'Just win, baby'

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Terrance Henry was calm and collected Wednesday, taking to the podium in the bowels of New Orleans Arena to meet the media.

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The questions were familiar. Questions he's answered before. Inevitable questions for a back-from-the-dead Ole Miss team with NCAA tournament aspirations.

Ole Miss meets Auburn tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the first round of the SEC tournament.

"Just win, baby," Henry said.

Indeed. Ole Miss (18-12, 8-8 SEC) has reentered the NCAA tournament discussion following three straight wins to close out the regular season. Its performance here is critical if it hopes to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade.

"I don't really know a ballpark figure," Henry said. "But I'm guessing two, three wins. Four would do it definitely. But two or three, I think."

"I don't really look into it too much," junior forward Murphy Holloway said. "I figure if we just keep winning, everything will take care of itself."

Ole Miss has an RPI rank of 58. Its strength of schedule is 41, and the Rebels hold a 7-11 record against top-100 RPI teams, tied for the fifth most games against fellow top-100 teams.

"There's going to be winners and losers each and every day," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "It's an understanding that if we want to play beyond Thursday, we need to win basketball games. And that's what we're committed to doing."

Jelan Kendrick

Ole Miss pressing on without Kendrick:

Freshman guard Jelan Kendrick isn't with the team in New Orleans, having been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team Tuesday. Kennedy said here Wednesday he will address Kendrick's status at a later date.

"Where we go in the future is yet to be determined," Kennedy said.

It's the second suspension for Kendrick this season. He was suspended for one game earlier in the season due to what Kennedy called a coach's decision.

Kendrick didn't play against Alabama, the team's regular season finale. After participating in warm-ups, he left the arena briefly, before returning to the Ole Miss bench early in the first half. However, he never entered the game.

Ole Miss has had its share of personnel issues this season. Its most prolific scoring threat, Dundrecous Nelson, was dismissed earlier in the year following an arrest for drug paraphernalia. Forward Murphy Holloway suffered an ankle injury in a loss to Middle Tennessee State, and didn't return until the second game of the conference schedule.

"We're a resilient group," Henry said. "We've been through a lot this year with Dundrecous and the problems we had with other things, with Jelan, and injuries with Murph. But you know, we fought through that and we got back to 8-8 in the league like we needed to."

"We're a resilient team," Holloway said. "We came through a lot of adversity, and I think we're going to keep playing good and keep winning."

Kendrick, a former McDonald's All-American, appeared in 18 games this season with two starts. The backup point guard, Kendrick averaged 5.1 points per game and 2.2 rebounds.

"Well, it hurts their depth in their back court rotation," Auburn head coach Tony Barbee said. "But they have guys capable of stepping in. It puts more of a burden on (Jarvis) Summers to do more, but he's shown the ability to handle that."

Buckner honored to be honored:

Reginald Buckner
Associated Press

Henry and Buckner earned postseason honors from league coaches this week. Henry was named to the All-SEC second team, and Buckner was named to the All-Defensive team for the second straight year.

Buckner, who averages 6.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, is the all-time Ole Miss leader in career blocks.

In just 92 games, Buckner has totaled 223 blocks. And he's been instrumental in Ole Miss' successes this season. The Rebels are 9-2 when Buckner records double-digit rebounds.

"It means a lot to me. I know I got defensive skills," Buckner said of the postseason honor. "I'm just blessed, man. I just want to thank God for giving me this chance to go out here and showcase my talents. I think my defense is where it needs to be. I need to get into the gym more, work on my shot. Knock down a 15-footer and that should work out for me."

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