SEC looming for Lady Rebs

Renee Ladner joked following the Central Michigan game that her comments could be recorded and simply played back to the media following every contest. The same problems exist and second-half stumbling has been one of the few constants.

The Rebels ran the Chippewas out of the gym in overtime when Ladner quipped about her postgame interview, but even with the victory, the first-year coach struggled to get past losing double-digit leads in both halves and having Central Michigan bury a long-range three to force the extra session.

"It seems like we always play 35 minutes of effective basketball, but we completely lose focus for that other five minutes," Ladner said. "It has harmed us all season. It will kill us in the SEC."

And beginning Thursday, the conference slate is what Ole Miss will face from here on out. The Rebels are 6-7 thanks to a difficult schedule but also because of the players continuing to hassle to find their individual niches on a nightly basis.

While Ole Miss has gotten off to a 5-1 start inside Tad Smith Coliseum, only one name opponent (NC State) has been opposite the Rebels and that ended in the lone loss. However, the road record is brutal thanks to playing quality teams on their home floor and losing focus in holiday tournaments.

Ole Miss is a lowly 1-6 in away or neutral-site games including a 0-3 record in tournament play. For a team searching for its identity, falling at Nebraska, at Ohio State or at Penn State is understandable, but laying eggs against the trio of Wisconsin, UC Santa Barbara and Montana shouldn't happen. The Rebels one win away from home came in Coral Gables, Fla., versus the Miami Hurricanes.

"The NC State game was one we gave away, and I think the girls were completely at a loss for energy in Montana against the Grizzlies and UC Santa Barbara," Ladner said. "With our style of basketball, energy has to be a constant. We won't beat anybody by just going through the motions. The talent isn't there for that."

The difficult road games only get tougher with SEC play, as the Rebels travel to No. 7 Georgia (13-0) Thursday at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs are led by All-SEC forward Tasha Humphrey and defeated Ole Miss by nine in Athens last season.

With the conference portion upcoming, here are two key reasons for the slow start.


Starting with what the team can't control, injuries have decimated the roster and forced players into different positions than they are accustomed while also depleting depth. Ole Miss is 13 games into the season and this is a list of players that have missed time or been slowed by injury: Alliesha Easley, Kayla Holloway, Shantell Black, Kayla Melson, Carla Bartee, Bianca Thomas, Tasi Worsham, Kayla Melson and Brandi Tipton. Nine of 14 players have been hampered, including Easley and Holloway, who are lost for the season. Easley was expected to be the team's leading scorer and biggest threat before going down in the season opener with an ACL tear. Holloway is a 6-4 freshman that also suffered a knee injury early on. Depth is far from an asset with the Central Michigan game as an example. Elizabeth Robertson played three different positions in one half. The depth, or lack there of, is one reason for the…

Second-half struggles

What is the one common fact about the Rebels' losses against Ohio State, N.C. State and Penn State? They held a second-half lead in all three games. On the season, Ole Miss has scored 20 more points than opponents in the first half but has been outscored by 27 during the final period. The Rebels have allowed 75 more points in the second half of games compared to the first. The injuries and depth play an issue, but so does the post-Armintie hangover. Ole Miss isn't unbelievably young on the roster, but the experience comes in secondary roles from previous seasons. The majority of the roster has postseason play in its background, but the players are just now being asked to step up and take over a game in the closing minutes. In past seasons, Price and Ashley Awkward handled the ball during the decisive possessions. This year's group is improving but lapses at the wrong time continue to happen. This is one area where losing Easley is magnified. The Rebels need Melson and Shawn Goff to take over with the game on the line.

"Last year's success has an effect on this year's team but not necessarily in a good way," Ladner said. "We have to get out of that habit of waiting for someone else to make a play. Everybody has to make plays this year. There isn't an Armintie. There is a group of basketball players."

And that group must jell quickly with the treacherous SEC schedule upon it.

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