environment, Kennedy said will be a one of the keys in the matchup.
"They're going to be all over us," Kennedy said. "We can't have live-ball turnovers. The biggest stat that sticks out to me in this five-game winning streak is we have turned it over less than nine times a game. That's huge and that's another thing we're going to be very conscious of down there on Thursday night. We can't give them opportunities in the open floor by making foolish mistakes. That's how we allowed Auburn to stay in the game."