Hoping For Holloway

One thing's for certain as Ole Miss hosts Arkansas today at 7 p.m. The Rebels need Murphy Holloway back.

Follow SpiritJeff on Twitter

Since departing the Middle Tennessee State game on Dec. 21 with 10 minutes remaining due to an ankle injury, the Rebels have suffered. Down just a point to MTSU at the time, the losing margin was ultimately 12 points for Ole Miss at 68-56. The Rebels, who started the season 9-1, haven't been themselves since and now stand at 10-5 overall, 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy is hopeful of having Holloway back tonight against the Razorbacks.

"I'm waiting for him to say go. He's continued to progress," said Kennedy Tuesday. "The pain that he feels is from that bone bruise. The tendon, the ligament, all of that is pretty stable. For him, he's still having some pain."

Pain that might mean he won't play tonight. The Rebels' next action is Saturday at Auburn.

"He looked good," Kennedy said of Holloway's workouts this week. "You could tell he's still a little bit tentative, but explosive rebounding the ball and doing what Murphy does."

So with or without the veteran junior they count on so heavily for leadership as well as production, the Rebels face an Arkansas team that's 12-3 and coming off an impressive 98-88 win at home against Mississippi State to open league play Saturday night.

The head coach of the Hogs is Mike Anderson, the former Arkansas assistant in his first season at the helm. He spent the last five seasons as head coach at Missouri.

Freshman B.J. Young was named the SEC's Freshman of the Week after averaging 20.5 points and 3.0 rebounds over last week's two games (Savannah State, Mississippi State), and the Razorbacks picked up their first votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll since the 2008-09 season.

During Arkansas' recent seven-game winning streak, the Razorbacks have been efficient on offense and disruptive on defense, both qualities Anderson preaches to his team. The Hogs are shooting better than 45 percent from the floor and hitting 72 percent of their free throws and have 115 assists on 182 made shots (.631).

The Rebels haven't been the same since this Dec. 21 moment
Bruce Newman

Defensively, the Razorbacks have blocked 50 shots, made 59 steals and forced opponents into 124 turnovers while allowing just 67 assists. Arkansas is even getting the job done on the boards, outrebounding opponents by an average of +2.6.

Kennedy knows the relentless pressure Anderson, from the coaching tree of former Hogs head coach Nolan Richardson, will apply to his Rebels.

"It's going to be pressure defense, no question," he said. "They try to create offense from their defense. They're going to press you; pressure in the front court, not yield an inch in the half court, make you be strong with the ball. But when you play that way, you're susceptible to opportunities to dribble-drive. We'll have to take advantage of the opportunity."

Kennedy said the Rebels have to become more productive, even with leading scorer through the first 14 games, guard Dundrecous Nelson, now dismissed from the team.

"We've got to be able to manufacture baskets," said Kennedy as the Rebels have struggled to score much more than 50 points in any game recently, including an 81-55 loss at LSU last weekend. "We've got to do it on the offensive glass, which took a huge hit when our best offensive rebounder (Holloway) is gone. We've got to able to do it some off our defense by creating some steals. This isn't the fastest team we've ever had but we do have good length. We've got to start using that better."

The Rebels must start doing everything better if they are to make a run toward any type postseason play. While extremely early in the league portion of the schedule, Ole Miss has to start winning games again.

"We're just trying to find matchups that work," Kennedy said. "It's been instability, to say the least, in just trying to figure out our roster. When you lose your leading rebounder (Holloway) and your leading scorer (Nelson) prior to your SEC opener, we're just trying to find a combination that we feel can be competitive night in and night out in this league. And it's not advantageous. I'd much prefer us all knowing who all's going to be the starters and who our top eight or nine are. But unfortunately, that's not where we are, based on a lot of circumstances."

OM Spirit Top Stories