Defensive rebounds. Sure it sounds simple, but if in search of a reason Ole Miss was unable to put a W in the record books Wednesday, you should look no further.
While it may sound like a broken record, the deciding factor in West Virginia's 80-78 victory was their sheer dominance on the glass.
May it be loose balls on the floor or the elementary ability to block-out, the Rebels appeared passive down low to head coach Andy Kennedy.
"We have to get some guys to grow up quickly," he said. "We've got four post guys, who play most of the minutes, having nine fouls in 21 minutes. That tells me you're being passive and being reactionary opposed to West Virginia who attacked."
Leading 78-77 with 25 seconds to go Chris Warren, the SEC's leader in free throw percentage, was on the line. Make one and the bonus and the Rebels likely walk out of Tad Smith Coliseum victorious. You couldn't script a better situation.
But a missed attempt and three West Virginia points later, the game was over. Ole Miss had just suffered its second loss of the season.
"It's a little uncharacteristic of Chris because we depend on him so much," said Kennedy. "It's easy to amplify what happened at the end – a missed free throw, a turnover."
However, the sophomore point guard wasn't the culprit of this collapse. The game really shouldn't have been close.
With Ole Miss holding a 71-66 advantage and five minutes left on the clock, West Virginia reeled off six-straight points. On the other end, however, the Rebels managed only two more possessions.
The box score showed a mere 36-28 rebounding edge for the Mountaineers, but stats are often misleading. The Rebels were pounded on the glass, with WVU grabbing 22 offensive boards compared to only seven for the home team.
The Fighting Huggies were allowed 13 more shots, with 17 second-chance points the result.
"It's a possessions game," Kennedy said. "They take 13 more shots than us. They take 10 more free throws than us. You're living on the edge when those things happen.
"But it was giving up so many second-chance points. The game really shouldn't have been in that position. West Virginia's dominance on the offensive glass won them the game."
Collectively, the front court recorded more fouls (17) than rebounds (13). With five apiece, forwards Malcolm White and DeAundre Cranston sat as spectators well before those thrilling final seconds.
Freshman Murphy Holloway, who added 11 points in 32 minutes, is one of a handful of youngsters being called upon to increase rebounding production.
"We have to get better on rebounds," Holloway said. "To win games at this level, you have to play hard every night. Whether it's getting loose balls or blocking-out, we have to do what it takes. We have to get better."
Sloppiness? Maybe. Inexperience? Sure. But whatever adjective used to describe what happened in the post last night ain't pretty.
"You can stand back on your heels or you can stand up and fight," said Kennedy. "On the glass, they had us on our heels all night. Our inability to keep them to one shot cost us down the stretch."
Never has the absence of Dwayne Curtis, Kenny Williams and Jermey Parnell seemed so blatantly obvious. Members of Rebel Nation were spoiled by the trio's vacuum-like ability to clean the glass.
There's no quick fix. No Walter Actwoods or Elston Turners falling out of the sky.
If a winning formula in the post can be had, Kennedy will attempt to find it. But if that grand mix isn't discovered before conference matchups begin in January, it will surely be difficult for the Rebels to reach postseason play.
No Quick Fix
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