There were going to be days like Saturday's 71-61 loss. With as many freshmen and sophomores as the Rebels took to Nashville, this one had the potential to turn out, or at least start, like it did.
And besides, Ole Miss has taken more veteran teams than this one to tough-venue Memorial Gym and lost by more.
The Rebs got better as the game went on but they never led. They were 1-for-12 shooting early and trailed 12-2. When Vandy led 29-10, things really looked bleak.
To their credit, the Rebels cut it to 31-19 at halftime and almost to nine. Had Terrico White's quick-release, buzzer-beating trey gone in instead of banging the front rim, Ole Miss would have made an even more remarkable comeback to get back in it.
In the second half, David Huertas' corner trey pulled the Rebels to within seven points at 39-32. Vandy increased the lead over the next few minutes, then Murphy Holloway's drive and layup cut it back to seven points at 46-39.
But that was as close as the Rebels would get the rest of the way. The Commodores started the second half 7-for-8 from the floor, and Ole Miss eventually could not keep pace.
The VU lead was 20 points at 66-46, and by then things were totally out of reach for Ole Miss. The Rebels were able to cut it back to a respectable margin before the game ended.
Make that margin 10 points, the same advantage the homestanding Commodores had at the start.
"We really struggled offensively," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said of the early going in this one for his team.
Kennedy said the older players on the roster, of which there aren't many, didn't do much early as far as producing points.
"Our veterans, and honestly with this group you use that term loosely, but David (Huertas), Z (Zach Graham) and Mac (Malcolm White) were 1-for-15 early. So we had the right guys shooting it. I thought our rhythm was really rough early and we got anxious."
Kennedy didn't downplay the effort of his players. That wasn't the problem, he felt.
"Our guys have given great effort typically through the entire season," he said. "But our efficiency has got to get better."
Kennedy said it was fairly easy to pinpoint the downfall of his team, now 13-10 overall and 4-5 in SEC play.
"The three games in a row we had won coming in, we had held our opponents under 40 percent (shooting), and we'd outrebounded them all," he said. "Today we get outrebounded and (Vandy) put on a clinic in the second half, shooting 67 percent. When we got it to seven points, I thought we had an opportunity to maybe tighten them up a bit."
But it wasn't to be.
Vanderbilt improved to 15-8 and 4-5.
The Rebels are off until a trip to LSU next Saturday and a 6 p.m. tip.
Slow Start Costly
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