Man Down

The play was routine, a simple rebound midway through the second half of a 82-73 Ole Miss win over Texas A&M on Wednesday.

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Anthony Perez, a freshman reserve, went for a rebound, the scoreboard showing 12:40 remaining in a tightly-contested game. As he came down with the ball, he got tangled up with Aggie forward Ray Turner.

His body twisted in a way it isn't supposed to twist, his knee bending awkwardly. He slammed to the ground, the pain he was feeling showing on his face. He shed a few tears. He slammed his fists against the hardwood, though he eventually, after a few minutes, collected himself before being helped off the court, two trainers acting as crutches.

An already thin front court without Demarco Cox, Aaron Jones and Jason Carter lost another man. For how long remains to be seen. He'll undergo an MRI Thursday to determine the significance.

"My hope is that it's not something that's going to be season-ending," head coach Andy Kennedy, his team now 21-7 and 10-5 in Southeastern Conference games, said. "The initial prognosis is I think it'll be something he can come back from."

Senior forward Murphy Holloway played a team-leading 35 minutes against Texas A&M, scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Reginald Buckner saw 26 minutes, but would have played more had he not missed eight minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. His final line: 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.

Three games remain in the regular season. Ole Miss next travels to Mississippi State for a 4 p.m. tilt on Saturday, followed by a home game with Alabama and a final road trip to LSU.

The loss of Perez doesn't mean too much on the surface. But should he miss any real time - say, a game or two - the Rebels go from scary thin to one-deep behind Holloway and Buckner.

Anthony Perez
Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics

"I didn't know Anthony played that much," Holloway said, brushing off the significance of the injury. "I hope he's all right, but we're going to be all right. Ever since I've been here, we've lost players. We're going to be all right."

Perez wasn't playing much. He entered the game averaging just 7.2 minutes per game. Mostly, he followed Brutus, who Kennedy has used as the primary backup to Holloway and Buckner. And he's held up OK, despite the undersized Brutus learning on the job.

Brutus is the last reserve standing. He saw 13 minutes, totaling two points and one rebound.

"Terry's done great, "Holloway said. "He's young. Attention to detail lacks sometimes. I think he's done great."

But the upside of the 6-foot-10 Perez is undeniable. Disappointing still is Perez was playing one of his best games of the season against Texas A&M, even if his stat line (five points and two rebounds in six minutes) was nothing to write home about.

He was aggressive - something Kennedy had often called for from the lanky, 205-pound guard/forward.

"He was good," Kennedy said. "He made a big 3, hit two free throws, was active on the glass. It's another body. We need a body. He's a versatile guy for us. We don't have a replacement for him. It's gotta be more minutes for Terry. We may have to go small at times."

Injuries happen in basketball. Ole Miss has certainly had its fair share this season. To Holloway, the task now is only to endure. An NCAA tournament bid hangs in the balance, and these Rebels have to win. And win. And win.

Next man up.

"Grind, man. Grind, grind, grind," Holloway said. "I'm just trying to grind to get these wins. Trying to get to the tournament. We've had to win to get in every year. Doesn't stop here. We have a better team. We're going to be all right."

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