A Forgettable 24

Andy Kennedy said after the Rebels lost to Louisville by nine that it was the longest 24 hours of his life. That was just after he said Chris Warren might be out with a torn ACL.

If that's the case, then he will join Eniel Polynice and Trevor Gaskins in those riser seats behind the Rebels' bench, the ones I walk in front of heading to my press seat, normally speaking to them, usually as they move their repaired knees and crutches so I can pass by.

Now there may be three. A young and talented backcourt, we may find out for sure Friday, may be decimated by knee injuries.

Unreal is what most are saying.

"I cannot imagine what's going on with our group," said Kennedy of all the injuries, a season of hope and promise teetering from the health of key personnel to the situation Thursday morning in Cincinnati.

This season wasn't supposed to turn out this way. But there's still time.

It's just that at 7-4 and with the injuries mounting, how can this season be close to what most had hoped or predicted?

Certainly we saw the gutsiest of performances from the Rebel players Thursday night in their loss to a top 10 team with a national title on its mind. It would have been tough to win that one with a full and healthy lineup and no gameday distractions.

As it was, a salute to how the players responded under trying situations. It should help make them a better team this year and next year.

I saw a post on the message board after the game Thursday night that said something along the lines of "Can you imagine the team we'll have next year?" The poster was talking about the lack of seniors and the fact that the injured players would be healed and ready to roll.

Of course that was the way we'd all looked at this year. The team has no seniors who play any minutes to speak of. The talent is there. The experience was coming.

It's a week before Christmas and this team has already experienced its share of ups and downs, unexpected events, and unfortunate injuries.

On Friday, they will regroup. They will look to each other for support and try to make sense of it all. But it won't be easy.

Kennedy struggled with it postgame. His return to Cincinnati was memorable and forgettable at the same time.

As for the game, it was good to see the inside players step up against the Cardinals. DeAundre Cranston, Terrance Henry, Malcolm White, Murphy Holloway all had their moments. And we know how tough it's been inside for the Rebels so far this season. Cranston led the way with nine rebounds and is looking more comfortable on the court.

Louisville led in the rebounding department 56-43. Offensive rebounds were 17 each, and that's an improvement to get that number evened up more. Louisville had three players with double digit boards.

As the big guys get better, the smaller guys are diminishing in number. Now what - if indeed Warren is out? Will Bogan at the point? Capable yes but so inexperienced.

Terrico White? Possibly, but again, like Bogan, just 11 games in as a collegiate player.

Zach Graham? David Huertas? Patrick Spach? Committee?

It was going to be interesting and exciting to watch this entire team grow up and come together and get better and play for something as the season moved on. And all the while thinking about next season and the real run they could likely make since all who contributed would return.

Now is it almost a situation where you actually get ready for next season, both those still playing and those injured? Get them to grow and become more experienced? Get them healthy and hope for no more preseason injury situations next year like this year?

Of course not. Don't count out this team just yet. Bobby Knight all but wrote the Rebels off early in this one and later ate his words as the Rebels hung around. At the beginning of the game he said he didn't believe Ole Miss would be close at the end. With Louisville leading by 15 or so points in the first half, he basically said the Rebels should use each possession as practice to get better, and focus on the future.

He later admitted that since the Rebels may have done just that, they were able to get back into the ballgame.

And by doing so they not only were there at the finish but headed back to Oxford with some confidence, knowing they took it to one of the country's best teams on a national stage.

But there was the 28.3 seconds mark of the second half. Warren clutched his knee as he went down. Kennedy and the trainers hovered, then helped him to the bench.

And hoped their worst fears won't be confirmed on Friday.

The ultimate would have been getting a huge win over Louisville. But now just getting home, seeing who is left still standing, putting a forgettable trip behind them, and pressing on toward Monday night when Florida A&M comes to Oxford are among a list of things on their minds.

It's certainly been a strange and mostly difficult season so far for the Rebels. But there's still time.

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