Through injuries and inexperience, head coach Andy Kennedy hasn't had the luxury of a deep rotation in 2009.
Add to the fact most of his rotation is made of freshmen and sophomores, and the issue of fatigue is becoming of greater concern with each passing day.
As time expired on Ole Miss' 73-66 loss to LSU, those fears were only elevated.
"I'm playing guys heavy minutes," Kennedy said. "I think fatigue was a factor. I was proud of our effort. We obviously made improvements since the last time we played them."
Until Murphy Holloway scored a bucket at the 1:57 mark, Ole Miss hadn't hit a field goal in over seven minutes against the Tigers.
A 19-4 run over that extended period ended any hopes of leaving Baton Rouge with a victory, with Kennedy and staff left to answer questions on what caused such a difficult turn of events.
But every answer had a reoccurring theme.
"We lose the game at LSU based on mental, not physical," said Kennedy. "The effort was great. They competed and battled, and were in position to win the game. We just continue to have breakdowns. I think they're more mental than anything else. Understanding awareness, listening to scouting, understanding who's a driver, who's a shooter.
"We were up eight at the free throw line and missed free throws, ok, it happens. We came down and left one of the best shooters in the SEC open on the wing. You can't do that. What does he do? He makes you pay. Then we get careless with the ball in front of one of the best defenders in the SEC. What does he do? He takes the ball. I could go on and on, but we just left guys. It's more mental now, and that's where we have to continue to make improvements."
With six games left, the Rebels are approaching each conference tilt game-by-game. These weeks are about improvement, as achieving postseason life is dependent on the youngsters' continued maturation.
Junior David Huertas believes the rigors of such a demanding schedule could be an area of apprehension when discussing freshmen.
"Your body isn't use to it," Huertas said. "Your legs get tired, as well as your knees and ankles. Also, your mindset is different. It could be a concern, but I hope not."
Against LSU, point guard Terrico White was 5-15 from the floor for 13 points. He went cold in the second half, forcing shots while displaying a lesser sense of energy than in previous outings.
While some might view White's struggles Saturday as some form of weariness, Kennedy sees them as only a step in the growing process of the emerging star.
"He didn't make shots down the stretch, they were difficult shots, but we've talked about this before. It's part of the maturation of our players. Not only are they in the game when it's on the line, but now they're asked to make the play against formidable opponents. There's going to be a little bit of inconsistency. That's part of dealing with young guys. We analyzed the shots that he took, and those are the shots he's still going to have to take."
One newcomer who didn't seem to feel the effects of added minutes was freshman forward Murphy Holloway.
Holloway poured in 13 points and 11 rebounds in what was easily one of the more impressive games of his young career.
However, like other young guns, Kennedy sees room for improvement.
"It's not so much in his decision making, but his detail where he needs to improve," said Kennedy. "We're dependent upon him. I think he played 25, 26 minutes and that's a lot to ask when you're going against a guy like Tasmin Mitchell. The next game he's got Tyler Smith. Such is the life of a freshman in the SEC."
Despite a setback against the Tigers, Kennedy has been pleased with the group's development over 24 games.
"We're pleased that guys have been asked to take on new roles and expanded within the role they were established," Kennedy explained. "Some were recruited to play one position and now they're playing another position and grown in that position. All of that leads to some areas where we need some improvements, but I've been really pleased with our young guys. They're garnering unbelievable experience that will bode well for the future of our program."
The Rebels face a crucial two-game stretch at home which could decide if they'll play on after the SEC Tournament, starting with Tennessee.
Having dropped a should-have-won in Baton Rouge, these two games are of added importance to many, but to Kennedy, they're merely the next step.
"They're all big," he said. "Tennessee's the biggest now, simply because it's the next one," he said. "We'll certainly try and learn from (LSU). We'll go through some of the things we made mistakes on, so hopefully we learn from them. These guys are now completely focused on Tennessee. That's the beauty of conference play. Every three days they're coming and we have to be ready for them."
Avoiding the Wall
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