Dun Moved On

Maurice Aniefiok cracked a smile Tuesday against SMU. He couldn't help it. One of the many shots he's taken in his true freshman season had finally found the bottom of the net.

Follow SpiritBen on Twitter

He can only hope there are more smiles to come.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy dismissed two players from his basketball team this week for a violation of team rules, including leading scorer Dundrecous Nelson. Without Nelson, Aniefiok's role is sure to expand.

Aniefiok scored a season-high eight points off the bench against SMU, a 50-48 Ole Miss win. He was 3 of 7 from the field and 2 of 6 from 3-point range.

"There was this big smile on my face, ‘cause I've been knocking it down in practice since we came back from the (holiday) break," he said. "It's been very consistent in practice. I've been hanging in there; keep believing that it's going to come in the game. Right now, I feel a lot better. I'm looking forward to the game we have against LSU."

Aniefiok is one of a handful of players who Kennedy will lean on to make up for the production lost in Nelson, who was dismissed from the team following his arrest for drug paraphernalia in his apartment Wednesday morning. Freshman Jamal Jones was also dismissed.

Nelson was averaging 11.6 points per game through this season's first 14 games. Ole Miss is 10-4. Junior Nick Williams is the lone returner in the back court from last season's 20-win team. He's averaging 8.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 29 minutes per game this season.

Nick Williams
Bruce Newman

"Coach has been talking to me for the last couple of days about being aggressive. I can't just let the game come to me. I've got to be a lot more aggressive," Williams said. "I'm not going to shy away from it. I'm going to be more aggressive.

"I promise you, this team is going to be more aggressive, and we're going to knock down shots. You're going to see a more exciting team. We're excited about coming into SEC play. I'm just going to be more aggressive."

Williams believes the Rebels, who return to action Saturday at LSU (10-4), has the depth to make up for what they lost in Nelson. He named freshmen Ladarius White, Jarvis Summers and Jelan Kendrick, as well as Aniefiok, as players who have to "step up."

Saturday, Williams said, presents an opportunity for Ole Miss to move on from a forgettable end to December, when Ole Miss lost three-straight games before snapping the streak against SMU.

"The three-game losing streak really hurt us," he said. "But unlike past teams, I've seen from this team that we didn't really get down. Nobody's hanging their head. We're just approaching the next game like it's got to be our best game. We're excited. We're trying to make it."

Kendrick is key as Ole Miss enters conference play. A former McDonald's All-American, he was cleared to play in mid-December, but has twice sat out of games due to a coach's decision. Kendrick averaged 17.7 minutes in the three games he saw action, all losses.

"He's still very much in the mix as it relates to earning the opportunity to go out and play," Kennedy said. "He'll continue to get his opportunities, and hopefully with more experience he'll continue to get more comfortable and be able to help this team."

Kennedy credited the improved play of LSU to the arrivals of Justin Hamilton, a transfer from Iowa State, and highly-touted freshman Johnny O'Bryant, who Kennedy recruited to Ole Miss.

Hamilton is one of two Tigers averaging double-digit points. He leads the team at 12.3 points per game. O'Bryant, of Cleveland, Miss., won't play Saturday due to a broken hand. He started eight of the Tigers' 14 games this season, averaging 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds.

"Johnny, I hate that he got hurt," Kennedy said. "Everybody knows how hard we recruited him for a number of years. He was really playing well and getting more and more confident."

Still, the Tigers are winners of seven of their last eight games. Their seven-game winning streak was snapped with a loss to No. 23 Virginia in their most recent outing. LSU upset No. 10 Marquette, a team Ole Miss lost to by 30 in November, in the latter portion of its non-conference schedule.

Murphy Holloway
Bruce Newman

"I think they're playing well. They've always guarded and been fundamentally sound. I think Hamilton has allowed them to get over the hump by giving them a constant scoring presence close to the basket," Kennedy said.

Holloway a game-time decision:

Junior forward Murphy Holloway is questionable for Saturday's game. Holloway suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Rebels' loss to Middle Tennessee State prior to the Christmas break.

"He's continuing to improve. He's now doing on-court activity," Kennedy said. "We're testing how he feels. A lot of times when you have an injury, until you come out and test it a basketball mode and see if your body responds, that's kind of where we are. He continues to make improvements. It'll really, technically, be a game-day decision."

Offensively challenged:

Ole Miss trips to Baton Rouge with its offense reeling. The Rebels managed just 50 points in back-to-back games, finishing 1-1 in those games.

On average, Ole Miss is scoring a mere 66.3 points, good for 10th in the conference. Ole Miss has the No. 219 offense nationally.

"We don't have great team speed. We're big in the back court, which conversely means you're not very fast. But we've got length," Kennedy said. "We've got to be able to do some things to create some turnovers. But when you do that, you get extended. The one thing we've been pretty good at is in the half court, if we don't allow people to run by us in transition, we've been pretty sound in half-court defense.

"For us, we've just got to continue to work on role identity and game reps. When it's an opportunity to step up and make some shots, make some. If we can knock down two or three in a row, hopefully there will be a collective exhale, and we can start being more efficient offensively."

OM Spirit Top Stories