Maybe now he can do the same after his squad, with its early-season ups and downs, improved to 7-3 on the year with the victory.
“I just hope they can exhale a little bit,” said Kennedy, whose team’s three losses – to Charleston Southern, TCU, and Western Kentucky – were all inside the supposedly friendly confines of C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum. “You can’t play this game tight. There’s a fine edge, and sometimes we play too tight. You can’t do that. You’ve got to be relaxed and you’ve got to have confidence.”
Down 41-28 at halftime and as much as 17 points during the game, Ole Miss battled back against the hot-shooting Chanticleers of veteran head coach Cliff Ellis.
“Confidence is so huge in our game. They had it in the first half. We took it back in the second half,” Kennedy said. “It was nothing really that I said (at halftime). I just want to challenge them to me more aggressive.”
A couple of veteran Rebels stepped up big in this one. Jarvis Summers had 16 points, but LaDarius White led all scorers with 26.
“He was very aggressive for us,” Kennedy said of White, who was 6 of 8 from 3-point range. “For him to come out to hit the first two 3s of the second half, we carved into that lead quickly and got it to where it was manageable so we could make some plays down the stretch.”
White said it was all in a night’s work, and that he wanted to help his team break the early string of home woes with a win.
“We have been struggling in this building,” White said. “The main thing the coaching staff is stressing is just staying together no matter what. I just wanted to come out and play my best.”
Kennedy said he knew Coastal Carolina, now 8-3 after the loss, was going to be a formidable foe.
“They’ve got a quality team,” he said. “They won at Auburn earlier in the year. They have senior leaders in the backcourt. But we had a size advantage.”
Kennedy said his team was more like what he thought it would be all along in the second half.
“We just took what the defense gave us, got in the gaps, did a good job,” he said. “When you have 15 assists off 23 made field goals, it shows you’re sharing the ball.”
But it was still close until the final minute. The score was 66-66 with under a minute to play, and Ole Miss made free throws to seal it.
“We had a couple of turnovers there at the end that made it too exciting,” Kennedy said. “But we’ve made free throws for the most part this year. We finished the game at the free throw line. We won the battle of the boards. So there were a lot of positives, the biggest being that we won the game.”
Next up for Ole Miss is a game Monday night in Southaven against Southeast Missouri State.
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