Rebs head to open week after home loss

Ole Miss has a week to recover now from some injuries, regroup for the second half of the SEC season, and make a push toward March. Unfortunately they are doing so after a loss.

Just like a couple of weeks ago after a loss at Auburn, the 22nd-ranked Rebels have a week to remember one of their toughest losses this season and one of only two on the Tad Smith Coliseum court since Andy Kennedy has been head coach.

Now the Rebels are in a hole. They have to win a road game or 7-9 is the best they can achieve. Arkansas on the road is up next. The Razorbacks are playing as well as they have all season and have won two big games in a row at home over Mississippi State and Florida.

South Carolina won in Fayetteville this season, so it can be done. But South Carolina has also proven it is better on the road than at home, which is unusual in the SEC and in all of college basketball.

Dave Odom said his team feeds off the road environment.

"You've got great fans here," he said. "They are close to the floor. Our team has played better on the road than at home. We had the same chance to win at Rupp as we did today. Vanderbilt, same thing. We won at Arkansas somehow. They don't mind going on the road at all."

That's a nice attitude for a team to have. It's one that if they ever do figure out how to win at home, then they'll have things right where they want them.

Odom had additional comments about the event that was Ole Miss-South Carolina. Obviously he was pleased to have gotten a win in a building the Gamecocks had never won in before.

"Whether you were pulling for Ole Miss or us, that was some college basketball game played in a great college setting in a great atmosphere in a great conference," he said. "That was some game. It really was. It was great to be a part of it. Both teams I thought played tremendous basketball."

But the Rebels had their problems. Defensively. At the free throw line. From some usually reliable players who weren't quite on in this one.

"We won a lot of the effort areas," Kennedy said. "We rebounded the ball like we typically do. We shot the ball at a high enough percentage. We just didn't get any stops."

Defensive stops. That's been a problem for the Rebels this season. Backcourt youth has been an issue.

"Devan (Downey) and Zam (Fredrick) created a lot of things off dribble penetration," Kennedy said. "We had a hard time keeping them in front of us. One of the things that concerned me so much about this game was the fact that their bigs can screen, pick and pop, and shoot the ball effectively from 3. As effective as DC was on the front line, it puts him at a real disadvantage defensively."

Still the Rebels had their chances, and leading 77-75 with the basketball and with less than a minute left, Kennedy said the Rebels just didn't handle things well.

"Our inability to make free throws (in the game) was key, and I thought we mishandled the last three possessions of the game," Kennedy continued. "We're up two with the ball. We called a timeout. We were trying to run Chris off some baseline screens so he could get the ball into DC. Obviously we didn't do that and we get a poor shot by EP that doesn't draw iron. Then we were going to switch any ball screen. We had one guy switch and one guy didn't. And Dominique Archie stepped up and hit a big 3 like he'd done all night."

But there was still time. Ole Miss raced downcourt for one final try to salvage this one.

"There's five seconds to go in the game. You've seen it before. My philosophy is to get it out in transition while they're in transition D," Kennedy said. "Try to get the ball at the rim. We had the ball to Chris, and he took a poor angle initially as opposed to driving it at the rim. He took an angle that South Carolina forced him to inadvertently step out of bounds."

And that was that, until referee Doug Shows called a technical because he assumed an Ole Miss fan threw something on the court. There had been a warning from the first assumption he made that an Ole Miss fan threw something on the court.

A two-shot technical is awarded the other team in that situation. Downey sank both for the final three-point margin.

"I mean, you know, I don't know," Kennedy said when asked about the call. "We had our opportunities. No one wants to see anything thrown on the floor. I don't know if that's warranted. I haven't seen that very much. Pick the thing up and let's keep playing, let these kids decide it. But I'm not sure it had a big bearing on the game."

Certainly some other things did, and the Rebels will try to put it all back together as they have a week before heading to Fayetteville, the first game of the final 10 regular season games, counting a home non-conference game against Presbyterian College on Feb. 11.

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