Florida’s Mike White expects tough game from Rebels in second meeting
The last time the Ole Miss and Florida Men’s Basketball programs met on the hardwood floor, the Gators dominated – on both ends – from start to finish. But in Tuesday night’s Southeastern Conference matchup, Florida’s head coach Mike White expects a tighter contest.
The Gators are coming off an 80-61 throttling by then-No. 20 Kentucky Saturday, and White hopes heading home to play in front of the Gator faithful will provide energy for a Florida team that is gradually closing in on a possible NCAA Tournament berth.
The Gators (15-8, 6-4) have gone 2-2 in their last four games, while the Rebels have found renewed energy after ending a four-game losing streak, winning three of their last four games behind solid effort from some key role players.
Players stepping up for the Rebels
In the 80-63 win over Auburn on Jan. 27, sophomore forward Marcanvis Hymon recorded his first double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds) in the absence of junior forward Sebastian Saiz. In the two-consecutive victories over Missouri and Vanderbilt, senior forward Tomasz Gielo combined to score 32 points and pull down 13 rebounds.
Junior guard Rasheed Brooks has scored 30 points and snagged 18 rebounds in Ole Miss’ last two victories. Coach White has seen the progression of the Rebels (15-8, 5-5) since the Gators’ 80-71 win over his alma mater in Oxford on Jan. 16.
“We will be playing an Ole Miss team that’s playing very well,” White said. “I think AK (Andy Kennedy) has done a tremendous job with injuries, with Saiz being out, with Moody being out and hampered a little bit.”
Before the emergence of some of the his players, Kennedy was unsure how the Rebels would win games without its core group – Stefan Moody, Martavious Newby, and Saiz – but there’s no doubt in Kennedy’s mind now about whether or not the Rebels can get wins on the road or at home.
Saiz cleared to return to the team
On Monday, Kennedy announced Saiz has been cleared by the doctors and will return to the team after sitting out several weeks while recovering from surgery to repair a detached retina. Heading into the game in Gainesville, Florida, Saiz will be a game-time decision.
Before the injury, Saiz was averaging 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, which ranks second in the SEC. In the six games Saiz missed, Ole Miss went 3-3.
“The greatest thing we got going for us right now is – literally we just heard like 30 minutes ago – that Sebastian was cleared,” Kennedy said on Monday’s SEC Men’s Basketball Teleconference.
“Not only our best low-post player is back in the lineup, but we got a guy – when he went out – was second in the league in rebounding.
“So he just provides a completely different aspect to our game planning moving forward. I certainly think we will be a much better team once he gets back and establishes his rhythm.”
Slowing down the Gators’ attack
In order for the Rebels to get a key road win inside Stephen C. O’Connell Center – where Florida owns an 11-1 record – they will have to prevent the 3-point shooting barrage the Gators displayed in the first meeting. Florida went 11-for-20 from deep. Freshman guard KeVaughn Allen made six of seven from beyond the arc, scoring a game-high 27 points.
“They capitalized on us almost every time,” said Kennedy, reflecting on the first meeting earlier this season. “And they have a freshman in KeVaughn Allen who was playing well going into the week of the game. Prior to them playing us, they lost a close one to Texas A&M and he went scoreless. So we know how it is with freshman scorers. He was getting around 17 a game I think in the league prior to going scoreless against A&M.
“So we were real conscious in our preparation of saying ‘Hey, this kid obviously had a rough game. It can go either two ways for us. Don’t give him any good looks early and maybe he will struggle finding his rhythm.’ Well, he banked his first three, then we lost him in transition and he made a play at the basket. He totally dominated the game.”
Does Kennedy miss the Tad Pad?
“No, I haven’t missed it just yet,” he said. “But I will say this, ‘There were a lot of great memories inside Tad Smith Coliseum. We were pretty successful in there, having won about 80 percent of our games. So hopefully some of that will carry over.'”
Other SEC coaches reflect on The Pavilion
Six different SEC coaches have been inside the Rebels’ newly created arena, The Pavilion, and some of them, including Kennedy, himself, had something recently to say about it.
Auburn’s Bruce Pearl: “The scoreboard is amazing. It’s a great addition to the league.”
Alabama’s Avery Johnson: “It’s awesome to have a building like that in this league.”
Georgia’s Mark Fox: “It was well done. I’m not sure there’s a better arena in the conference. I think it’s a game changer.”
Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings: “It’s a beautiful place. They did a great job with it. From Kennedy’s standpoint, it’s probably easier to recruit.”
Ole Miss’ Andy Kennedy: “It’s definitely a game changer for us. It’s surreal for me. I feel like I have taken another job.”
Where to watch the game
Ole Miss travels to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators. Here’s info on where you can find the game.
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016
Time: 8:00 p.m. CT
Live Audio: OleMissSports.com
Live Video: WatchESPN.com