There's Still Time

STARKVILLE – Ole Miss leaves here with a 17-7 overall record and a 5-5 SEC mark after its 71-63 loss to the arch-rival. Now things really get interesting.

The Rebels have a week before they play again. Vanderbilt, playing as well as anybody in the league, comes to Oxford Thursday night. Andy Kennedy said his team can use the time to get ready for the stretch run, which starts then.

What he also said was it will be nice to get Reginald Buckner back, but he didn't say it would be then. The Rebels' freshman center hasn't been cleared by doctors yet.

They certainly could have used him in this one. MSU outrebounded the Rebels 39-36, but offensively he might have given them some help as well. The Rebs got just 12 points from their three inside guys.

It was mentioned a couple of times postgame about the Rebels' slow start – again. But after MSU hit two 3s and Kennedy stopped things with a timeout less than a minute in, Ole Miss got it in gear. It really wasn't a slow start, as proven by the visitors taking an 18-12 lead minutes later.

The Rebels took care of the basketball better than the Bulldogs. Ole Miss turned it over 10 times to MSU's 17.

Chris Warren was quiet in the scoring department. The Rebels need him to score more than three points. He only made one of nine shots from the field. Credit the MSU defense, which proved to be a significant factor, especially in the second half.

But Trevor Gaskins took up some of the scoring slack and had a productive night with 10 points. Eniel Polynice and Terrico White had 14 and 13 respectively. The Rebels shot just 38 percent from the floor.

Kennedy continues to harp on the Rebels fouling too much. They had 21 in the game. He didn't say MSU doesn't foul much. But, according to the refs, the Bulldogs don't. In this one, MSU had six total fouls with eight minutes left in the entire game.

That was three in the first half and three to that point in the second half. And they were whistled for three more the final eight minutes. Nine in the whole game. Impressive, huh, especially when you play as aggressively as State always does defensively.

In the first meeting in Oxford, an 80-75 MSU win, Ole Miss had 21 fouls in that one as well. State had just 13. So maybe it's a trend and not a rarity.

"We continue to get into foul trouble with our big guys, and we are forced to go small," Kennedy said.

Which isn't a bad thing, unless your point guard makes only 1-of-9, and your team is only 6-of-26 from beyond the arc.

The Rebels got it down to five points a couple of times late, the last one at 65-60 with a minute to go. And they had a chance to get even closer when State turned it over.

But Ole Miss couldn't capitalize. The Dogs got a dunk by Jarvis Varnado with 35 ticks left and that was basically that. The damage was done.

Ole Miss has four of its last six at home – Florida, Auburn, and LSU, in addition to Vandy. That should be a good thing. Or at least you'd think.

But when the Rebels play again in a week, it will be late February. And they'll have won more on the SEC road than at home.

Amazingly even with that stat, they're still in the hunt for some special things, like a first NCAA Tournament appearance in eight years.

So after yet another loss in this important rivalry, stay tuned. There's still time.

But there is a lot of work left to do.

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