'Must Win'

Stefan Moody knows it’s time to win some home games. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t mince words about the importance of Saturday’s 5 p.m. game against Florida.

“I do,” the junior guard said, point blank, when quizzed on if this game was a ‘must win’ for Ole Miss. “Yeah, I do consider it a must win.”

Ole Miss is 11-7 overall and 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference. The Gators are 10-8 and 2-3. On paper it indeed looks like a probable win at home. But not so fast.

Only three of the Rebels’ losses on their 2014-15 ledger have been on the road. The other four setbacks were inside the normally friendly confines of C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum.

So what gives? This isn’t the norm in college basketball anywhere, that a team has more home losses than it does on the road, especially when it has as many as seven losses already.

Pretty simple, according to the Kissimmee, Fla., product. Moody said the Rebels have to quit ‘thinking’ when at home and just start ‘playing’ like they do on the road.

“I think it’s more on the mental side. We have had really, really horrible shooting games in there,” he said. “But on the flip side, we’ve also had great games in there as well. I just feel it’s a mental thing. But I feel like in this Florida game, we’ll shoot pretty well.”

So he’s confident about that, even though recent history has proven the Rebels aren’t as good at home - a 75-71 loss a week ago to LSU a case in point - as they have been on the road. An SEC win at Arkansas and close setbacks to Kentucky and Georgia show they are arguably better on the road.

Florida is in town now. Then comes a home game Wednesday against arch-rival Mississippi State. After that comes a road game at Missouri and another home game against Texas A&M.

It’s a heavy home game stretch, and Ole Miss needs some wins if it hopes to make the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.

Moody said the time is now if Ole Miss hopes to wind up where it wants to be in March.

“It really starts with getting some home wins. We’re a great road team. If we can string some of these home wins together, we’ll be rolling,” he said.

Florida lost to LSU 79-61 at home Tuesday. The Gators have lost back-to-back conference games to Georgia and the Tigers after starting conference play 3-0.

Junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith leads Florida averaging 13.6 points per game and pulling down 5.6 rebounds a game. Junior guard Michael Fraizer is close behind at 13.1 points per contest and has knocked down a team-high 43 three-pointers on the year. The Gators are fourth in the SEC in steals at 8.2 per game and are forcing 15 turnovers a game.

Moody has been a big part of the Rebels’ success this season, giving them a threat to score every time he has the ball. He is averaging 19.3 ppg and has hit 14-of-33(.424) from three-point range in SEC play.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said Moody is who they thought he would be.

"When we recruited him, we knew there was going to be a void at his position,” Kennedy said. “We needed him to come in and be as productive as he has been to this point."

Moody scored 25 points, including 16 in the first half, as Ole Miss took No. 1 Kentucky to overtime - on the road. Moody knocked down 5-of-7 shots from behind the arc and 8-of-13 from the field. He scored a career-high 26 points, including 17 in the second half, as the Rebels knocked off Cincinnati to claim the Emerald Coast Classic crown earlier in the season. Moody scored 22 points in the Rebels' win at Oregon, and added 25 points, including a career-high 6 three-pointers, against Western Kentucky.

Moody said it’s all about his home-state team now and getting a win against the Florida Gators - at home in Oxford.

“We’ve given up too many opportunities as it is, making it harder and harder to climb out of a hole,” he said. “We can’t waste any more time.”


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