Repeat Needed

ATLANTA, Ga. - Ole Miss is on familiar ground as it readies to open SEC tournament play Thursday night.

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There's no real pressure, similar to last season, when the then-No. 3 seeded Rebels made their memorable run to an SEC tournament championship. At 18-13 overall, they'll need a repeat performance to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament for the second time in as many years.

But, hey, they've been here before.

"Everyone gave up on us," senior guard Marshall Henderson, a second team All-SEC selection, said, looking back to the three-game spurt that culminated in his team cutting down the nets in Nashville, Tenn., following a win over Florida. Henderson was named tournament MVP.

"That really made us come together. We realized we were all that we had. We wanted to enjoy the last few games and just kind of play it out, see what happens. No real pressure. I don't want to say it made it easier, but it kind of took our minds off and we played with not as much pressure. The sense of urgency was easier to play with."

Sound familiar?

Marshall Henderson
Associated Press

"Everything is possible," Andy Kennedy, 7-6 in SEC tournament games as Ole Miss head coach, said, "but this team is vastly different."

A few of those differences is up front. Gone are Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner – two of the most productive players in Ole Miss history. The Rebels have struggled with consistency all season along its front line, namely in rebounding, where they were out-rebounded 19 times.

"Front court, I'm still thinking about who is starting tomorrow night," Kennedy said. "That's never a very good sign when you're embarking on your conference tournament. But it's just who we are."

The Rebels are the No. 6 seed this week, meaning they'll have to win one more game to dance. Ole Miss, with its RPI rank in the mid-80s, gets the winner of Mississippi State and Vanderbilt Thursday night at approximately 8:30 p.m.

In-state rival Mississippi State (13-18) has lost 13-straight games. "They're on a little bit of a snide," Kennedy said. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt, at 15-15 overall, dropped three games in a row to close the regular season, including a 65-62 final at Ole Miss March 8.

"Obviously, if State wins and we have the opportunity to play them, then, you know, it would be their Super Bowl in that they could go ahead and put us out of our misery," Kennedy said.

"Looking at the road that we have, we're excited about it," Henderson said. "The same position, really. Same path. Just got to win one more game."

Ole Miss has an overall record of 29-49 in 52 SEC tournament appearances. The Rebels have reached five SEC championship contests and have a 2-3 record int those games, taking home two tournament titles.

Ole Miss has a 5-12 record in the SEC tournament in Atlanta.

"We just got to win," said Jarvis Summers, also a second team All-SEC selection. "We're not the team we were from last year, but we got Marshall, we got me, (Aaron Jones). We got some returning players from last year's team.

"We just got to step up to the challenge and get it done."

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