Ole Miss notched its first top-50 RPI win of the season, as the Rebels held on for a 91-88 win over Missouri on Saturday in Oxford. Marshall Henderson led the way with 29 points, including eight 3-pointers, while three other Rebels scored in double figures and Aaron Jones and Sebastian Saiz grabbed double-digit rebounds.
"It's a huge win," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "It's a huge, huge win. It's a huge win because it's a home game against a top-50 team that everybody has slotted ahead us. It's a huge win."
"It was most definitely a must-win for us," Henderson said. "We had the same approach we had with the LSU and Tennessee games. It's the only time we play them during the regular season. Us four teams (Ole Miss, Missouri, LSU and Tennessee) are going to be battling, especially to get the double-bye in the SEC Tournament. That would be crucial. Missouri is ahead of us. They're one of the last four teams, I'm pretty sure. For us to get the win, it's huge. It puts us one-up on them."
Henderson had 18 of his 29 points in the first half, as Ole Miss took a 50-35 lead into halftime. The Rebels shot 53.1 percent (17-of-32) from the floor, including 9-of-16 from 3-point range, led by Henderson who was 6-of-8 from 3.
"We could sense it," said Henderson of shots falling in the first half. "It was crazy because it felt like we were blowing them, but they were still right there."
Missouri got to within two at 77-75 with 4:49 left in the game, but Jarvis Summers answered with straight points for Ole Miss to stretch the lead to 85-78 with a minute left in the game. He finished with 16 points, as did LaDarius White who scored 16 on 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Summers' 16 marked his 13th straight game in double figures.
"He's a winner," said Kennedy of Summers. "He's always won. He expects to win. He wants the ball, and I want him to have the ball. It's his experience. He makes plays. He's done it for us all year."
After being outrebounded for the third straight game against Kentucky, Ole Miss won the rebounding battle, 34-33, including 14 on the offensive glass. Jones grabbed 11, including six on the offensive end, and Saiz grabbed 10 with four on the offensive end. None were bigger than back-to-back defensive rebounds by Saiz during Summers' eight-point stretch late in the game.
"Coming into the game, Missouri had won two SEC road games, and in those at Auburn and at Arkansas, they were plus-16 on the glass in both. It's a huge stat. We won the battle of the board by one in a one-possession game."
Missouri scored five points in 16 seconds and forced an Ole Miss turnover to have the ball and a chance to tie down 91-88 with 0.9 seconds left, but Earnest Ross' deep 3-pointer hit off the front of the rim.
"We have embraced the grind," Henderson said. "We know every game is going down to the wire, no matter who we play. We just have to fight through and get the win."
The Rebels hit the road for back-to-back road games against Alabama on Tuesday and Georgia on Saturday before returning home for a pair of big home games against Kentucky and Florida, which are rated No. 4 and No. 13, respectively, in the RPI.
Ole Miss opens the second half of Southeastern Conference play, as the Rebels host the Missouri Tigers on Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports Net). Ole Miss (15-7, 6-3 SEC) has won each of its first four conference home games, and a win over Missouri (16-6, 4-5 SEC) would be its best RPI win of the season.
The Rebels enter Saturday's game ranked No. 57 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com), while the Tigers are rated No. 46. Ole Miss is 4-6 against top-100 RPI teams, including 0-4 against top-50 RPI teams. It is the Rebels' third top-50 RPI opponent in four games, having previously lost to Tennessee (No. 49) and Kentucky (No. 13).
"We knew it was going to be a big week for us," head coach Andy Kennedy. "We knew going into Rupp was going to be difficult, and I know coming home against Missouri is going to be difficult. That's why you're in the SEC. That's why you play big-boy basketball to have these opportunities. We have been better with a 4-0 record at home in league play. We have to continue that trend if we have any hopes of playing meaningful basketball once we get into the postseason."
Against Kentucky, Ole Miss went into halftime down just 35-34 before the Wildcats opened the second half on a 15-7 run to stretch the lead to 50-41. The Rebels got to within seven at 50-43 and 58-51, but they were not able to cut too far into the lead after that run to open the half.
For the third straight game and 14th game overall this season, Ole Miss was outrebounded, as the Rebels rank last in rebounding margin (-3.1 rebounds per game) and defensive rebounding percentage (63.3 percent) and 11th in offensive rebounding percentage (24.3 percent).
"I thought we were getting better at rebounding, but look at our last three outings," Kennedy said. "At Tennessee, we got destroyed. That was a difficult matchup for us, and they're pretty good at what they do. Against South Carolina at home, we get beat by 10. And then we go to Kentucky, and they're maybe leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, but we just got destroyed.
"We obviously had these issues in November and December, and we thought we had come to some sort of a conclusion as to how to remedy them, and then they have seemed to have risen back up."
Like Ole Miss, led by Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers, Missouri is a guard-oriented team. Jabari Brown leads the SEC in scoring (20.1 points per game), 3-point field goal percentage (47.4 percent) and minutes played (36.7 minutes per game).
Brown, who transferred from Oregon two season ago, has topped 20 points in six of his last seven league games and is averaging 24.3 points and shooting 61.9 percent from 3-point range during that stretch. Brown and Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson, who ranks sixth in league in scoring (18.7 points per game), rank fourth nationally among scoring tandems.
"They are a good team with really, really good guards," Kenendy said. "Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown have size, athleticism, and they are both highly skilled. Jabari Brown is having a Player-of-the-Year-type campaign. He's averaging around 22 points per game and shooting a ridiculous percentage from the floor and from 3, and he's a volume guy. He's Marshall, but Marshall is around 33 to 34 percent, while he's at 53 to 54 percent, so it gives you an idea of the challenge that they present.
"They're a group that is athletic. They are going to play fast. They are the most efficient team in our league in transition, so there are a number of things that we have to be good at defensively to give ourselves a chance."
The Ole Miss baseball team opens the 2014 season one week from today on Feb. 14 with the first game in a three-game series at Stetson. The Rebels' home opener is Feb. 19 against Tennessee-Martin, followed by a three-game weekend series against Georgia State (Feb. 21-23).
Ole Miss baseball media day is set for Feb. 10, so stay tuned to @OleMissBSB, @OleMissBlog, @WMBunt and @austinkmiller for updates.
The Ole Miss softball team opens the 2014 season this weekend with a five-game, three-day tournament on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast. Ole Miss begins play in the tournament today against Western Kentucky at 1:30 p.m. CT. The Rebels' home opener is Feb. 21 against Bowling Green, their first of five games in the three-day Red & Blue Classic.
In case you missed it, here are three things from Ole Miss softball head coach Windy Threes, previewing the 2014 season and this weekend's tournament. For updates this weekend and throughout the season, follow the Rebels on Twitter @OleMissSoftball.
Three things from Ole Miss softball head coach Windy Thees, previewing the 2014 season and the Rebels' first tournament, the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Invitational at Florida Gulf Coast, which starts Friday:
1. Year Three Of Thees Era
Ole Miss head coach Windy Thees enters her third year leading the Rebels, coming off a 25-31 season in 2013, a three-win improvement over the 2012 season (22-32). The Rebels return eight of nine starters and four of their five pitchers from a season ago.
"They know the drill," Thees said. "The first two years was difficult because it was a new system for them and then it was a lot of new players. Now that we're in year three, there's a big comfort level and a lot of confidence being built over the years because we have had a couple of years of more success than they have had in the past, and we're hoping to continue to build on that."
2. Taking Care Of Business
The Rebels open the 2014 season in Fort Myers, Fla., where they will compete in the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Invitational on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University. Ole Miss will play five games over the three-day tournament (Feb. 7-9), highlighted by the tournament opener against Western Kentucky, an NCAA Tournament team a season ago.
Ole Miss will also compete in tournaments in Charleston, S.C., and San Diego, Calif., as well as host the Red & Blue Classic from Feb. 21-23, where they will play Bowling Green, Buffalo, Northern Colorado, Saint Louis and Tennessee-Martin. The Rebels open Southeastern Conference play on March 7 at Florida, the first game of a three-game series against the Gators.
"The first thing is to take care of business, and that's taking care of business without even thinking about SEC schools," Thees said. "SEC play is the second half of the season. The first half of the season is going out and playing in these tournaments, where you're playing top-100 RPI teams from other conferences.
"This weekend, we play Florida Gulf Coast and Western Kentucky, two NCAA Tournament-type teams that are really solid, but we need to go in there and we need to win. We need to win the games we're supposed to win. We need to compete with those teams and make sure we come away with a lot of wins out of conference, and that builds our confidence going into conference."
3. Restoring Pride, Turning A Corner
Coming off a 14-39 season in 2011, Thees and her staff and players have helped restore in the pride in the Ole Miss softball program. The Rebels have increased their win total in each of the past two years and hosted the largest crowd in the Ole Miss Softball Complex's history.
"The players have a lot more pride," Thees said. "The pride in Ole Miss has grown over the years. And because of that, the whole school and community want to support all the teams. Everybody is just waiting for us to win. As soon as we start winning, the crowds are going to continue to build and build, and we have already started the process of that. That's why our crowds have gotten bigger."
The SEC led all conferences with 11 teams selected to the NCAA Tournament last season, and it remains as challenging as ever. Leading the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, Thees said, would turn a corner.
"It's easy for me to recruit to the campus, education and community that this school offers," Thees said. "Our coaching staff is dynamic, and we can bring kids in. We want to beat the top schools for kids. To do that, you have to get to the NCAA Tournament because every kid wants a chance to go to Oklahoma City and play in the World Series.
"The first step is getting into the postseason, and once you get into the postseason, it's all about hitting your stride at the right time and matchups. Turning the corner and getting to the NCAA Tournament and becoming a perennial NCAA Tournament team, that's our job at Ole Miss, and that's where we're hoping to take that step this year."
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy met with members of the media Thursday, ahead of the Rebels hosting the Missouri Tigers on Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports Net).
On Julius Randle's dunk against Derrick Millinghaus:
We had a tough night on a number of fronts. The game, and then we had a tough time getting out of Lexington because of the weather and then we had to fly to Memphis and drive back. What was about an hour and 15 minute flight turned into about a four and a half hour debacle. On the bus ride home, they showed it with a graphic like nine times in an hour and 15 minutes, so he got to see it. He will get to see it again today.
On Kentucky being a teachable game:
We gave ourselves a chance. Early, we were up five or six points and we seemed to be executing and not getting completely dominated on the glass. The zone was bothering them a little bit. Our primary objective going into the game was to try to keep them in front of us. That's where they broke us down. We couldn't keep anybody in front of us and then we were in a poor position to rebound the ball. Any shots that they did miss, they cleaned up off the offensive glass. Their length is difficult, and it's really hard to simulate. If you don't create some space, then it's difficult to continue to try to score over them all night, and we had trouble with that in the second half.
I thought we were getting better at rebounding, but look at our last three outings. At Tennessee, we got destroyed. That was a difficult matchup for us, and they're pretty good at what they do. Against South Carolina at home, we get beat by 10. And then we go to Kentucky, and they're maybe leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, but we just got destroyed. We obviously had these issues in November and December, and we thought we had come to some sort of a conclusion as to how to remedy them, and then they have seemed to have risen back up.
On the different defenses Ole Miss plays:
It's all matchup dependent. If you look at it, our man-to-man has helped us in moments. Our half-court trap really saved us against South Carolina, and it had not been that effective in the three or four games prior to that. Our 1-3-1 zone has been good to us at times. The 2-3 zone has probably been our best overall statistical defense. We will continue to mix and match depending upon whom we're playing, how we're playing, who they have in the game and who we have in the game. There are a number of factors.
They are a good team with really, really good guards. Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown have size, athleticism, and they are both highly skilled. Jabari Brown is having a Player-of-the-Year-type campaign. He's averaging around 22 points per game and shooting a ridiculous percentage from the floor and from 3, and he's a volume guy. He's Marshall, but Marshall is around 33 to 34 percent, while he's at 53 to 54 percent, so it gives you an idea of the challenge that they present. They're a group that is athletic. They are going to play fast. They are the most efficient team in our league in transition, so there are a number of things that we have to be good at defensively to give ourselves a chance.
On defense against Missouri:
We will do what we always do in most every game. We will mix and match and see what is the best. I don't think you will see a steady diet of any one thing because they are too good. From a size standpoint, they can play over the top of us, if we went primarily with man defense, but I don't think you can sit in a zone because they're too proficient from 3.
On the Missouri game being a resume-building opportunity for the NCAA Tournament:
We knew it was going to be a big week for us. We knew going into Rupp was going to be difficult, and I know coming home against Missouri is going to be difficult. That's why you're in the SEC. That's why you play big-boy basketball to have these opportunities. We have been better with a 4-0 record at home in league play. We have to continue that trend if we have any hopes of playing meaningful basketball once we get into the postseason.
On Martavious Newby:
He's out of the cast, and he has begun his rehab process. As is typical with kids who are playing high-level SEC sports, he heals pretty quickly. The doctors will give you the landscape for the people they typically deal with and then you can usually accelerate that, and Martavious is no exception. Our anticipation is that if he continues to progress the way he has once rehabilitation has started, hopefully we can have him back sooner rather than later. He's a big void and you see his toughness, coming up with loose balls and he gives us a matchup on the perimeter defensively that we miss.
On winning on the road in the SEC:
Coming into this past week, I think Ken Pomeroy said that the SEC had the most games of any league that were decided by four points or less, or overtime, which shows you it's a balanced league. It's a company line, and it's one the SEC has not been able to shake for a couple of years. It's an easy company line. I do think there is a bias in the national media because they get tired of talking about the SEC because it dominates in football, and they get tired of it. When there's an opportunity to talk about something else, that's what they're going to do.
Kentucky loses on the road to LSU, which is a very good basketball team, in a competitive game, and then they go and win at Missouri. And Missouri has beaten West Virginia, Northwestern, at NC State and UCLA, and they didn't lose a non-league home game. Kentucky goes in there and wins, and they still drop seven spots in the poll. The mindset is kind of crazy.
Our league, it will start shaking out in the next two or three weeks. You will start seeing the pretenders from the contenders, and that will be the case in any league. The Big Ten has done a job like everybody does of eating their own. You have teams that were undefeated before league play and they lose three, four or five in a row. It happens at this time of year.
I don't get too caught up in that with my group because we have to find a way to get better. Let's get better and improve. I can't be a big-picture thinker with this group. It's not productive. For us, it's about getting better. It's about figuring out what we did right for 15 to 20 minutes against Kentucky and what went wrong, and let's correct those things and let's try to make an improvement Saturday.
On that bias carrying over into the NCAA Tournament committee room:
I don't think so. I think those people don't get caught up in that. We all deal with human nature. The numbers are going to say what the numbers are going to say. The numbers on that piece of paper have to make sense, and if they make sense, then our league will be properly represented.
Think about last year. We obviously knew we had to work to do going into Nashville. There were two teams that went into Nashville that were probably safe regardless with Florida being one and Missouri being the other. Missouri finished fifth or sixth in our league. However, similar to what they have done this year, their non-league had enough pop where they were good.
Everybody else -- us, obviously, Tennessee still had an opportunity to play their way in, Alabama was still in the conversation, and certainly Kentucky was. There were only two that were in regardless of what happened in Nashville, but there were still six in play. It just so happens that Kentucky got beat by Vanderbilt, which was a "bad loss," so they're out. Tennessee and Alabama happened to play one another, but the loser got immediately eliminated, and then the other lost the next round to Florida. We were the only one that wiggled our way through. We went in with an opportunity for six.
Let's say Kentucky would have beaten Vanderbilt, and if we would have beaten them, they're probably still in, and we would have probably had to have beaten them to get in. There's so much still in play, and that was when Kentucky was not considered a Final Four contender because of the Nerlens Noel injury.
The Kentucky team that I saw Tuesday night was the Kentucky team that many people projected them to be when they named them preseason number one in the country. Those kids are growing up, and when Willie Cauley-Stein plays the way he did, and the Harrison twins are really getting better. They're so long. That's what blew me away. Things that we can typically do against other people, their length made up for that on Tuesday, and it made it problematic.
On excuses being made to say the SEC is down:
It's a mindset. For instance, the Big East. When the Big East turns to basketball, the attention turns to that in November. There's not a lot of thought put into basketball until about now. It's the nature of the geography, the communities that you're in and because of the dominance of football.
You can't feed two masters a lot of times. Many times, we're a slow build. When Missouri loses to Georgia, it's considered bad, even though it's very, very difficult to win on the road in the league. Going into this last week, Florida and us were the only teams in the league with multiple road wins. It's difficult to win in any league.
For us, we're going to have opportunities. The league is sitting in a much better place today than it was at this time last year. The biggest reason being even the teams at the bottom, it's not so much weighty at the bottom. We had two or three 200-plus RPI teams last year, and we lost to a couple of them. As a result, it makes the climb very, very difficult to get up and out of.
This year, that's not the case. Even though we have teams that have not performed as well as they have liked, their numbers don't indicate that. Take Vanderbilt, for instance, and Kevin (Stallings) has done a masterful job. People think they're down because of their injuries and the attrition that they have suffered, yet you look today, and they're in the 60's in the RPI. That win at Vanderbilt, even though you say it's not the Vanderbilt they had two years, granted, the numbers still give you some life.
On what Ole Miss did well in those 15 to 20 minutes against Kentucky:
Number one, we were moving the ball better. We got really stagnant in the second half, and then we got into trying to make a play without moving the defense. Their size ate us up, and we could not get clean looks. And the ones we got, we were looking for a 10-point shot as opposed to staying within the rhythm of the offense.
And then you don't get stops. They shot 60 percent against us in the second half. We did not get a defensive rebound until Janari (Joesaar) came in and got one that hit off the side of the rubber part of the backboard. That was the first time a Rebel got a rebound in the second half. We had some dead-ball rebounds, but we did not have a clean defensive rebound until under two minutes to go in the second half.
On limited opportunities for resume-building wins:
We have Missouri, and they're in the low 50's in the RPI, and they're a quality team. We have Kentucky coming back in here, and you have Florida, who's in the top five and might come in here number one in the nation, so you have your opportunities. We still have Vanderbilt coming back in this building, and they're sitting in the 60's in the RPI, so there are opportunities for us. We have to play better and we have to earn our way in. That's the only way it should be, and that's the way it is.
Chadwick has been coaching at Ole Miss for what will be 35 years and, as a tribute, we are going to reflect and try to highlight the 35 top moments of Chadwick's tenure. For a coach that has accumulated over 600 wins during his career, picking out only 35 is no small feat.
No. 34 on our list is Chadwick's first career win as the men's tennis coach. This came in Chadwick's first season as the men's head coach in 1983, as the Rebels defeated Centenary 8-1 at the Milwaukee Classic in Milwaukee, Wisc.
While relishing the accomplished program that we all enjoy today, it is easy to forget where it all began. When Chadwick took over the men's program that year in 1983, it was last in the Southeastern Conference. Thirty years and 18 SEC titles later, here we are.
Although Chadwick's first career win was not against a big-name opponent, it was the beginning of one of the most historic coaching careers in college tennis.
Stay tuned for No. 33 next week with many exciting moments on the way. We are only getting started.
Ole Miss landed back-to-back top-15 classes for the first time in school history dating back to the first recruiting rankings in 2002. It was a consensus top-20 class, ranked as high as No. 14 (247Sports.com). Here are a few related National Signing Day links to videos and stories:
VIDEO: Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze talks National Signing Day, Jeremy Liggins with CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman on Signing Day Live
VIDEO: Ole Miss tight ends coach/offensive recruiting coordinator Maurice Harris talks National Signing Day with the Clarion-Ledger's Courtney Cronin
Mississippi's Freeze happy with haul, writes David Brandt from the Associated Press
Ole Miss locks down top area talent, get top-15 class, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger
Ole Miss fulfills needs with 2014 recruiting class, writes David Collier from the the Daily Mississippian
Change of heart: Rebels bolster secondary by swaying Shepard, leading with the signing-day flip of signee Tee Shepard from Mississippi State to Ole Miss, writes Parrish Alford from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
Freeze: '14 class 'better top to bottom,' writes Neal McCready from RebelGrove/Rivals.com
2014 Signing Day Guide Download, a comprehensive introduction to the entire signing class, from Jeffrey Wright of RebelGrove/Rivals.com
Role Definition, answering the question what position signee Jeremy Liggins will play at Ole Miss, writes Ben Garrett from the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
And in case you missed it, Rebels Land Back-To-Back Top-15 Classes on OleMissSports.com and 'Bjork: It Lifts The Entire Athletics Program,' with Athletics Director Ross Bjork recounting the day that was for Ole Miss football, on Ole Miss Blog.
The Southeastern Conference announced today its annual football media days will be held July 14-17, remaining at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. The event will expand to four days in 2014, beginning Monday, July 14 and concluding Thursday, July 17.
Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss contingency will be in the Magic City on the final day and grouped with Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky.
ESPN will continue to have an expanded presence at the event, with the SEC Network officially launching in August. A more detailed daily schedule, rotational breakdown and student-athletes attending will be available later this summer. The listing of coaches below does not indicate the order of appearance each day.
Beginning with the 2014 event, institutional media guides will only be made available in electronic format, with the annual SEC publication available both via traditional and electronic means.
The previous three SEC Football Media Days all drew over 1,000 attendees, with an all-time high of 1,239 for the 2013 edition last summer.
2014 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE
MONDAY, July 14
Commissioner Mike Slive
Auburn - Gus Malzahn
Florida - Will Muschamp
Vanderbilt - Derek Mason
TUESDAY, July 15
Mississippi State - Dan Mullen
South Carolina - Steve Spurrier
Tennessee - Butch Jones
Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin
WEDNESDAY, July 16
Steve Shaw - SEC Coordinator of Football Officials / Justin Connolly - SEC Network
Arkansas - Bret Bielema
LSU - Les Miles
Missouri - Gary Pinkel
THURSDAY, July 17
Alabama - Nick Saban
Georgia - Mark Richt
Kentucky - Mark Stoops
Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze