Road Warriors

Only on the rarest of occasions will one hear Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy come close to calling an upcoming game a "must-win."

But even then, the fourth-year head coach understands the grind of a 16-game SEC slate.

Unlike other sports, basketball allows a redo if a given team suffers a setback. While the No. 21 nationally-ranked Rebels fell in their conference opener to Mississippi State, they'll again meet the in-state rival on Feb. 11 in Starkville.

"Kids have enough pressure. I don't want to say ‘must-win' ever," he said. "There is no such thing. But obviously, since you dropped one at home, you have to make up for that. We have a chance with two on the road."

But considering an 80-75 loss to the Bulldogs occurred at home, Ole Miss faces the tough task of stealing a win on the road. Kennedy and company are away from the friendly confines of Tad Smith Coliseum for four of their next five.

Up first is a matchup with Georgia in Athens today at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the Rebels play Tennessee in Knoxville at 12:30 p.m.

"We came back on Sunday and were brutally honest," he said. "We tried to learn from (the loss to Mississippi State). You're up nine in your own building, and you make some poor decisions with the ball and some poor decisions defensively. Good teams take advantage of that, and that's exactly what happened. We have to learn from that."

On the season, Georgia is 8-6 overall and 0-1 in SEC play. The Bulldogs have put together back-to-back impressive performances, beating No. 20 Georgia Tech 73-66 in their final non-conference game before going to Kentucky and playing the nation's No. 2 team down to the wire.

Georgia averages 65.8 points per game, and is shooting 44.4 percent from the field. Trey Thompkins leads the squad with 16.2 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game.

"They've got as much size as anybody in our league along their front line. They have four big bodies," Kennedy said of Georgia. "They're all in that 6-10, 6-9 range, and around 260-plus. They have a lot of size, so it's a total difference from one Bulldog to another."

Holloway looks to rebound:

For the better part of his young career, sophomore forward Murphy Holloway has emerged as a stabilizing presence in the Ole Miss frontcourt.

That is, until Saturday.

Despite drawing his 13th start of the year, Holloway was virtually absent against Mississippi State. In 15 minutes of action, he produced no points and one rebound, a far-cry from the three double-doubles he's produced on the year.

"Kids are kids. He didn't have his best game (against Mississippi State)," said Kennedy of Holloway. "Murphy's an energy guy. He's a guy that has to use his quickness. He's going to be undersized a lot. If his focus is a step late, he becomes ineffective."

With Holloway unproductive, Kennedy turned to fellow sophomore Terrance Henry, who finished the day with 12 points and six rebounds.

And according to Kennedy, it was an "eye-opening" experience for Holloway.

"I wasn't playing good, so coach did his job. He sat me down," Holloway said of the limited action against Mississippi State. "I wasn't playing good and Terrance was playing good. You roll with him."

In the media guide, Holloway is generously listed at 6-foot-7. But make no mistake, the forward from Irmo, S.C. is an undersized post.

It's a disadvantage Holloway battles, and will continue to battle, daily. Remaining effective when the chips are stacked against you comes with the territory.

"(Days like Saturday) can be what you make them to be," he said. "It gets to your head. First it's physical, because you're small. But it gets to your head mentally. If you're a step late or fouling, then you got to sit down. It kind of messes you up.

"I figure I'll go back to the old Murphy y'all saw last year. Not really worrying about scoring, but getting the rebound and do this and do that. If I start off bad (against Georgia) it could pile on to the State game. It could be a slump. I just hope I can get out of this."

OM Spirit Top Stories