Pushing Through

Andy Kennedy said Monday Murphy Holloway being back has been a big key in the Rebels' recent resurgence. But the junior forward is still not 100 percent a month after the injury.

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"It's amazing he returned as quickly as he did from something that serious," the Rebel head coach said of Holloway's Dec. 21 ankle turn against Middle Tennessee State. "That speaks to how strong he is physically and what a competitor he is. The ligament and tendon issue that caused the injury has healed for the most part. He's still not 100 percent as it relates to strength and range of motion.

"He had a bone bruise that also was in conjunction with the initial injury that I think has caused him the most pain," Kennedy continued. "But Murphy is grinding through it. He continues to spend two or three hours a day in the training room trying to get back healthy. When you have an injury like what he suffered, the best remedy is rest. He realizes that is not an option as we are well into SEC play."

Holloway was at South Carolina last season sitting out after playing for two years at Ole Miss. He then transferred back to the Rebels. Kennedy said Holloway is showing signs of being close to full strength even as he continues to produce.

"I think he's gotten a little more explosive again taking off. He's always been very, very good when he has angles getting to his strong hand. In league play since he's been back, he's averaging right at a double-double. It's pretty evident he's not 100 percent yet, but he's still been able to go out and get around 11 (points) and 11 (rebounds) a game. That's pretty impressive when you think about what he's been able to do less than 100 percent."

Ole Miss improved to 13-6 overall with a 66-63 win on the road at Georgia Saturday. It was the second straight Southeastern Conference win for the Rebels, now 3-2 in league play. They beat Mississippi State 75-68 last Wednesday.

Ole Miss is home for two games later this week. Florida is the opponent at 6 p.m. Thursday, an ESPN or ESPN2 game, and South Carolina is the foe at 6 p.m. Saturday, a FSN game.

Murphy Holloway
Bruce Newman

"Two big challenges this week, and that's always the case when you get into league play," Kennedy said. "Great opportunities for us, and we're at home."

Other notes from Kennedy on Monday's SEC teleconference:

On what Holloway has actually meant to the Rebels this season:

Kennedy: "He's a tremendous player. He brings energy. He has a nose for the ball. I've always said regardless of sport, the best players are always around the ball. He happens to have the ability to be around the ball on both ends. He's a fourth-year junior who has obviously been through this grind before. He brings us a physical toughness and a mental toughness which this team needs. You look at our team, we have 11 scholarship players now. More than half of those are in their first year in our program. It's important for guys such as Murphy, even though he has not been with us in a year, to provide that leadership we need."

On the apparent rise of SEC men's basketball with Tennessee beating Connecticut, Arkansas beating Michigan, and the league seemingly stronger from top to bottom:

Kennedy: "I think overall the balance just happens to be better. The top is very strong when you talk about a Kentucky team that will probably be No. 1 in the nation and justifiably so. You talk about a Florida team that we'll be facing on Thursday which is coming off an Elite Eight run last year and is equally as good if not better (this year), in my opinion. (Florida has) probably the best collection of perimeter players of anybody in the country. Vanderbilt is a team that's exceptional. Mississippi State is a team that's as talented and as well-coached as anybody in the country. LSU is improved. Arkansas is tremendous. I think we've made strides in the right direction. Auburn has gotten much better. I just think top to bottom overall, the league is probably as balanced as any time in my six years in it."

On the SEC going from two six-team divisions in men's basketball to a league of 12 teams this season:

Kennedy: "When you're dealing with a Kentucky that has such a passionate following and is the best program top to bottom in college basketball and has been for many years, and speaking from our perspective, if you're in a division opposite Kentucky, sometimes the national media tends to view it as two different leagues (west, east). We just did not feel that was in the best interests of the SEC moving forward. Going to one division will be something that benefits the league moving forward. The thing that has gotten SEC basketball back is the quality of basketball, top to bottom."

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