Ready to Run
Of course, the Rebels didn’t play the Cougars this season. But they did play a team with a similar offensive style – high-scoring and guard-oriented – in Vanderbilt.
The result wasn’t pretty.
The Commodores coasted to an 86-77 win in what was the regular season finale for both teams over a week ago, shooting a blistering 54.5 percent from the field, including 56.5 percent from 3-point range.
Now Ole Miss (20-12, 11-7 SEC) faces an even greater challenge.
“When you play Vandy, if they're open they're going to make it. If you leave BYU open, they're going to make it,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said of the Cougars, who the Rebels face tonight at 8:10 CST in the first round of the NCAA tournament on truTV.
“We've got to be really locked in, understanding personnel. That's not easy to do in a two-day turn. We're trying to get up to speed on BYU and the different challenges they're going to present.”
BYU (25-9) is second in the country in scoring at 83.6 points per game. The Cougars are 15th nationally in 3-point field goals made, and in the top-30 in 3-point field goal attempts and 3-point field goal percentage.
The Cougars are led by senior guard Tyler Haws, who’s third in the country in scoring at 22.9 points per game. He’s first on the BYU career scoring list and is 24th all-time in NCAA history with 2,672 points. Senior point guard Kyle Collinsworth has set the NCAA record for triple-doubles in a season and tied the NCAA career record with six. He has 14 double-doubles on the year.
“They're a great shooting team and we've got to stop them from shooting as many 3s as they've been shooting,” junior Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody said. “We’ve just got to work harder on running teams like that off the 3-point line. Just general mistakes that we made that we’ve got to correct this time.”
“We’ve got to man up and play defense hard and communicate and basically just be aggressive,” senior guard Jarvis Summers said. “Make them score over the top of us. And like (Moody) said, just run them off the 3-point line.”
The Cougars aren’t simply a high-volume scoring team. What separates their offense from most everyone else in college basketball is their efficiency and speed. They rank ninth in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, and they average 14.6 seconds per possession, tops in the nation.
“Their pace of play is unlike any we've seen this season,” Kennedy said. “They're truly committed to playing fast. People think I'm a liberal offensive coach. I'm the most conservative coach you've ever seen compared to the way BYU runs and shoots quickly. They really let you shoot it fast.”
Following the Formula:
For Ole Miss, the winning formula is simple.
The Rebels are 18-4 this season when shooting 40 percent or better from the floor. Lately, though, they’ve struggled to put the ball in the basket. They’ve lost four of their last five games, making a combined 38.7 percent during the stretch. They were 47 percent in their shot attempts in their lone win.
Ole Miss spent much of the weekend sweating the NCAA tournament bubble. Kennedy hopes the relief of making the field – the second trip to the Big Dance in the last three seasons – loosens up the Rebels’ offense.
“My hope is we’ll just go play well,” Kennedy said. “No pressure, stop squeezing the ball. My hope is we can make some shots. We’ve had a formula by which we’ve shown very capable. We’ve got to stick to that formula. What is that? Shoot the ball in the basket.”
“We’ve been struggling,” Summers said. “We’re going to grind it out. If we’re making shots, that’s good for us.”
Perhaps no player has struggled more lately than Moody.
Moody, an All-SEC first team selection and the team scoring leader, has made just 19 of his last 73 shots (26 percent) and seven of his last 38 3s (18 percent).
“Just got to get out of a little slump,” Moody said. “That’s all.”
Opposing defenses have had a little something to do with it.
Moody said along with guarding all screens, teams are now putting their biggest guard on him. “There’s a size difference as opposed to earlier in the season,” he said.
“I’ve got to do a good job of manufacturing him clean looks, and then he’s got to do a good job of adjusting to the way he’s being defended,” Kennedy said.
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