Ole Miss wasn't supposed to make its SEC opener against Florida interesting.
Heck, they weren't even supposed to be in the game according to some.
But if we learned anything from the Rebels 78-68 loss Saturday, it's that these boys got fight.
I'd be lying if I thought Ole Miss stood a realistic chance in Gainesville. I'd also be lying if I thought a starting rotation featuring three freshmen wouldn't fold when Nick Calathes and Co. jumped ahead by 21 midway through the first half.
The young guns never gave in, however. They battled valiantly until the clock struck zero and wouldn't go away.
It's safe to say, I came away impressed.
I've stated previously that the ability to endure has become of far greater importance than simply wins and losses this season. Sure, Ole Miss falls to 9-6 on the season and 0-1 in conference play, but we as fans finally witnessed a bit of hope for the remainder of this year.
The Gators were never allowed to set the game on cruise control. The Rebs scratched and clawed from a 53-39 halftime deficit and gave all they had. Trailing 70-60 toward the end of the second half, freshman Murphy Holloway stood ready at the free throw line.
He made the first, but missed the second – the Rebels shot 52.4 percent on the game from the charity stripe – but David grabbed the offensive board and completed a three-point play.
Even when Florida's Chandler Parson responded with a basket of his own, point guard Will Bogan (yet another freshman) nailed a three-pointer to pull Ole Miss within six. Bogan finished with eight points on the game.
They played sloppy toward the game's conclusion, but they never quit. The rebounding woes saw a dramatic upturn from previous outings, as Ole Miss finished with 18 offensive boards and a dominating 46-22 overall effort against the Gators.
Tip your hat to Andy Kennedy and his squad. I was glued to my seat and saw a team improve. Turnovers are still a problem (the Rebels coughed up 19 on the game), but 2008 just got fun again.
Holloway is a rising star in this conference. The freshman proved capable of taking over a game and contributing key baskets when they're needed most. Holloway finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, while continuing to blossom into the most dynamic front court threat the team has to offer.
Zach Graham showed leadership qualities lacking since his arrival in Oxford two years ago. The sophomore totaled 14 points and only surrendered three turnovers and often placed the team squarely on his shoulders as Huertas struggled to find a groove.
Again, hope has finally emerged amongst such a tumultuous season. The comment was made that the Rebels have taken on the personality of their head coach. I'd have to agree.
They've dealt with adversity all year and did so again tonight. You can't help but applaud the effort.
I've also mentioned true colors and what light the young guns might shine against Florida. After witnessing a hard fought affair filled with fight and resolve, the future appears much brighter going forward.
Don't Count 'Em Out
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