Upset Avoided

Murphy Holloway didn't play Tuesday night against SMU, as expected. Ole Miss snapped its three-game losing streak without him, anyway.

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But the win didn't come easy.

The Rebels entered the game desperately needing a win following losses to Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee State and Dayton. Ole Miss (10-4) responded, even if the win was ugly, earning a nail-biting, 50-48 win over the Mustangs, who fell to 8-6 on the season.

Ole Miss has scored just 50 points in each of its last two games, and managed only 56 in the loss to Middle Tennessee State.

"We have a term, and with this team it really rings true. Embrace the grind. It's going to be a grind. Grab on with both hands. It's who we are," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "Until we get an identity, until we get someone who stands up and says follow me, you just don't know where we're going to get baskets."

With the win, Ole Miss has now won at least 10 non-league games in five out of the last six seasons, and is 75-21 in non-conference games under Kennedy. Ole Miss opens Southeastern Conference play Saturday at LSU. The game is scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. tip.

"With us being on this three-game losing streak, confidence was shot," senior Terrance Henry said. "Everybody's head was down. But everybody in the locker room, we just tried to keep everybody up. We had a player's only meeting today, and we laid some stuff out on the table. We're trying to set the standard for SEC, ‘cause the veterans, we know what's coming."

Ole Miss was led in scoring by Henry, who had 13 points. He was the only player with double-digit points. Reginald Buckner had eight points and 11 rebounds. He also had two blocks, adding to his all-time school blocks record. He has 190 blocks in his career.

Terrance Henry
Bruce Newman

Robert Nyakundi scored 12 points to pace SMU. Jeremiah Samarrippas had 10. Ole Miss shot 34 percent from the floor for the game. SMU shot 37 percent. Ole Miss made 14 of 17 free throws, and outrebounded SMU 34-30.

"My parents used to say sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees," Kennedy said. "That's why I say embrace the grind. The grind eats these guys up. We're 14 games in, and they can't differentiate the importance of the next one to the next one because they all kind of get ‘ya.

"Even though it wasn't a thing of beauty, we're sitting here 10-4. We've survived the Murph injury. Now, hopefully, we can start solidifying ourselves as a team."

Holloway wasn't the only notable absence from the game. Freshman guard Jelan Kendrick failed to record a minute of playing time, after averaging 17.7 minutes per game over the last three games. Kendrick dressed and went through warm-ups.

Kennedy said Kendrick, who made his debut at Southern Miss Dec. 17, sat due to a coach's decision, and Kennedy left it at that.

Ole Miss trailed, 17-12, midway through the first half, but used a 16-4 run to take the lead. Terrance Henry made good on a 3-pointer to open the second half for a 10-point lead at 31-21, but SMU responded with a 10-0 run to tie the game at 31.

Dundrecous Nelson connected on a 3-pointer to retake the lead. SMU guard Jalen Jones tied the score at 36 with a jumper with 10:35 to play. Ole Miss used an 8-0 run and appeared poised to pull away, but SMU answered with an 8-0 run of its own to tie the game at 44.

Smarrippas made good on a jumper to give SMU a slim advantage with under three minutes to go. Henry responded with a drive and layup at the rim, and put his team ahead for good at 50-48 with two free throws and 28 seconds left.

Nyakundi got an open look from 3 at the buzzer, but his shot hit off the front of the rim and bounced away.

"We grinded it out," Henry said. "With Murph being out, that's a lot of production missed. Somebody has to step up and do it. Fortunately, we had the right people in at the right time, and they stepped up and made plays."

Kennedy hopeful Holloway returns for LSU:

Holloway sat on the bench in a walking boot Tuesday night. Kennedy said Holloway is progressing nicely from a high ankle sprain suffered against Middle Tennessee State. The training staff will evaluate his progress throughout the week.

A decision will be made regarding his playing status for LSU later this week.

"Our training staff's done a remarkable job with him. Our doctors are terrific. I'm going to follow their lead, along with what Murph tells me," he said. "From the day in which he was injured, every day he has progressed, which is all we can ask. We won't know when he can play in an SEC game until Saturday, probably."

Andy Kennedy
Bruce Newman

Kennedy pays tribute to "Coach":

Legendary basketball coach Gene Bartow, who succeeded John Wooden at UCLA and later began UAB's athletics program, passed away of cancer Tuesday night. He was 81.

Kennedy played three seasons under Bartow at UAB, where Kennedy was a two-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection. Kennedy is the school's second all-time leading scorer with 1,787 points.

"Man that meant a great deal to me," Kennedy said of Bartow. "I knew this day was going to come. It's never easy. Here's a guy that was a true gentleman. Impacted the game of basketball I think because he was such a good guy. I've never seen or heard anyone say an ill-word about him. Truly remarkable man. The game is much better for his fingerprints being on it."

Kennedy said he last talked to Bartow a couple of weeks ago. Bartow was the president of the company that owns the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies and FedEx Forum. He died at his home in Birmingham, Ala., after a long battle with stomach cancer.

"For me to have the opportunity to play for Coach for three years and develop a true friendship over the years and work for his son, had a huge impact," Kennedy said. "He's my coach, but he's also a good friend. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to have him in my life."

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