COLUMN: Searching for Summers
Martavious Newby was the one to take the shot.
He probably shouldn’t have been.
Ole Miss led Arkansas, 70-69, with under a minute left in regulation Saturday night. His team needing a shot, Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy designed a play for beleaguered point guard Jarvis Summers, a former All-SEC selection who has struggled mightily to consistently produce in his senior season.
The play ended up where Kennedy and Co. thought it would – in the hands of Summers on the wing. But he opted to swing the ball one last time, to Newby, an invaluable defender and rebounder but not the most efficient offensive player on the roster.
He missed. The Razorbacks were allowed the final shot in the game and delivered, Manuale Watkins sinking a floater with six seconds left. Final: Arkansas 71, Ole Miss 70.
“I thought he made an aggressive move to the basket and drew the defense,” Kennedy said of Newby’s layup. “I thought we over-rotated a little bit. We had some penetration, the ball got kicked to Jarvis. That’s where we thought it would be.
“He chose to swing it one more time.”
To be clear, Ole Miss is still well-positioned for the NCAA tournament despite the loss. The Rebels, who had won six straight, entered the game No. 37 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA with a strength of schedule of 43rd in the nation according to ESPN.com.
However, their work so far has been done mostly without the Summers Ole Miss had grown accustomed to over the last three seasons. He averaged 17.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 30.6 minutes per game a year ago.
“Obviously, it’s been well-chronicled his struggles offensively,” Kennedy said of Summers, who tallied seven points and six assists Saturday. “Maybe he’s thinking maybe someone else can make a play for us.”
Summers, for the season, was shooting 35 percent from the floor prior to the game. He scored in single digits in three of the last four, making 8 of 23 from the floor and 2 of 10 from 3, with a two-point output at Florida on 1 of 7 shooting.
A one-point loss to Arkansas in mid-February doesn’t hurt all that much, if at all. But, put simply, Ole Miss needs the old Summers back if it’s going to go as far as it has the potential to go.
“He has been hesitant,” Kennedy said. “We’ve tried to do some things to get him to his strength, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Summers had one last opportunity with six seconds left. He had a shot, too. Another chance.
His floater found the back of the rim.
“I would have preferred him gotten a little deeper and stayed to his right hand. Jarvis, I thought, had an angle,” Kennedy said.
He did. What he lacked was the touch, a far too common occurrence this season.
“It hurt,” senior forward M.J. Rhett, who scored a team-high 16 points and grabbed nine boards, said of the loss. “We’ve just got to bounce back because we’ve got a chance to go six more in a row before the SEC tournament starts. That’s our goal. We wanted to win 13 in a row, but our goal is to start a win streak again.”
“That was a high-level game,” Kennedy said. “I told our team I didn’t think we lost the game, I think Arkansas won it. Two teams fighting for their lives. We made the shot Thursday (at Florida).
“We missed the shot tonight.”
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