Time is Now

Six Southeastern Conference games remain. Then one game in the league tournament in March. The clock is ticking. And Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy knows it.

With a 16-9 overall record and 4-6 mark in SEC play, the Rebels sit are very much on the outside looking in amidst postseason debate. They're fourth in an jumbled West division, behind Alabama, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

Ole Miss failed to make an NCAA Tournament appearance in any of Kennedy's previous four seasons, and faces an uphill climb in 2011. The National Invitation Tournament is iffy as well. The Rebels reached the NIT Final Four a year ago.

"It's time," Kennedy said. "When we got back from Alabama and had our first practice, we talked about it. It's time. This is a marathon-type season for us. We're in the middle of February. It's time. We realize opportunities are fewer. We have to take advantage of that."

Warren said the whole team feels a sense of urgency with only six SEC games remaining
AP File Photo
"The whole team feels that way," senior guard Chris Warren said. "We haven't played to our potential. The season's winding down. We've got five or six games left. We need to finish strong. We just need to win some games. We can win out, get some wins in the tournament, we should be all right."

Ole Miss couldn't pull off its comeback bid Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

After trailing by 20 points at halftime, and by as many as 23, the Rebels clawed to within six of Alabama in the second half, only to fall by 10 points.

It was a crucial loss. Ole Miss had reeled off three straight conference wins. Saturday was viewed by many as a swing game for momentum towards a possible thrilling regular-season finish.

"We've won three of our last four and are playing pretty good basketball, save for the 20 minutes we started in Tuscaloosa; dug way too big a whole," Kennedy said. "I was proud that they fought. They continued to fight and gave us a chance. But you can't do that against quality teams, especially on the road."

Now as Kennedy and company peer down their schedule, all that's left are dwindling opportunities.

According to RealTimeRPi, Ole Miss has an RPI rank of 60. Alabama, by comparison, has an RPI of 80.

Graham said the team learned a valuable lesson against LSU a week ago
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
Still, the Rebels only signature win came against Kentucky, who has since dropped from No. 10 to No. 22 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

"We know we've got seven games left. How we perform in those seven will determine what happens after that," Kennedy said. "This team has shown capable. For us, it's just a matter of trying to hit a consistent level and staying there."

"We've got six games left of the conference schedule. We don't have any time to waste," senior guard Zach Graham said. "We've got to win these next games. It's crucial. If we could (win out), that'd be good. But I don't know, as far as numbers go, what we need to do."

Up next is Auburn -- a team playing better basketball of late.

The Tigers, led by Earnest Ross' 13.5 points per game and 6.9 rebounds, are coming off their second league win with a 65-62 comeback victory over Mississippi State. They also took Georgia to overtime, before ultimately falling by eight.

Graham said the Rebels learned a valuable lesson in their close win over LSU a week ago. Throw Auburn's 9-15 (2-8 SEC) record out the window. Ole Miss can't look past any team, regardless of record.

"I don't think we're going to look past anybody at this point," Graham said. "The one thing I know about Auburn is they play hard. They play really hard. In their last couple of games, they've been in the game. They lost to Georgia, but I know it was a close game. They just beat Mississippi State. They've played some teams pretty well."

Tipoff for tonight's game is set for 7 p.m., and will be broadcast by the SEC Network.

OM Spirit Top Stories