Ole Miss faces tough challenge on the road against Texas A&M in key SEC contest
Despite losing four in a row following its SEC/Big 12 Challenge win over then-No. 14 Iowa State, newly-unranked Texas A&M is still a tough matchup for any team in the country, according to Ole Miss men’s basketball head coach Andy Kennedy.
And the Rebels will find out just how tough the Aggies are on their home floor Tuesday night (8:00 p.m. CT, ESPNU) in a pivotal Southeastern Conference game for both programs.
While Texas A&M looks to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament, the Rebels (16-9, 6-6) still have some work to do to be mentioned in the conversation as a possible bubble team.
Ole Miss is currently ranked No. 86 in the latest Rankings Percentage Index released by the NCAA on Monday. The Rebels have an 8-8 record against teams in the RPI top 150, which includes wins over No. 37 Alabama, No. 57 Vanderbilt, and No. 67 Georgia. The Aggies (18-7, 7-5) check in at No. 25.
And a win on the road inside Reed Arena could be the start of more positivity to come for Ole Miss, who is 4-5 on the road.
Kennedy: Rebels need to ‘do the things we do best’
“We know what we are in and we are going to really have to be engaged and be aggressive and really be on top of our game to give ourselves a chance,” Kennedy said. “(Texas) A&M is a terrific team. We realize it’s going to be a difficult challenge.”
Kennedy explained what the Rebels need to do in order to defeat the Aggies:
Scouting the Aggies
On the offensive end, the Aggies are led by seniors Jalen Jones and Danuel House, who are averaging 16 and 15.8 points per game, respectively. But both scorers have struggled during the team’s losing streak, combining to go 35-for-83 from the field.
But their coach, Billy Kennedy, isn’t worried about his team breaking out of their recent slumps.
“Our team is really focusing on trying to get better,” Kennedy said. “We have done some good things, but we haven’t been able to close out a game. We’ve got to get smarter and more efficient on the floor. The good thing is we are at home and you have to take good care of the ball.
“I think that will help us a bunch.”
Healthy Rebels are sharing the load
Ole Miss built some confidence with the way it shared the basketball in Saturday’s 76-60 win over Arkansas. The Rebels had five players score in double digits, with senior guard Stefan Moody leading the way with 17 points.
And while he was adjusting to the Razorbacks’ defensive pressure, Moody’s teammates picked up the slack.
It started with senior forwards Tomasz Gielo and Anthony Perez, who had 15 and 11 points, respectively. Both players combined to go 10-for-15 from the field, which reinforced Kennedy’s mantra that others around Moody have to step up and make plays when necessary.
And with junior forward Sebastian Saiz – who had 11 points and four rebounds against Arkansas – back in the lineup, Kennedy believes Ole Miss can challenge an A&M team that is 13-1 at home this season.
“I think the way people guard Moody and basically build a wall, trying to keep him from penetrating, it just opens up space for other players to make plays,” Kennedy said. “We have had that space for quite some time, and I’m just pleased to see some guys settling into a rhythm and taking advantage of those opportunities.
“With Saiz back, he just gives us another option inside along with the guys we can space on the perimeter and hopefully continue to make shots.”