The Rebels, fresh off a critical home loss to in-state rival Mississippi State, suffered the same fate at the hands of No. 24 Georgia Saturday afternoon inside Tad Smith Coliseum. Led by Trey Thompkins and Gerald Robinson, the Bulldogs easily handled a reeling Rebel team, 98-76.
It was the second-largest margin of defeat in an SEC game for an Andy Kennedy coached team.
"No, I didn't see that coming," Kennedy said, well before any question was asked postgame. "I really don't have much of an explanation for it. I thought Georgia put on a clinic. Disappointed in a number of things, but first and foremost, the thing that has to change is our approach."
With the loss, Ole Miss dropped to 12-6 overall and 0-3 in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since 2004. Georgia moved to 13-3 (1-1). The Rebels return to action Wednesday at Vanderbilt. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.
"It's almost as if we've lost all confidence," Kennedy said. "We're looking around and not taking responsibility. As the head coach, it's ultimately my responsibility. But until they allow me to put on a uniform and go out there and try to lead on the floor, I've got to have some guys on the floor take some ownership of it and stop accepting it."
Georgia proved Saturday why many prognosticators consider it a conference and NCAA Tournament contender. Ole Miss, well, it's simply trying to find a way to stop the bleeding.
Kennedy implemented a new starting lineup -- Steadman Short drew the first start of his career -- but it was no match for the duo of Thompkins and Robinson, who combined for 43 points. Robinson led all scorers with 22 points. Thompkins, the preseason SEC player of the year, had 21 points and four rebounds.
As a team, the Bulldogs were 33 of 52 in their field-goal chances. They had 26 assists to only seven turnovers, and held a sizeable rebounding advantage, 32-21. They missed just one free throw in 27 attempts, good for 96 percent.
"Mentally, where are we? We've got to shake this off," Kennedy said. "As disappointed as we are, three (losses) will turn into four, four will turn into five, five will turn into 10 before you know it by not being able to shake it off.
"This team is better than that. All the games that we've lost, we've been in the game. We just have to finish. Tonight, we never gave ourselves an opportunity to do that, which is a little bit concerning."
Ole Miss needn't worry about RPI anymore. The Rebels didn't struggle offensively against Georgia. They shot 48 percent from the floor. Zach Graham had 21 points. Reginald Buckner had 11 and five rebounds. Chris Warren was uncharacteristically cold, shooting 3 of 12, and scoring only nine points.
That defense, however, is another matter.
Georgia controlled the pace of the game en route to a blowout. Entry passes to the paint were almost uncontested. Be it zone or man, the Bulldogs had an answer.
"They came out and just shredded the zone," Kennedy said. "Immediately, you go back to what you feel you're most comfortable with, man to man defense. We couldn't stop them.
"They were throwing the ball wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted."
Georgia was well on its way to 100 points by halftime.
The Bulldogs hung 53 points on Ole Miss in the opening frame, thanks to 67 percent shooting. They shot 50 percent (4-8) from 3-point range. Ole Miss, meanwhile, managed 37 points. The Rebels made only one of their seven 3-pointers.
There was no doubt of the final outcome, just if Georgia would hit triple digits on the scoreboard. The Bulldogs fell two shy.
Now Ole Miss faces back-to-back road games (at Vanderbilt, at LSU), before returning home to face SEC East heavyweights Tennessee and Kentucky. The road looks that much more daunting with each passing loss. Ask any player.
Better yet, ask Kennedy.
"We're all big boys," Kennedy said. "You want to play in the SEC? I want to coach in the SEC? Let's man up and see what we can do."
Prior to the season, Kennedy considered this team his most mature. He had two seniors, Warren and Graham, who were established leaders. Terrance Henry, another upperclassman, had been through these wars. Nick Williams was billed as an extension of Kennedy on the court.
So Kennedy's admittedly surprised by the state of his team -- winless three games into its conference schedule. He expected more. Much, much more.
"We're not as vocal as we need to be on the floor. We're not as vocal as we need to be off the floor," Kennedy said. "I'm a believer in leaders being born. I think certain guys have innate leadership abilities. It's up to the coach to pull those out.
"The guys that are the most vocal on our team are playing so poorly as it relates to their standard right now, it's hard to be vocal. Then we end up having a lot of silence. We've got to snap out of it. We've got to snap out of it quickly."