Friendly Foes

Andy Kennedy has no shortage of friends in college basketball. However, South Carolina head coach Frank Martin is among his closest.

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Martin, who is in his first season at South Carolina after a successful stint at Kansas State, was an assistant on the same Bob Huggins staff at Cincinnati as Kennedy from 2004-06.

Kennedy ultimately became the interim head coach in 2005-06 after Huggins was fired, leading the Bearcats to the National Invitation Tournament. But Kennedy and Martin parted ways when Kennedy left to become head coach at Ole Miss and Martin to Kansas State to follow Huggins, where he was promoted to head coach after Huggins left for West Virginia a year later.

Kennedy's Rebels (19-6, 8-4 SEC) face Martin's Gamecocks (12-13, 2-10) tonight at 6 p.m. on CSS. The game will mark the second-ever meeting between the two. Kennedy led Ole Miss to an 86-74 win over Martin and Kansas State in 2009.

"When the game starts, his players have an unbelievable confidence about their ability to do their jobs," Martin said of Kennedy-coached teams. "He does a phenomenal job of getting his best players shots from areas where they're real efficient at. That's a mark of a good basketball coach."

Ole Miss has lost four of its last six games, but snapped a two-game losing streak with an overtime win over Georgia on Saturday.

Frank Martin
USA TODAY images

Ole Miss, currently projected as an NCAA tournament team by and ESPN, enters the game with an RPI ranked No. 51. South Carolina checks in with RPI rank No. 207.

"Really, the biggest thrill for us against Georgia was winning the game, having lost four of five," Kennedy said. "Getting back home, we needed to protect our home floor. I was proud that our guys found enough fight down the stretch to make that happen. To get to 8-4 in the league was really where my focus was. Now it's (on) trying to win No. 9."

South Carolina fell to Alabama, 68-58, on Saturday afternoon. The Gamecocks are led by forward Michael Carrera, who averages 10.4 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game.

The Gamecocks are riding a six-game losing streak, having last picked up a win against Arkansas on Jan. 26. They're 8-7 at home this season, while Ole Miss has just one win (in 2001) all-time in Columbia.

"I know that it's going to be a tremendous challenge, because Frank is a tremendous basketball coach, and his teams are always going to be fundamentally sound," Kennedy said. "Life is never easy on the road in SEC play. We've got to make sure we take the right approach."

"Ole Miss at home, obviously we gotta defend a young man (in Marshall Henderson) that's scoring 20 points a game," Martin said. "Andy Kennedy's another one of my dear friends in the business. He's doing a great job. Wins 20 every year at Ole Miss, and it doesn't look like it's going to be any different this year."

Random Notes:

Sophomore point guard Jarvis Summers has shined in league play, averaging 11.2 points per game in SEC games, compared to 7.1 points in non-conference action … Ole Miss has won three of the last four meetings with South Carolina, but the home team has taken 10 of the last 11 games … The Rebels are 6-5 away from Tad Smith Coliseum this season, including 3-3 in SEC play … Henderson leads the SEC in scoring at 19.7 ppg and ranks fourth in the nation, averaging 3.8 3-pointers per game. However, he's 5 of 23 from 3 in his last three games … Reginald Buckner has posted consecutive double-doubles. He was 13 of 20 in his free throw attempts in those games.

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