Kennedy looking for Rebels to ‘go on a tear’ in final 7 games of season
For the first time in over a month, the Ole Miss Men’s Basketball team finally has a full roster of healthy bodies, and head coach Andy Kennedy hopes to see some positive results.
The time for that is now, with the team’s last seven games of the season beginning Saturday afternoon (1:00 p.m. CT, ESPNU) against Arkansas.
The last remaining piece of the puzzle for the Rebels (15-9, 5-6 Southeastern Conference) is junior forward Sebastian Siaz, who played 26 minutes in Tuesday night’s 77-72 loss at Florida after missing the team’s last six games recovering from eye surgery to repair a detached retina.
Saiz finished with four points and six rebounds. Despite his player’s stat line being a little less than his usual, Kennedy was ecstatic with the 6-foot-9 forward’s physical presence on the floor.
“Honestly, we were just so relieved to get the clearance on Monday that he was back with us,” Kennedy said. “They wouldn’t allow him to run, bounce a ball, jump or anything. His conditioning – only about a week ago – they allowed him to ride a stationary bike, which was quite a sight.
“And they let him ride on a treadmill and if we would really push the limit, they would let it incline. So playing against Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith; that was quite a stretch.”
Prior to the game against the Gators, Saiz woke up sore and was still a game-time decision. Like Siaz’s teammates, Kennedy wanted the SEC’s second-leading rebounder (9.6 per game) back on the hardwood floor, but Kennedy didn’t want to risk another injury that would sideline Saiz for more games.
Heading into Saturday’s game against the Razorbacks, Saiz is expected to play in his second straight game and the decision wasn’t made by Kennedy. It was made by Saiz himself.
“Yes, I’m playing. I never said I wasn’t,” Saiz jokingly said.
It’s a given that Saiz will show the same effort against Arkansas’ junior forward Moses Kingsley, who is averaging 15.9 points per game and leads the Razorbacks (12-12, 5-6) in rebounding (9.0 per game) as he did in the Florida game. Kennedy recruited Kingsley heavily back in 2013 and knew the potential he had to become a great asset to any Division 1 program.
Playing behind the likes of Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls, Kingsley averaged only 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in all 36 games as a sophomore last season, managing only four starts.
“They are a formidable opponent and a group with the most improved player in all of college basketball, a guy I’m very familiar with in Moses Kingsley, who went from averaging three points last year to a walking double-double, plus blocking shots,” Kennedy said.
Head Coach Andy Kennedy
Outside of Saiz returning to top form, Kennedy hopes everyone else can supply the goods offensively for an Ole Miss squad that has mainly relied on its senior point guard Stefan Moody, who’s seventh in the nation in scoring (23.3 ppg).
Kennedy has seen positives from junior guard Rasheed Brooks, senior forwards Anthony Perez and Tomasz Gielo and sophomore forward Marcanvis Hymon. Brooks had 16 points, four rebounds and three steals against Florida and Perez had two points in eight minutes of action.
Hymon, who played a significiant amount of minutes while Saiz was out, recorded an assist and a rebound on Tuesday night. But Gielo, the Poland native, has been steady as of late, averaging 17.3 points per game while shooting 50 percent from 3-point range.
Kennedy crosses his fingers for Gielo’s stellar play to continue and wants everyone else to join in on the productivity.
“My hope is with seven games remaining, we can get on a tear,” said Kennedy, who’s 11-5 all-time against Arkansas and is one win away (207) from tying former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury (208) for fourth place on the list for most wins in his first 10 years in the SEC at one school.
“Tomasz Gielo has definitely emerged since the Missouri game. Anthony was making shots prior to that. Hopefully we can get both of those guys going.
Head Coach Andy Kennedy
The Rebels hope that run starts today against the Razorbacks!
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.