It's a similar road to last year, as Ole Miss begins its SEC Tournament title defense on Thursday against the winner of the Vanderbilt-Mississippi State game. This year, a similar run would take an extra game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Ole Miss is the No. 6 seed, and the winner of Thursday's game advances to play No. 3 seed Georgia in Friday's quarterfinals, the round where the reigning SEC Tournament champion began its run through the field a year ago.
"There's not as much pressure," senior guard Marshall Henderson said. "Looking at the road that we have, we're excited about it. We're in the same position. We have the same path. We have to win one more game."
"We ended up finishing in the six seed, which as Marshall said, it's really the same road and the same time slot we had last year except we have one more game," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "Now, we're into the postseason. One missed assignment, one guy not doing his job on a set, one guy not making the proper rotation, one careless turnover, one missed free throw, and the season is over. I want them to understand, and my hope is that it won't increase pressure. Pressure doesn't exist until you allow it to exist. I want them to be on edge. I want them to be locked in and laser-focused, and then let's see how good we can be."
Henderson and junior guard Jarvis Summers were recently named to the All-SEC second team by the league's coaches, and any run through the tournament starts with them. Henderson leads the league averaging 3-pointers 4.29 3-pointers made per game and ranks third in scoring (19.0 ppg), while Summers ranks eighth in scoring (16.9 ppg) and is the only player in the league to rank among the top 10 in the SEC in scoring and field goal goal percentage and top five in assists.
"These two guys have to play well," Kennedy said. "I saw that they were both acknowledged as second team all all league players which is a tribute to them and they have got to carry us. If they play well, and we get some contribution from the guys who have shown capable, then we have a chance to stay around a few days."
Kennedy reiterated that they're still searching in the frontcourt, adding that he's still thinking about who is starting tomorrow night in their frontcourt. During last year's run, the Rebels got contributions from the supporting cast in sophomore guard Derrick Millinghaus and junior guard LaDarius White. This year, Kennedy said they need similar contributions from them, as well as Perez, the team's third-leading scorer in league play, and sophomore guard Martavious Newby, who has started each of the last three games after returning from a hand injury on Feb. 18 against Kentucky.
"Between Anthony, Snoop, now that Derrick is back with us, those three guys are getting the majority of the minutes, along with Newby now on the perimeter," Kennedy said. "Of those four, we need two of them to bring their 'A' game. If all four bring their 'A' game, we can play until Sunday. But we need two of those four to be really productive for us, and when we get that, this team has shown capable."
Ole Miss has played both No. 11 seed Vanderbilt and No. 14 seed Mississippi State twice, having completed the season sweep of the Commodores with a 65-62 win in Oxford this past Saturday. Ole Miss split the season series with Mississippi State, but the Rebels' loss back in January, however, was without Henderson.
"Obviously, if State wins tonight and we have the opportunity to play them, then, you know, it would be their Super Bowl in that they could go ahead and put us out of our misery," Kennedy said. "I think that whoever we play, simply because we have played them both twice and we are very familiar with them, we know what we have to do. We just have to go out and perform."
Chadwick and the Rebels won the program's first ever Southeastern Conference Championship. The Rebels navigated their way to a perfect 11-0 regular season conference record, losing their first and only conference match in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament to No. 9 Mississippi State 4-3 (Rebels earned a first round bye and defeated Tennessee 4-0 in the quarterfinals).
Throughout the season, the Rebels took down many terrific teams inside the powerful SEC, including then No. 6 Mississippi State 4-3, No. 10 LSU 5-2, No. 12 Florida 4-3, and No. 4 Georgia 4-3. To emphasize this amazing accomplishment further, the SEC finished the year with six teams inside the top 25 in the ITA Rolex Collegiate Rankings.
Although this was the first conference championship for the Rebels, Chadwick made sure it was not the last. Since the first title, the Rebels have gone on to win four more SEC regular season titles (1997, 2004, 2005, and 2009) in the toughest conference in the country.
As we chronologically navigate our way through these great moments, on Wednesday we will transition to 1997, a year that comprises five additional nostalgic moments. Stay tuned as we set the stage for another memorable year in Chadwick's career.
Follow the Rebels on Twitter, @OleMissMTennis and on Facebook at OleMissMTennis.
Special assistance from media relations student Wesley Boock.
March 3-10, 2014
- Ole Miss improved to 14-2 on the season with a series sweep of UALR this past weekend that included the team's fifth walk-off win of the season.
- The Rebels moved up to No. 12 (USA Today/Coaches) in the national rankings with the release of the latest national polls Monday.
- Freshman infielder Brantley Bell paced the Rebels with a .533 performance at the plate, including the game-tying run and game-winning hit vs. UALR on Friday night.
- Junior right-handed pitcher Sam Smith improved to 3-0 on the season with his quality start against UALR on Sunday to clinch the series sweep.
- Ole Miss completed a long, arduous week of softball last week. The Rebels opened the week by splitting a doubleheader in Salt Lake City on Monday, followed by a doubleheader sweep at home Tuesday before opening SEC play Friday at Gainesville, Fla., where the Rebels took one of three against the No. 1 ranked Florida Gators.
- Senior pitcher Carly Hummel had a fantastic week. Hummel threw the first perfect game in program history Monday in a 5-0 win over Utah State, and followed that performance with a three-hit, complete game shutout victory at No. 1 Florida. For her work, Hummel became the first Rebel to be named SEC Pitcher of the Week since 2009.
- Hummel finished the week with a team-high 20.0 innings of action, throwing a complete game in each of her three appearances. She posted a team-best ERA of 0.70, struck out a team-high 27 batters and walked just two. Her perfect game Monday is the only such performance in the SEC this season, and was just the fifth no-hit performance in Ole Miss history.
- Ole Miss' 2-0 victory at No. 1 Florida on Friday was its first win over a No. 1 ranked opponent since 2007, and was just the program's second ever such victory.
- Ole Miss has now won its SEC opener each of the past three seasons, including back-to-back seasons with SEC-opening wins over top-15 ranked opponents. The Rebels opened the 2013 season with a 3-1 win at No. 15 Kentucky.
- Ole Miss knocked off Vanderbilt 65-62 on Senior Day on Saturday. Senior guard Marshall Henderson, who was honored before the game, scored 11 second-half points as the Rebels erased a 12-point second half deficit to knock off the Commodores.
- Head coach Andy Kennedy picked up his 170th career win at Ole Miss and moved past Florida's Billy Donovan and Alabama's Wimp Sanderson for the third-most wins in SEC history by a coach in his first eight years in the league at one school.
- Henderson extended his own SEC record with a 3-pointer in his 64th-straight game
- The Rebels earned the No. 6 seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament. Ole Miss will be looking to defend last year's title as it opens play Thursday vs. the winner of the Mississippi State-Vanderbilt matchup.
- The Ole Miss women's basketball team advanced to the second round of the 2014 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament with a thrilling 63-62 win over Arkansas in opening round action Wednesday. The win was Ole Miss' first win in the SEC Tournament since the 2010 Tournament.
- Ole Miss concluded the 2013-14 season Thursday with a 70-54 loss to Auburn. Ole Miss concluded the season with a 12-20, 2-14 SEC record and advanced to the second round of the SEC Tournament. The loss marked the end of the collegiate careers for Valencia McFarland, Kenyotta Jenkins and Diara Moore.
- McFarland concludes her collegiate career as Ole Miss' No. 6 scorer with 1,655 career points. She also landed a spot on Ole Miss' single-season assists list. Her 201 assists in 2013-14 are the third most in a season at Ole Miss.
- The Rebels split the weekend, downing No. 13 Tennessee 4-1 and then falling to No. 16 Georgia 4-0 on the road.
- The Rebels have now won four straight against Tennessee. It also marked the first time this year for the Rebels to come back and win after losing the doubles point.
- William Kallberg knocked off No. 21 ranked Hunter Reese of Tennessee to clinch the win. It marked Kallberg's best win of the year and his best since a win over the nation's No. 3 ranked player his freshman year.
- The Rebels continue their road swing this weekend at No. 18 Vanderbilt and No. 22 Kentucky.
- The Rebels split a pair of matches this past weekend, defeating Tennessee 5-2 and then losing to No. 11 Georgia 5-2. The victory over Tennessee marked the Rebels third straight win against the Lady Vols in Oxford.
- In the win over Tennessee, freshman Zalina Khairudinova earned her best win of the season, upsetting No. 55 ranked Eve Repic at No. 1 singles.
- Khairudinova and Julia Jones are 10-2 on the year overall, 7-2 at No. 3 doubles.
- The Rebels continue their five match homestand with a midweek match against VCU Wednesday at Noon. On Friday, the Rebels will host No. 7 Vanderbilt at 3 p.m. followed by No. 22 Kentucky on Sunday at noon.
- The Ole Miss men's golf team competed at the Querencia Cabo Intercollegiate hosted by Southern Methodist University at the Los Cabos Querencia Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
- Freshman Ben Wolcott led the team with a three-round score of 220. Wolcott finished in a tie for 18th place, marking his second top-20 finish of the season.
- As a team, Ole Miss finished the tournament tied for 10th place with Lamar University. The Rebels posted a three-round total of 898.
- The Rebels will be back in action March 14 at the Chris Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Ga.
- The Ole Miss football team began spring practice on Tuesday and totaled three workouts in the first week before spring break.
- Among the new faces to the team this spring are high school early enrollees C.J. Hampton (DB), Kendrick Doss (QB) and Marquis Haynes (DE) and junior college transfers Jeremy Liggins (QB/TE) and Christian Russell (LB).
- Also enjoying the spring are Anthony Alford (DB) and Fadol Brown (DE), who are preparing to play this fall after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
- Ten players, assistant coach Tom Allen and team chaplain John Powell are doing mission work in Haiti during spring break. Among the players on the trip are Justin Bell, Serderius Bryant, Ryan Buchanan, Deterrian Shackelford and John Youngblood.
- The Rebels will return to the practice fields after spring break on Monday, March 17.
- Practices that will be held at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and open to the public are slated for March 22, March 29, April 4 and April 5 (Grove Bowl).
Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday as well as selected questions and answers from Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray, Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings and Georgia head coach Mark Fox.
Ole Miss is the No. 6 seed in this week's 2014 SEC Tournament in Atlanta and will play the winner of 11-seed Vanderbilt and 14-seed Mississippi State in the second round Thursday (approximately 8:25 p.m. CT, SEC TV/ESPN3). The winner of Thursday's game will play 3-seed Georgia in the quarterfinals Friday (approximately 8:25 p.m. CT, SEC TV/ESPN3).
We're excited about heading to Atlanta and competing in the SEC Tournament coming off a hard-fought win, which will hopefully give our guys some life moving forward.
On Arkansas' big loss at Alabama:
We're all living on a slippery slope. We played about as poorly as I have ever seen a team play from our vantage point against a team that played about as well as they could possibly play in Arkansas, and then both scripts got flipped. All I saw was the final score.
I was not surprised so much that Alabama won because Alabama is a good basketball team and it's hard to win on the road, but when I saw the score I was surprised because of how well Arkansas had been playing, and then as poorly as we played, we were able to bounce back and grind out a hard home win. It speaks to my theory, where I don't believe in game-to-game momentum; I believe in in-game momentum. Each game has a life in and of itself, and you have to prepared as such.
On making a run in the SEC Tournament:
Most everyone, especially when you have a lot on the line, you hope that your players would go into with a sense of urgency that the next loss could be your last game. We have one senior, and I know he will be playing with a sense of urgency. When you have a number of different guys who have that sense of urgency, you make plays and special things can happen.
We were certainly a part of that last year. I had three prominent members of our team, who were seniors, and they were playing with that senior sense of urgency, and we were able to get a last-second win in game one. We had a feeling of relief but also excitement about the potential that the next day held, and that's what you can experience sometimes in tournament play.
On balancing the routine with the excitement of playing in the SEC Tournament:
Heading not the tournament, you try to keep your routine the same. We have been doing this now for a number of months, and you try to stay on the same routine. Once you get into that tournament setting, there's always electricity in that building. The SEC does an outstanding job of creating an electric atmosphere. Guy gets excited about that, and if you can get through that first game, guys are really on edge as it relates to the opportunity that's in front of them.
On Georgia's play through the SEC regular season:
Mark (Fox) and his staff did an outstanding job of getting that team to understand who they were. They were 6-6 in the non-league and when you do that, not many people gave them much hope of moving up in the standings once they got into league play. They looked in the mirror and made the necessary adjustments as to who they were and their best chance to be successful, and they maximized that by having an outstanding run in our league.
They're playing as well as anybody with a hard-fought win at LSU in the last game. They're playing with momentum and a lot of confidence. They'll be in their home state, and there will be a lot of Bulldogs in the building. Last year, we came into the tournament in a similar mode, where we were tied for second and we got the third seed via a tiebreaker, and then we were able to make our run. Georgia is in a great position.
On the team's mindset entering the SEC Tournament:
I'm like most every coach. We split the season into a number of different quarters going back to our high school days. Now we're in the fourth quarter. This is the postseason. This is the epitome of March Madness, which created this mindset that anything can happen. We lived that last year when we were able to go and have a magical run. That's still fresh on the thoughts of our players' minds. We realized that the task is going to be a daunting one, but at the same time, all coaches try to turn the page and say we're all starting here anew. There's a lot to play for heading into Atlanta.
We're getting ready for a well-coached Vanderbilt team. Coach Stallings does about as good a job as anybody in the nation of exploiting some of your weakness, both on the offensive end and defensive end. On the offensive end, for them, they do a great job of running a lot of set plays. When you're playing Vanderbilt, you have to make sure that you rely on your principles more so than just guarding their set because they do a lot of sets, but more importantly they have counters to those sets to exploit anything that you're doing as far as the way you're guarding the basketball.
In the first game against them, Damian Jones got in early foul trouble. He has a world of potential, and he's going to be a really good player in the SEC. Having him available on the court to give them an inside presence, along with their outside shooters and scorers will be a problem for us.
On the team mindset entering the SEC Tournament:
The one thing that we're trying to focus on, because we're playing Vanderbilt, and we played a good game against them. It was a closely contested ball game. We had a couple of chances to cut it to two points under two minutes, and we missed point-blank layups and a couple of tips. You could show them that you had some success against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt, so that's one thing that always helps. The second thing is that we went into the SEC Tournament last year, and it was the first time that we had won a game in the SEC Tournament since 2008 as a program. You try to point to those positive things because the negatives are very obvious.
On the team's depth:
It's a problem. I don't think you can sit here and say that we're on an even playing field with everybody else. Our first year we were playing with six and seven scholarship guys, and this year we played the whole season with seven and eight scholarship guys. There are two things we don't have. We never had the competition for playing time. Any program needs that. The second thing is that I have never had our best teacher, which is the bench. You need that to have that competitive fire in your program all the time. Our guys continue to play hard. Everybody has their bumps and bruises at this point in time. It's more mentally fatigued than physically fatigued. Our guys have to pull it together for the stretch run.
First of all, I would like to congratulate Coach Donovan and the Florida Gator basketball team on their championship. Going 18-0 in our league is an incredible accomplishment, so I congratulate them on a job more than well done. Our team is coming off of two very close games, difficult, similar-type losses from last week.
We're thankful for the opportunity to play again. Those were two frustrating losses for us last week, but we're hopeful that we can get to Atlanta and play the way we have been playing defensively and maybe play better on offense. Our defense has been good enough in our recent games except for one to really give us a chance to win games, and our offense has not been what we need it to be, so hopefully we can do some things this week can get that rectified and play better offensively and maintain the defensive intensity that we have shown the last few weeks.
On making a run in the SEC Tournament:
It tends to happen just in the games. You can start to get the feeling in a game. If you win one, maybe you get on a little bit of a roll. There has never been anything that I have sensed going into the tournament when we have done well or when we have done poorly. It's more of thing where you get there, you win a game and then you get a feeling, see some confidence and start playing well, and the confidence gets contagious and it carries you through the weekend. I have never sensed anything in the prior couple days going into the tournament.
When you win, you gain confidence and momentum is built. In 2004, I remember when we beat Mississippi State, which was league champion that year, in overtime and that was a tremendous situation for us because they had just won the league. That catapulted us not only in that tournament, but that gave us momentum going into the NCAA Tournament as well. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about, winning a big game, winning a tough game, winning a close game, and it continues to provide you momentum.
Our team is excited about the tournament. We're really excited that it's in Atlanta and just down the road for us, so hopefully we will have some support from our fan base there in Atlanta. Our kids are really excited about the tournament, and it should be a great week of basketball in the Georgia Dome.
On this year's team:
Normally, you compare most things in the life to the first time you maybe did something, so I compare of my teams to my first team, which I thought was really a group of overachievers and a team that was picked fourth in the league that won the league and won an NCAA Tournament game and was a joy to coach. Every year, I often compare the team I'm coaching to that group because it was my first one and it was one of my favorite teams.
This team has been just as much fun to coach. These guys have been a real joy, and I look forward to seeing them every day. They enjoy each other. Throughout the season, whether it is success or failure, they have tried to use things to grow as people and grow as a team. From that standpoint, it's been a process that we have all enjoyed.
On the locker room after the win over LSU:
It was typical. The kids were certainly excited. They had a sense of accomplishment for winning the game because LSU is a good team, and it was a good win. It was typical of a scene after a conference road win. It was not more than that. When you win a road game in this league, it's very hard to do, and so they were excited like they would be for most conference road victories.
On the coach's control of team chemistry:
Coaches do their best to manage the personality of the group, but the one thing that you can't control -- and you can in some instances as you recruit -- is the quality of character. You really have to have people that have great character to strive and achieve, and sometimes you can't control that. You don't know exactly -- even though there is some communication in recruiting -- until you go to battle with someone how they're wired. Fortunately, we have a really good chemistry and some really good character on our team that has allowed us to continue to grow.
On the team entering conference play:
That was a tough time. We had played George Washington in our last nonconference game, and I learned right before that game that my dad was about to pass, and so right before conference play started, I was away from the team for a day or two. I don't know if at that time we had a grasp on what we could accomplish. From day one this year, we felt like we could have a good team. Even though Kentavious left, and we knew there would be some growing pains getting used to his absence, they didn't waver from thinking we could have a good team. It just took a little while to figure out how to do that.
On NCAA Tournament standing entering SEC Tournament:
For the first time, yesterday, since I didn't know whom we would be playing, I took a minute to look at it. I don't know if we will have to win it, but it sure takes the stress out of it if you could do. We would have to advance. To have a legitimate at-large chance, we would have to advance. If you advance, you might as well win it.
Long-time Ole Miss athletic trainer Leroy Mullins will be inducted into the Southeast Athletic Trainers' Association Hall of Fame later this month. He will be recognized at the organization's annual clinical symposium March 14-16 at the Crown Plaza Ravinia Hotel in Atlanta, with an awards luncheon scheduled for March 15 at noon.
Mullins held a variety of positions in his 29 years with the Ole Miss athletic department, including head athletic trainer, director of insurance and wellness and the director of sports medicine.
He is best remembered for his on-field care and treatment for Chucky Mullins, who had his career at Ole Miss come to a tragic end Oct. 28, 1989 when he broke his neck while making a tackle against Vanderbilt, which left him paralyzed from the neck down.
"You did not take anything for granted," said Leroy of that day. "You go to the practice field every day, or go into a ball game, and then it would come to an end. You leave there and go back to your training room and you have bruises and things of that nature that you have to take care of, but that day with Chucky, I couldn't do anything more. It was beyond my control. It was beyond my hands, and I had to turn it loose and put in the good Lord's hands. I believe the good Lord had a plan for Chucky, and he honored that plan. And Chucky's life is being honored today. The handicap scholarship fund that was established in Chucky's name is still helping students go to school. Chucky's memory will never die, and I hope that The University of Mississippi continues to keep that alive because he united the university in so many different ways.
"That was the big case of my career. That's the case that I'm remembered the most for. I will never forget it. It changed my life. It changed my children's lives. I can remember telling my family that night after he got hurt that we would never be the same."