While the Ole Miss men's basketball team is 5-1, things haven't exactly followed the script. First was the loss to Utah. Then close wins against Marshall and Morgan State.
West Virginia, fresh off a 54-43 loss to Kentucky, is up next and a matchup with No. 3 Louisville is just down the road. Front-court troubles have plagued the Rebels, leaving guards Chris Warren and David Huertas to shoulder the load while the young guns learn on the job.
Kennedy spoke after the win over the Bears and the message was simple.
"We've got a lot of work to do."
Losing sophomore Trevor Gaskins and junior Eniel Polynice in an 11-day stretch to season-ending injuries certainly hurt. But the inability to consistently produce down low has to be troubling. Collectively, the Rebel bigs contribute a meager 21.4 points per game.
Inexperience is most assuredly a factor, but with sophomore Malcolm White still adjusting to a starting position, that greenness has been more amplified.
"(In the post) we have to find a way to be more productive on both ends of the floor." Kennedy said. "Defensively is where we continue to break down. Teams are hurting us inside. Offensively, we have to find some sort of rhythm."
So where do the Rebels go from here? It's hard to say, but obviously Warren and Huertas will have to continue with their production for the time-being.
The two have made scoring 20 or more points commonplace in the early going this season. Huertas has cracked the 20-point mark five times in the first six games, while Warren had two straight 20+ outings in Daytona Beach to go along with his 25 against the Bears.
For their career, Warren now has 11 20+ point outings, while Huertas has racked up five.
Although he's still adjusting to the role, the always soft-spoken Warren understands his new responsibility of vocalist.
"I'm working on it," he said. "Coach Kennedy is always on my case about talking, so I'm trying to make it a habit. I'm working on that. I try to talk on and off the court, trying to do what I can.
"Me and David are scoring as needed. We know that we have to step-up and make plays. We know it's going to be a struggle with the big guys early as they get familiar with the process."
It doesn't end there, however. Freshmen Terrance Henry and Murphy Holloway, as well junior college transfer DeAundre Cranston, need to find their footing soon or things will remain stuck in neutral.
"We've talked from day one about finding a third scorer," Kennedy said. "David and Chris keep carrying us offensively. Until we find a third scorer, there's going to be a lot of pressure on those two guys every night."
Warren sees promise in the newcomers.
"They have potential. If they keep working hard, they'll be alright. They'll get better with the more time they play," he closed.
If Ole Miss is to continue its streak of postseason play for a third-consecutive year, the disturbing trends that have surfaced early must be rectified.
But as previous seasons have shown under Kennedy, any problem identified will be corrected with an exciting run toward contention realized.
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