Kennedy’s Rebels look to bounce back in home game vs Tennessee
It’s not easy for a team to stay upbeat after suffering back-to-back losses, especially when it finds itself staring at a losing record in the first five games of conference play. However, that’s the challenge for Andy Kennedy’s Ole Miss men’s basketball team as the Rebels prepare to face the Tennessee Volunteers tonight at 8:00 pm in Oxford.
Kennedy is trying to find ways to keep his team in the fight in the SEC in hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. But he’s got his work cut out for him as Ole Miss is sitting towards the bottom of the SEC – 11th place to be exact – with a 10-7 overall record (1-4 in the league), having lost three of its four conference games by double digits.
The Rebels’ offensive production has been held in check by their last two opponents as Georgia stymied Ole Miss, holding the Rebels to 47 points, their lowest scoring effort on the season, while South Carolina held Ole Miss to 56 points.
Coach Kennedy explained what his team needs to do in order to be successful.
In order to be successful, however, the Rebels may have to do so without redshirt junior Deandre Burnett, who suffered a high ankle sprain last Wednesday night in the loss to the Bulldogs. Without him, Ole Miss has not found a way to run a consistent offense.
Burnett leads Ole Miss in scoring with an average of 18 points per game, which is tied for third with Gamecocks’ Sindarius Thornwell in the SEC.
Kennedy mentioned on Monday’s SEC Basketball Coaches Teleconference that Burnett is still day-to-day, but is making progress. He wanted to wait until Burnett is at full strength to clear him to play.
With the absence of Burnett, Kennedy isn’t relying on just one player to take full responsibility on offense.
One player who has suffered without Burnett in the game has been senior forward Sebastian Saiz. Saiz’s numbers have taken a hit since Burnett’s injury. The 6-foot-9 Madrid Spain native has averaged just 11 points and nine rebounds in the team’s last two games. Before Burnett’s injury, Saiz was averaging 15.7 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.
“The last two games Saiz, offensively, hasn’t played to his standard,” Kennedy said. “And without Dre, and without Sebas playing to his all league level inside we struggle, and that’s been evident.”
Tonight (8:00 p.m., SECN), the Rebels face a Vols (9-8, 2-3 SEC) team that is coming off an 87-85 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday, which snapped a three-game Tennessee losing streak. The Rebels have won five of the last six meetings against Tennessee, but the Vols hold a 70-43 lead in the series that began in 1924. Tennessee is 25-24 against Ole Miss in Oxford, while Andy Kennedy is 7-6 all-time against the Vols.
Home court advantage
One advantage the Rebels have in their favor tonight is Andy Kennedy’s record of home wins at Ole Miss. Since taking over the program in 2006-07, Kennedy is 140-36 (.795 win pct.) in home games. The Rebels are 14-5 all time in The Pavilion, and Ole Miss has won 265 of its last 333 games (.796 win pct.) in Oxford dating back to the 1996-97 campaign.
Saiz closing in on 1,000/800 Club
Saiz needs just 12 points and two rebounds to join the 1,000 point/800 rebound career list–and would be only the six player ever to join that prestigious group. With two rebounds, Saiz will become only the seventh player in school history to reach 800 rebounds.
Twelve points will also make Saiz the 38th player in Ole Miss history to reach 1,000 career points, and he would be the 10th player under head coach Andy Kennedy to do so.
(Feature image: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)