Post Due

Andy Kennedy, his team fresh off an 86-73 loss to Miami, stood ready for another customary postgame interview inside the bowels of the BankUnited Center Tuesday.

Keith Carter, color analyst for Ole Miss' radio broadcast, was the interviewer. Kennedy, of course, acted as the former Ole Miss basketball great's interviewee. Carter stuck to a routine line of questioning, allowing the fifth-year head coach to expand on the events minutes earlier.

Ole Miss (3-2) had fallen behind by a wide margin quickly in the first half, ultimately faced with a 30-point deficit at halftime. By the end, however, the Rebels had made a game of it – a 29-8 second-half run pulling them within nine before ultimately surrendering to defeat.

"I knew it was going to take a near-perfect half to come back from 30 points down," Kennedy said, amongst other things.

Kennedy, true to form, was frank. He had every right to be. Because Ole Miss, for yet another game, had to rely too much on its guard play to battle back. Terrance Henry and Reginald Buckner, the team's most experienced frontcourt players, were held to rather pedestrian numbers.

Andy Kennedy

The pair combined for 12 points and nine rebounds. Conversely, senior guards Chris Warren and Zach Graham finished as the only players in double-digit points, with Warren leading the team with 23.

"We have to get more production offensively from our frontcourt," Kennedy said.

Kennedy met with the media Thursday inside Tad Smith Coliseum.

The discussion, for the most part, centered on the Rebels' upcoming opponent, Southern Miss. Ole Miss hosts the Golden Eagles Saturday at 7 p.m.

But it also involved the frontcourt, where Ole Miss has lacked consistent production through five games.

For the season, Henry, a junior, paces the bigs with just 8.6 points per game. Buckner averages 4.0 points per game. Steadman Short and Demarco Cox, both newcomers, claim a combined 2.8 scoring clip.

"I think sometimes people think that I want to live and die from 25 feet. Trust me, I don't," Kennedy said. "I'd love to be able to get it to two feet and score efficiently. Problem is, we just haven't been able to do that effectively. We've got two guys (Henry and Buckner), coming into this season, whose roles have changed, but they've both been in high-level games. Those guys have been through the experience before. They have to be consistent in order for this team to win hard games"

Each has had his moments.

Buckner, in just his second season, has already moved into seventh place on Ole Miss' career blocked shots list with 79. He had eight points, five rebounds and three blocks in a win over Murray State in November.

Henry posted eight points and six rebounds vs. Arkansas State. He's scored double-figure points twice, the first against Dayton (12 points) and once more against Penn State (13 points).

"They've shown flashes," Kennedy said. "And in those flashes, we've been pretty good. But we've just got to get more consistent production across our front line."

In the preseason, Kennedy hoped Cox, a freshman, would make a more immediate impact.

Terrance Henry

But he hasn't yet. Not that Kennedy's surprised, considering the sizeable leap from high school to the Southeastern Conference.

Cox didn't score his first career basket until the team's third game.

"He has moments in practice where he shows the potential to be that low-post presence that we need," Kennedy said of Cox. "Right now, the game is going very, very fast, as you could imagine.

"Again, we talked about the way that we scheduled early on; it's just been very difficult for those young kids to go through the growing pains, which are inevitable, because the games are so highly-contested. I haven't been real patient in allowing him to play through a lot of things, because these games are so important for us."

The backcourt has done its part.

Warren, after a slow start, has found his stroke of late. He leads the team and ranks fourth in the SEC in scoring average with 18 points per game. Warren has scored at least 20 points in three of the first five games.

"He got off to a pretty poor start, as we've talked about before," Kennedy said. "A lot of that is simply him missing some shots that have become the norm for him to make. I've never doubted him. He had probably his worst game in a Rebel uniform in our loss to Dayton, and he would be the first to admit that. The next day in practice, he was the best player on the floor. That's just who he is. We know we're going to get solid and consistent effort from him."

Nick Williams has added 12.8 points and 4.4 rebounds, while ranking 10th among conference players with a 51.1 field-goal percentage. Trevor Gaskins poured in a career-high 24 points in the win over Penn State, making 9 of 14 field goals, including six of his 11 three-point attempts.

Graham is averaging 14.6 points per game, good for 13th in the SEC, and leads the league with a 95.2 free-throw percentage. Graham posted a career-high 22 points against Murray State. He had 19 at Miami.

"I've been pleased overall with our guard play," Kennedy said. "When you talk about the five guys that are getting the majority of the minutes – Chris, Zach, Nick and Trevor – they've all been pretty consistent, and then Dundrecous (Nelson) is getting better as he's getting healthier.

"Again, our issue has been our inability to defend off our defensive glass and our inability to score close. Those are areas we have to continue to build on."


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