OXFORD, Miss. – Andy Kennedy took a minute Saturday night to reflect on what Sebastian Saiz has meant to the Ole Miss Men’s Basketball program.
While sitting behind the microphone after the Rebels (19-12) defeated South Carolina, 75-70, to clinch the No. 6 seed in this week’s SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, Kennedy spoke heartfelt words about the Madrid, Spain native who has been his primary post player for the past two seasons.
“The thing I will remember is his presence, his approach, and who he is. He has had a great spirit. He’s a positive kid. He’s going to be very successful. He’s meant a lot to this program, never had a bad day. He’s that guy you really want to root for.”
Andy Kennedy on Sebastian Saiz
Kennedy has expressed before that Saiz is one of the best players he has ever coached, and against the Gamecocks the Madrid, Spain native did not disappoint. Saiz scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against a bigger South Carolina frontcourt.
Saturday marked Saiz’s 19th double-double on the season, which leads the SEC.
Double-doubles in spite of double-teams
Saiz’s 19 double-doubles have not come easily, as has faced frequent double-teams from opponents this season. The Gamecocks used the same method against him that previous teams have used; however, they were unsuccessful.
Instead of South Carolina limiting the 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward, the Gamecocks got into foul trouble. Chris Silva, who was guarding Saiz for most of the game, picked up his fourth foul midway through the second half, then fouled out, finishing with just four points, one rebound, one block, and two steals in nine minutes of action.
For one of the rare times this season, Saiz didn’t see double-teams every time the basketball came his way. He was able to have one-on-one matchups with either Silva or another South Carolina post player. Silva getting into foul trouble for the Gamecocks changed the outlook of the game.
“Chris Silva got into foul trouble, their best post player,” Kennedy responded when asked why Saiz was so effective in the paint. “They were a little thin upfront. They started (Sindarius) Thornwell at the four, so they didn’t double him post-to-post. This is the first game in the last month he didn’t get doubled post-to-post,” Kennedy explained.
“When Silva got into foul trouble, that limited what they can do to him (Saiz) defensively, and he was able to play in space. If you allow him to play in space, he’s able to produce.”
On Senior Night in The Pavilion, Saiz was upbeat and smiled at everyone, shaking hands with fans and supporters. The festivities began when Saiz and teammate Rasheed Brooks were honored at mid-court before the game.
Those in the student section wore red No. 11 shirts to show their love and respect for Saiz. Following the Ole Miss victory, the home crowd gave Saiz a standing ovation, making it clear how much they will miss him.
Saiz called Saturday “his favorite game at Ole Miss.”
“I was emotional, you know. The fans were amazing and outstanding. I love to go out there and get my picture taken, feel the love out there, and get the win. With the way we played the whole game, it was a great way to finish.”
Saiz wins C Spire Howell Trophy
On Monday, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame announced that Saiz was named the 2017 C Spire Howell Trophy winner.
The Howell Trophy goes to the most outstanding men’s collegiate basketball player in Mississippi. This is the fifth straight year a Rebel has been named the state’s top player after Stefan Moody won the trophy each of the last two seasons.
Jarvis Summers won the award in 2014, and Marshall Henderson won it in 2013. Moody beat out Delta State’s Devin Schmidt and Mississippi State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon to receive the honor last year.
For the season, Saiz is averaging 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds a game. He’s currently the SEC’s active rebounding leader. He recently moved past Reggie Buckner into third place in Ole Miss history with 937 rebounds.
Next Up: SEC Tournament
Ole Miss has a first round bye and on Thursday, March 9 will face the winner of Auburn vs. Missouri.
(Feature image credit: Mario Parham, The Rebel Walk)