Game: Ole Miss - Charleston Southern
Date: Nov. 14, 6 p.m.
Location: Oxford, Miss.
TV/Radio: SEC Network Plus/Ole Miss Radio Network
Andy Kennedy has plenty of pieces to work with in 2014-15, admitting last week he could have one of, if not his deepest, teams in his nine seasons at Ole Miss.
Fitting the pieces together is the tricky part.
“We’d be hard-pressed to find a cutoff between seven, eight, nine and 10,” Kennedy said of his rotation.
The Rebels open their season tonight at 6 p.m. against Charleston Southern, a week following a tune-up throttling of Delta State that saw Kennedy play each of his 11 available scholarship players at least 14 minutes. Terry Brutus and Aaron Jones were unavailable due to injury and suspension, respectively.
Five players – guards Jarvis Summers, Terence Smith and Ladarius White and forwards M.J. Rhett and Sebastian Saiz – topped the 20-minute mark. Ole Miss coasted to a 97-58 win, with Summers leading the way in scoring with 16 points, while Saiz grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.
“Mission accomplished for us,” Kennedy would say afterwards. “It was a dress rehearsal, and we got a lot of guys a lot of minutes.”
But it won’t always be that way.
If it were up to Kennedy, roles would be defined in earnest and the task of determining who plays when would be made easy. He knows what he has in Summers, a first team All-SEC selection who stands as the SEC active leader in points (1,233), assists (370), minutes played (2,920) and wins (66).
The rest? Good question, even if Ole Miss does return six of its top seven players from last year, a season that saw the Rebels finish with 19 wins and miss the postseason.
“We’ll continue to mix and match until we find the right group,” Kennedy said. “There’s the least amount of separation between the first unit and the second unit.”
The theme of the team this season is ‘We Are One,’ a contributing factor in Kennedy, who has a 171-101 record in eight seasons as head coach, axing pregame lineup introductions.
Still, even if he’d prefer not to draw attention to his starting five, start they must, and Delta State at least provided a glimpse of what Kennedy has in mind for the core of his team: Summers, Stefan Moody, Martavious Newby, Saiz and Dwight Coleby.
“We have an understanding of what Jarvis can do,” Kennedy said. “The bigs will continue to do it by committee. Sebas was very active on the glass. We’re more athletic on the perimeter. Moody on the ball is a difference-maker because he’s so quick and disruptive.
“Newby is now a junior and he has a better understanding of angles. We have seniors around him, and Anthony (Perez) comes in with a different look with his length.”
Scouting Charleston Southern:
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)
Charleston Southern posted a 13-18 overall record last season and finished tied for eighth in the Big South with a 6-10 league mark. CSU finished 10th in nation a year ago, averaging 81.4 points a game. The Buccaneers return three starters off last year’ squad including a pair of preseason All-Big South selections in Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper. Nimley is the Bucs leading returning scorer at 13.3 points per game and needs just 87 assists to become the program’s all-time leader. Harper, who was second on the team in scoring a year ago at 12.6 ppg, has knocked down 145 3-pointers in his career.
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)
* Ole Miss has an overall record of 79-25 (.760 winning percentage) in season openers. The Rebels have won their last 10 season openers, including last season’s 69-54 triumph over Troy. The last defeat in a season opener was a 74-69 loss to Arkansas State in 2003. Ole Miss has an overall record of 84-13 (.866 winning percentage) in its first home game of the year, and has won 17 of the last 18 home openers.
* Summers was named to the All-SEC first team in a preseason poll of both the leagues’ coaches and media. He was also selected the preseason SEC Player of the Year and first team all-conference by CBSSports.com. In addition, Summers was named the second-most undervalued player in the nation by Jay Bilas, who rated Summers the ninth-best point guard in the nation. Further, he was listed as one of 35 players recently named to the Bob Cousy Award Watch List by Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The annual honor, named for Hall of Famer and former Boston Celtic Bob Cousy, recognizes the top point guards in men’s college basketball.
* Winning at home has been a trademark of Kennedy’s squads since he took the reins in 2006-07. Ole Miss is 112-24 (.824 win pct.) in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum during Kennedy’s tenure. The Rebels had their 23 game non-conference home winning streak dating back to 2010 snapped last season with the loss to No. 13 Oregon. Ole Miss has won 243 of its last 299 games (.813 win pct.) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 476-203 (.701 win pct.) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.
||As previously noted, Ole Miss was able to play all 11 of its available scholarship players last week in the exhibition tune-up against Delta State. Brutus is still rehabbing from multiple injuries last season, including an initial season-ending ACL tear, while Jones missed the game due to suspension for a violation of team rules. Tonight's game should provide Kennedy with a similar opportunity. The Rebels are far superior to Charleston Southern, obviously, so the ultimate outcome won't be in doubt. How Kennedy rotates the roster will be interesting to watch though, and if nothing else, will provide a preview of sorts of the team we'll see in January and on into March.|