West with the Rest

Zach Graham sat idly by his locker following Ole Miss' loss to Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Atlanta Thursday.

He waited, a blank look on his face as local media made their way through the crammed, mostly silent, room. He had to answer questions.

Graham is one of two seniors for Ole Miss. He'd played the last conference tournament game of his career. The postseason outlook surely pointed to the National Invitation Tournament, despite the hours, days, weeks, months of work put in to reach the NCAAs.

He admitted to being frustrated, mad even, with the circumstances his team now found itself in. Graham had never appeared in the NCAA Tournament in his career, and would miss out again. To be disappointed and wear it on his sleeve was understandable.

Such a loss was eating at him.

"I hate losing," he said, only peering upwards to the small media contingent when relaying his thoughts after moments of immersing himself with the finality of the moment. "It's going to take me a while to get over this."

Graham attempts to block a shot in Ole Miss' opening-round win against South Carolina in the SEC Tournament
Associated Press
By Monday, he was back to normal, again surrounded by recorders in a familiar question-and-answer session. Because there are basketball games remaining on the schedule -- Ole Miss (20-13) earned a berth in the NIT as a five-seed.

"I'm over it," he said. "We've got to move to the next thing."

"I think it's about right," head coach Andy Kennedy said of his team being named a five-seed.

The next thing is fourth-seeded California (17-14) in Berkeley Wednesday at 8 p.m. Should the Rebels advance, they would meet the winner of top-seeded Colorado and Texas Southern a few days later.

"We're lucky enough to have something to move forward to with the California game," Graham said. "That's all I'm looking forward to right now."

Graham didn't learn of the NIT berth until Sunday night. He was on the road when Kennedy broke the news. He was surprised, maybe relieved, to continue playing. He isn't ready for his Ole Miss career to end, like he wasn't ready for his stay in Atlanta to be cut short.

"I just feel like we're fortunate to have more games to play," Graham said. "We'll be motivated, I feel like. The locker room is excited. For myself and for my team, I just need to do as much as I can to keep the focus of the team at a good level."

Henry coming on strong:

Junior forward Terrance Henry had arguably his best game in an Ole Miss uniform against Kentucky. He scored 17 points and added 12 rebounds, totaling his second double-double in as many days in the Georgia Dome.

"We didn't have nothing to lose. Nobody thought we were going to beat Kentucky anyway. I just felt like I should come out aggressive and see where that gets me," Henry said.

"That's another reason why I'm glad we're still playing. I get some more chances to showcase what I've been doing the past couple of games. Hopefully we can make it back to New York."

Henry has two double-doubles in as many days in Atlanta
Associated Press
Ole Miss reached New York -- site of the NIT Final Four -- last season, before falling to Dayton in the semifinals. The Rebels' other appearance came in 2008. They lost to Ohio State, also in the semifinals.

"I'm just happy to still be playing. We can look at this as a little spring break with a little business into it. I'm just happy we're still playing," Henry said.

For Henry, these games are an opportunity to continue building off his success in the SEC Tournament, and also work towards his senior season.

Henry, who is averaging 9.6 points per game and 6.1 rebounds, will be relied upon heavily to produce with the losses of Graham and guard Chris Warren.

"Coming into the year, obviously the biggest question marks as we sat here months ago was front-line productivity. We were going to be very dependent on Terrance as he evolved from a sophomore role player into a junior, every-day starter," Kennedy said.

"He continued to show flashes. The way he closed the season is promising, as he's heading into a monster offseason for him leading into his senior year. It's hard to believe that he's kind of turning the corner for that last lap."

Warren closing in on 2,000 points:

Warren is inching closer to 2,000 points in his career. He needs but two points to become only the fourth player in SEC history to reach 2,000 points and 400 assists.

"When you talk about 2,000 points, that's an amazing number," Kennedy said. "His numbers are staggering. When you look at his numbers on paper, they jump off the page. To get to 2,000 points, to have over 450 assists, to be in the top five in so many categories not only as it relates to Ole Miss but the Southeastern Conference, I think it's truly incredible."

Warren, though, isn't reading much into it.

"It means I had a pretty good career here," he said, "and I did a little scoring when I was here."

Warren, who currently ranks second among league players with a 19.0 scoring average, was recently named to the Associated Press All-SEC first team. Warren is the first Rebel to be named to the AP first team since Justin Reed in 2004.

He leads the nation in free throw percentage (93.3) and is on pace to set the school and conference records for a single season. He ranks fifth in the SEC in assists (3.8/game), fourth in 3-pointers made (2.7/game), third in assist-turnover ratio (1.8) and third in minutes (34.7/game).

"Now we're in the postseason, got more games to be played. Everybody wants and hopes for the postseason. We're going to try to play as long as we can," Warren said.

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