That is, if the Rebels have enough players to dress.
Head coach Andy Kennedy said Thursday senior point guard Stefan Moody, who leads the SEC and ranks sixth in the nation in scoring this season at 24.3 points per game, is feeling better after suffering a hamstring strain in the Rebels’ loss to South Carolina. However, Moody remains day-to-day, even if the pain “has been cut almost in half” and he is “much more mobile” than he showed in the final minutes against the Gamecocks.
Still, Kennedy said Moody won’t play unless he’s 100 percent, or at least close to it. Ole Miss and Mississippi State tip off at 1 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.
“Honestly, I’m going to let him make the call,” Kennedy said. “We all realize that he’s a pretty important piece with what we’re doing, but if he’s not 100 percent, or as close to 100 percent as he can be, he will not play Saturday. When you have a hamstring tear or a strain, then obviously there’s going to be a little bit of discomfort there, so that would be the new normal. He’s trying to figure a lot of those things out.”
Forward Sebastian Saiz had surgery to repair a partially detached retina in his right eye Tuesday morning, but a few hours before the Rebels coughed up a 64-53 lead with 5:17 remaining in regulation to the 24th-ranked Gamecocks. They went on to fall in overtime, 77-74, for their third-straight loss.
He had a follow-up visit with the team physician a day later, and Kennedy said the reports have been nothing but positive.
“Surgery went well,” he said. “After the surgery, you wouldn’t think anything’s wrong at all. The process has begun now, and they’ll just continue to monitor the healing. He’s obviously out Saturday and most likely all of the following week because of the time. I don’t think there’s anything now but time and healing that will take place with him, and we’ll just continue to monitor it and go with what the doctors tell us.”
The Ole Miss front court struggled without Saiz, its only true post player on the roster. The Rebels entered the game ranked fifth in the SEC with a +2.9 rebounding margin, having been out-rebounded by their opponent just five times this season. South Carolina dominated the glass to the tune of a 49-37 advantage.
Not helping matters was senior guard Martavious Newby - the team’s second-leading rebounder at 4.9 per game - was on the shelf, too, with an eye injury of his own. But unlike Saiz, whose injury came during a game, Newby is dealing with a persistent condition involving the pressure in his eyes. How long he’ll be out is undetermined. His right eye was swollen shut Tuesday.
“The pressure in his eye is higher than it should be. Therefore, they’re trying to medicate that with drops and get the pressure down,” Kennedy said. “Obviously when the pressure is higher it has an adverse effect on your vision. That’s where he was when he saw the doctor last. I don’t know if he’s going (to practice Thursday) or not. I’ll find out soon. It looked bad the day of the game. We don’t even know what’s causing it outside of just some discomfort in his eye, which has manifested itself with some swelling in his eyelid.”
To be without one starter, let alone all three, against the Bulldogs would present a tall-task for Kennedy and Co., even if Mississippi State has struggled so far. The Bulldogs are 7-10 on the season, including 0-5 in SEC play. They lost at Florida, 81-78, Tuesday, and they’ve dropped their last five games overall.
Kennedy, meanwhile, is tasked with keeping morale up for a team limping to Starkville and in desperate need of a win.
“There’s obviously going to be some confidence lost,” Kennedy said. “Sebas is our best interior player, Moody’s our best player, Newby’s our most-experienced player. We would certainly like to have them at 100 percent, but that’s just not our reality. We’re forced to deal with the here and the now and do what we have to do. The games keep coming, and we’ve got to prepare as such.
“I know that obviously (MSU) is a group that’s going to be hungry being at 0-5 at this point. They see us walking in a little bit wounded. They’re still a senior-oriented team when you talk about the core of their group with the exception of Malik (Newman), who obviously gets a lot of attention. They’re still a group that’s been through a lot of battles. We know they’ll be ready. I know coach (Ben) Howland will have them ready.”