Mood Shift

Ole Miss has historically struggled in Starkville. Thursday night was no different.

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The Rebels hadn’t won at Mississippi State since 2009. Actually, their all-time away record in the series entering the game was 34-92.

The difference tonight, however, was Stefan Moody.

Moody scored a game-high 29 points as Ole Miss survived with a 71-65 win. He also notched a team-high six rebounds. All eight of his made shots were of the 3-point variety, with none bigger than his go-head bomb with 6:08 remaining.

“I was challenging, challenging, challenging guys in every timeout,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “Stefan Moody accepted the challenge.”

Ole Miss called for a full timeout after two made free throws by Mississippi State forward Gavin Ware gave the Bulldogs a 54-52 lead. During the break, Kennedy looked around and asked who wanted the ball.

The only player to speak up was Moody. And channeling his inner-NBA Jam, he followed with three-straight 3s. He threw in the game-deciding four free throws in the final minutes for good measure.

“We ran a play for him, he knocked it down,” Kennedy said. “If you make one, I’m going to see if you can make two or three. He responded for us huge down the stretch.”

“In that timeout, he definitely challenged me,” Moody said. “I told him I wanted it. The very next play he drew one up for me and I knocked it down.”

Ole Miss has won four in a row against its in-state rival, but perhaps more importantly, four in a row on the road in SEC play.

And the Rebels have done so pretty much on the shoulders of Moody and without preseason All-SEC point guard Jarvis Summers, who was again all but invisible. He’s now scored in single digits in four of his last five games. He had six points on 3 of 7 shooting.

Summers played just seven minutes (24) more than backup Terence Smith (17), who was credited with each of the assists on Moody’s three 3s.

“Terence Smith, I thought, gave us great minutes,” Kennedy said. “Jarvis was struggling a little bit. I was trying to rest him, give him a different perspective – really trying to piss him off, quite frankly, and sit him as long as I could sit him.

“I went to him down the stretch because I trust him. We even ran a play for him and he hit a tough floater down the baseline.”

Ole Miss has learned how to win without Summers. The formula? Get the ball to Moody.

The game belonged to him – a freakishly athletic guard who relishes the big moment. This is the same player who hit the go-ahead 3 at Florida for another road win with significant NCAA tournament ramifications.

Kennedy said he has evolved into the Rebels’ go-to player. No one can argue. He’s the one carrying Ole Miss (18-8, 9-4 SEC) to, potentially, its second NCAA tournament berth in the last three seasons.

“I feel like we can go pretty far,” Moody said. “I don’t really think about it as just me being the go-to guy. I feel my team believes in me, trusts in me to knock down shots. That’s what I do.”

“He had a two-minute stretch about as good as we’ve had all year,” Kennedy said. “Moody refused to let us lose.”

A common occurrence this season.

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