The Holloway Factor

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- As Murphy Holloway goes, so goes Ole Miss. The numbers don't lie.

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The presence of Holloway, a junior forward, has been of measurable value for Ole Miss in the 2011-12 season. Ole Miss is 17-9 in games he finishes. When he went down with an ankle injury against Middle Tennessee State in December, the Rebels went on to lose. They then lost two of their next three.

Holloway matters. Just ask Auburn head coach Tony Barbee.

"He's a fantastic player," he said. "He presents so many different challenges because he's a small forward in a power forward's body. And he's rough and rugged. He can put it on the floor like a guard and drive you, and he can rough you up and score in the post."

Holloway returned from injury against Arkansas. He took over the game, finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds in a win. He's second on the team in scoring, and is third in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding with 8.9 rebounds per game.

But beyond the numbers, Holloway means much, much more to Ole Miss basketball. He's the energizer. A team leader. A player his teammates rally behind.

"He's a big part of that team," Auburn forward Kenny Gabriel said. "He just motivates their team. If he gets going, he's just like an energy guy. Once he's going, the whole team gets going."

Murphy Holloway

Holloway, of Irmo, S.C., transferred back to Ole Miss from South Carolina last summer, a significant addition for Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy.

Kennedy has said he's been genuinely shocked twice in his career: Once when Holloway transferred, and again when he opted to transfer back.

He had to gain approval from both the NCAA and the SEC. His case was unique. Never before had a player transferred from one school to another, only to transfer back a year later.

There was no case precedent, no similar case for the NCAA and the SEC to fall back on.

"I kind of understood that it had never been done before," Holloway said. "But if it's never been done before, it's really not a rule to it, so it's possible."

Now Holloway is the crutch for an Ole Miss team with NCAA tournament aspirations. The No. 7 seeded Rebels (18-12, 8-8 SEC) meet No. 10 seed Auburn (15-15, 5-11 SEC) tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the first round of the SEC tournament.

"He's a tremendous player," Kennedy said. "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."

Holloway sits 24th in the SEC with 11.1 points per game. In league play, the All-SEC second team selection according to Blue Ribbon averaged 12.0 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Holloway ranks third among SEC players with nine double-doubles this year and ranks second among active league players with 23 in his career.

"Keep a body on him at all times," Auburn guard Frankie Sullivan said. "That's basically the big deal with him. And he's also a great scorer. He's got a knack for getting to the ball. Even if it's not his play, he'll go get an offensive rebound from the weak side.

Murphy Holloway
Bruce Newman

"We've got to keep a body on him, not one guy, but two or three guys. He's very strong and physical."

Ole Miss won three straight games to end the regular season.

Not coincidentally, Holloway produced, averaging 11.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.

Even more, in the Rebels' comeback win over Arkansas, Holloway had 16 points and 16 rebounds. Ole Miss rallied from 15 points down to win.

"Just lead by example," Holloway said. "Coach Kennedy just told (the veterans) to take ownership. That's what we're doing. Just step up and win games."

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