Rebs continue to search for answers, wins

Asking what's wrong with a 17-6 basketball team would in most seasons be considered a ridiculous question. When five of those losses have come in the last six games, questions come frequently and from all directions.

But answers don't come nearly as easily.

Oh, sure, sometimes they do. For example, Andy Kennedy was asked Wednesday night after his Ole Miss team lost at Alabama why Chris Warren might be struggling some lately in several areas.

"Freshman," was Kennedy's quick response.

"For a young kid who is going through the trials and tribulations of being a freshman in this league, some nights are better than others."

And in Warren's case, the fact that everybody has seen him play extensively for over three months, and video on him abounds.

"Everybody's got a DVD player, you know," Kennedy quipped with a slight grin.

Smiling is something that's been tough for everybody around the program the past week or two. The three-point loss at Auburn was hoped at the time to be a hiccup. It wasn't. A 20-point setback at State proved things weren't quite as rosy as they'd been in the non-conference.

But those two losses were nothing a win over a ranked Vandy team wouldn't somewhat cure. The Commodores fell by 16 in Oxford, so maybe things were right again.

Then came South Carolina. The Rebels don't lose games at home. Somebody forgot to tell the Gamecocks.

Home games can be tough. Road games are never easy. The losses at Arkansas and Alabama have more folks asking more questions, and the players and coaches searching as well.

There was a team meeting, just players and coaches, following the 76-67 loss in Tuscaloosa. It took a while. Everybody who wanted to say something said something.

Some things were aired out. Kennedy missed the postgame radio show and didn't make it to the media room for the press conference for some 40 minutes. But he did make it. And, as is the case win or lose, he answered all questions and tried to come up with some reasons his team isn't winning games like it was a few weeks ago. And to some other questions. Like were some of the displays of frustration as real as they appeared from coaches and players during the loss to the Crimson Tide.

"I encourage that, quite frankly. I may have even instigated it," Kennedy said. "Just trying to get some emotion. I think emotion's a good thing. We were trying to find a way to get back into the game. We weren't fighting Alabama very good, so I figured let's fight ourselves. Let's fight somebody."

More questions.

So does a senior think the meeting after the game Wednesday night went well?

"We got to express ourselves and see what needed to be done to get back on track," Dwayne Curtis said. "Everybody got to say what they see on the floor and what they feel is going on with the team. I think it helped."

What about a freshman?

"It just kinda helped us get an understanding of where everybody is coming from and how everybody feels," Zach Graham said. "Everybody was being positive, and nobody was being negative. We're dealing with some adversity right now, and everybody wants to come together and be like we were in the beginning."

So what's different now than back then?

"It's hard to explain," Graham said. "I really don't know."

Many questions. Few "for sure" answers.

But he says all the freshmen know the SEC is tougher than they could have imagined, even though they were warned.

"It's another level," Graham said. "It's a grind, like Coach Kennedy says. You've gotta grind it out."

Many point to the first Auburn game as the unraveling. The Tigers are up next on Saturday at 4 p.m., and Curtis hopes it's better this time around.

"Hopefully we can get a win and start another winning streak," said the senior center. "We need to get a W at home."

Indeed they do. And any other answers a victory might unveil to a team obviously searching for them.

OM Spirit Top Stories