Like a (Little) Rock

For Andy Kennedy and his players, the next few weeks are all about basketball.

Players wrapped final exams Friday which, of course, is a relief to Kennedy. With players in and out of the basketball practice facility all week, the practice schedule was in constant flux, as it is every season. Kennedy was understandably resigned Tuesday. He'd been there before. It was nothing new.

"It's an odd week," he said Tuesday.

Now the only focus is basketball. Ole Miss, 4-2 on the season, hits the road for the second time Saturday at UALR – a team undefeated at home and 6-3 overall. The Trojans have won two straight games, including a 69-67 win over Tulsa.

"I would hope that we've learned some valuable lessons from our last outing on the road," Kennedy said, referencing Ole Miss' 86-73 loss to Miami. Ole Miss got off to a painfully slow start, trailing by 30 points at halftime.

The Rebels have six remaining games in December, including a three-day trip to Cancun, Mexico for the Cancun Governor's Cup. Saturday will mark the second meeting between Ole Miss and UALR. Ole Miss claimed a 92-64 win in last year's season-opener.

Andy Kennedy

"We're going into a road environment against a quality basketball team who's undefeated at home," Kennedy said.

"They've beaten some good teams in that building, coming off a good win against Tulsa a few days ago. Another challenge for this group."

Rebounding woes:

Ole Miss has struggled mightily in the rebounding department.

The Rebels are last in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding margin at minus-2.2 per game.

Ole Miss averages 34.0 rebounds per game, while allowing 36.2 on the defensive glass. Ole Miss has been outrebounded by double-digits twice in six games – Dayton and Miami – both losses.

Even in victory, Ole Miss came up short on the boards. Southern Miss, a team Ole Miss defeated 86-81 Saturday, grabbed 38 rebounds to Ole Miss' 30.

"We're not rebounding nearly like we need to in order to be the team that I think we're capable of being," Kennedy said. "We have to do it collectively. It's not just one person. Our front court has to become more productive for us in that area.

"We've also got to rebound from the guard spot. We've got a couple of guys who just aren't rebounding as effectively as we need them to."

Junior forward Terrance Henry leads the team and ranks 18th in the SEC in rebounding with 5.7 per game. Guard Nick Williams is second with 4.5 rebounds per game, while Reginald Buckner is third with 4.3 per game.

The rebounding woes are somewhat correlated with Ole Miss' last-place standing in scoring defense. The Rebels allow a league-high 72.8 points per game.

"Everybody could be better at rebounding," Henry said. "Coach was telling us good teams average around 42, 45. We're kind of under 35, maybe. If everybody picks it up, everybody gets one or two more a game, that'll pick it up as a team."

Guards lead the way:

No question, Ole Miss is led by its guard play.

Two guards, Chris Warren and Nick Williams, are averaging at least 31 minutes per game. Zach Graham and Trevor Gaskins each average no less than 25 minutes per game. Warren, Graham and Williams are the only players to average double-digit points through six games.

Chris Warren

Meanwhile, Henry and Buckner pace the front court. On average, Henry has played 26.5 minutes per. Buckner is just under 21 minutes. Still, the pair sit atop the team in fouls. Buckner has 21 fouls. Henry is tied for second with Gaskins with 19.

Kennedy has been forced to go small on occasion, instituting a four-guard lineup. It worked against Southern Miss. Kennedy, his team trailing 14-12 in the first half, used Dundrecous Nelson, Graham, Williams, Gaskins and freshman center Demarco Cox.

The group parlayed turnovers into high-percentage baskets. Ole Miss reeled off a 10-0 run.

"Certainly, offensively, (four-guard lineups) are our most effective group, because it allows us to play in space," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said going small helps Warren more than any other player. Defenses have keyed in on the senior point guard, who is the conference's active leader in points, assists, 3-pointers and 20-point games.

"When we can play in space and surround Chris with three, sometimes four, guys who can make shots, it makes it more difficult for people to corral him," Kennedy said. "That's what people try to do – they funnel him into help. When you have other guys on the floor that are not only capable of making shots but creating some things off the dribble, which we have with four guards, it makes it much more difficult to corral him."

Kennedy said to expect more four-guard lineups in upcoming games, especially when considering the inconsistencies of his front court.

"I've kind of challenged our bigs," Kennedy said. "If you're not going to rebound the ball, we're so much better in every area, we're going to go small."

Random Notes: Ole Miss owns a 58-22 all-time record against current members of the Sun Belt Conference… UALR senior guard Solomon Bozeman is the son of former Rebel assistant coach Eric Bozeman… Ole Miss is 57-15 against non-league foes under Kennedy… With a 3-point field goal made in the UALR game, Ole Miss will become the 13th school in NCAA history to boast a streak of 500 straight games with a trey.

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