High Tide

In his most recent NCAA tournament bracket released Wednesday, CBSSports.com bracketologist Jerry Palm projected Ole Miss as a No. 12 seed playing Indiana in Nashville in March.

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Ole Miss (14-7, 4-3 SEC) has nine games remaining in its league schedule. Up next is a road trip to Alabama (14-7, 3-4 SEC) Saturday at 7 p.m. The schedule doesn't get any easier from there, with games against Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Mississippi State remaining.

Head coach Andy Kennedy was asked Thursday if his players understand what they have to do and how they need to go about the final nine games in order to make Palm's projection a reality.

He cracked a joke, and those reporters in the room shared a laugh.

"No, they don't understand. What's today? Thursday? They understand it's Thursday," Kennedy said, jokingly. "They know it's a big game against Alabama. They know it's going to be hard. As far as big picture, that's about as big as it gets."

And so it goes in early February, Ole Miss well into its league schedule but not yet at the midway point. Players and coaches alike are taking each game as it comes, not looking too far ahead with so much left to prove.

"We just need to take it one game at a time," point guard Jarvis Summers said. "Take care of home court advantage, and we'll be good. Got to get one on the road."

Andy Kennedy
Associated Press

Ole Miss has back-to-back road games against Alabama and Mississippi State before returning home to face Auburn and Vanderbilt.

The Rebels didn't have a mid-week game this week; a much-needed reprieve from the grind of the final month before the SEC tournament and postseason.

"Get to rest them legs and them knees," Summers said. "But still a grind. Back on it. Trying to finish up strong. I feel like everybody hit that wall. We've just got to keep pushing."

"I think the timing of this is pretty good, based on where we are physically," Kennedy said. "To have the bye date almost at the mid-point gives us a chance to adjust some of the things we're doing moving forward."

So the bubble watch can wait for now. Alabama, like Ole Miss, can't afford to look too far ahead. Alabama is very much in the NCAA discussion. Ole Miss is No. 40 in the nation in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA. Alabama is No. 36.

"They've got a lot of the same guys that they had last year that took them to 12-4 in the league. They haven't shot the ball as well as I'm sure (Alabama head coach) Anthony (Grant) would have liked, which I can relate to," Kennedy said. "They've struggled to score at times. Your margin for error is awfully small when you can't score consistently.

"This game, I think you have two teams who take on a similar mindset. We'll see who executes the best."

Scouting Alabama:

Alabama won its first two SEC games, then dropped four straight before picking up a 72-66 win over Arkansas in its most recent outing. Overall, Alabama is 9-2 at home, including a 2-1 home record in conference games.

Kennedy said the teams mirror each other. The game, according to Kennedy, could come down to turnovers. Ole Miss is 8-1 when it records the same or few turnovers than its opponent. The Rebels are 6-6 when they lose the turnover battle.

"To me, it comes down to limiting your turnovers against a team that's going to pressure you," Kennedy said. "Alabama extends the game in the full court. They're going to show you a number of different looks in the full court, and we've got to do a good job of handling that."

Quality Over Quantity:

Ole Miss has struggled from beyond the 3-point line all season. However, in SEC play, a number of players have stepped up with timely contributions, most notably senior forward Terrance Henry.

Henry hit the deciding 3-pointer against South Carolina, all but ending the game. Over his last four games, he is averaging 18.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He leads Ole Miss with a 12.1 scoring average for the season.

Terrance Henry
Bruce Newman

Nick Williams has upped his game, as well. He's tied for the team lead with 13.1 points per game in league games. Williams made the game-tying 3-pointer to help erase a 12-point second half deficit and force overtime in an eventual loss at Auburn.

Summers was also instrumental in the comeback at Auburn. He made all four of his 3-point attempts after the nine-minute mark, finishing with 22 points.

"Our focus is quality, not quantity. I've given up on quantity. Let's just be quality. Let's make timely shots," Kennedy said.

"Nick's been able to do that, Terrance obviously with a huge one down the stretch against South Carolina. Jarvis has been timely at times with his shot-making. We've got to have other guys step up and help, as well."

Road Woes:

Ole Miss fares better at home (9-1) than on the road (3-4). Defensively, the Rebels are allowing almost 20 more points on the road than they do at home.

Kennedy said a variety of factors play into road games. Records show most teams struggle to win away from home floor.

"First, you have to look at from the perspective of the home court. Proximity, noise, energy are all going for the home team. Familiarity as it relates to practicing in that gym every day, making shots," he said.

"More than anything, I just think it's the emotion and the comfort. The home team just plays with a greater sense of comfort and understanding. You can overcome it if you play well. You're never going to back your way into victories in the SEC, most especially on the road. Numbers reflect that."

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