In all honesty folks, how many of us could have predicted a reeling Ole Miss squad would claim victory, on Super Tuesday no less, against the hottest team in the SEC?
That's what I thought.
"Our kids continue to work. We feel like we've set goals that are attainable," said head coach Andy Kennedy. "We've wanted to be the most improved team. This was a huge win for us. Our effort was outstanding.
"We just refused to lose."
Beating Kentucky wasn't simply a victory. Not by a long shot. This team has suffered far more turmoil than any institution deserves and has had to overcome those ever-so-close losses to West Virginia, Louisville and Alabama.
This season has easily been one of the more unique in Rebel Basketball history. Anyone who'd doubt the fact would be kidding themselves.
So pardon me while I offer my well-deserved congratulations to a group of youngsters who never gave in.
"Our guys made the plays we needed to make," said Kennedy. "We came out of the gate in the second half with the right approach for the first time in a couple of games."
You can't say enough about Kennedy and his troops.
Freshman Terrico White showed grit and leadership simply through suiting up. Not to mention, the default point guard dropped a career-high 21 points and a posterizing dunk over two Kentucky big men – including double-double machine Patrick Patterson.
"What would have taken some two months to recover, it took him two hours, it seemed," Kennedy said. "He had a bone bruise and I wanted to make sure we didn't do anything to risk injuring him further. He felt pretty good today and I asked him if he could run, and he said yes. I asked him if he could jump, and he said yes. I said, ‘You're starting.' He was phenomenal."
Zach Graham continued his maturation into the team's quiet leader, making clutch shot after clutch shot, for a total of 11 points.
He also shut down Wildcat superstar Jodie Meeks, the best anyone has, all while still struggling with a torn patella tendon.
"He was tremendous for us," Kennedy said of Graham. "We told him to chase (Jodie) Meeks wherever he went. We carried out the game plan. Our hope was that they would go 7-for-28 from the three-point line, and they did."
And we can't forget Malcolm White. The sophomore provided the presence all had hoped for with the departure of last year's three-headed monster. He poured in 20 points and six rebounds on 8-of-12 shooting.
"He was tremendous tonight. He was flying all over the place," said Kennedy.
There's no way to predict what this win will mean days, weeks or even months from now. But one thing's for sure, beating Kentucky gave Ole Miss hope this season.
The (very) few in attendance witnessed a rebirth of sorts of Ole Miss basketball. A belief that, despite what's transpired in 2009, the Rebels will never quit and can always overcome.
Maybe to some, this one will only go down as another win in the record books. But for all of us who have been there every step of the way, it means much, much more.
"It's a win," said Kennedy. "We're asking a group of guys to do some things that many of them are not accustomed to doing. We have zero margin for error. We did a great job of not turning the ball over. We were strong on both ends of the glass. It's great for our psyche."
If there was ever a team to root for, you're looking at them. The Rebels proved their capable of making some noise this season.
Forget next year; we're beyond that now. If these guys can beat a team Ole Miss had lost to 95 times before....well, I think you get my point. The sky's the limit for this bunch.
What a refreshing feeling.
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