Rise Up

Terrico White will be the first to say he hasn't been himself this season. But with Ole Miss now 17-7 overall and 5-5 in SEC play following a disappointing loss in Starkville, it's time for the face of the program to take over.

It's been three days, but a 71-63 loss in Starkville still resonates.

While Thursday night was the second of two games between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, it ended in similar fashion. The Rebels jumped ahead of the in-state rival in the first half, quickly fell behind, and walked from the hardwood with more questions than answers.

Ole Miss sits 17-7 overall and 5-5 in Southeastern Conference play. Of six remaining regular season games, four are at home. However, the bad taste from another defeat will have to savor a bit longer.

Ole Miss doesn't play again until Thursday vs. Vanderbilt.

Between now and then, the team gets some much needed time off. Freshman Reginald Buckner, sorely missed in the post, is given another week to recuperate from a lingering ankle injury. Chris Warren, fresh off a paltry three-point showing, can spend a few more hours in the gym.

Even better, sophomore Terrico White, last season's SEC Freshman of the Year, has some days to regroup, too.

Against Mississippi State, and for the first time all year, White didn't draw a start. Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, who has tried desperately to get the dynamic guard more involved, felt the move was necessary.

"I just tried to shake him up a little bit," he said postgame. "That shake up was to shake him up. It didn't work. We'll try something else."

White understood the move.

"When coach told me I wasn't going to start, that kind of shocked me," White said. "But at the same time, I knew what he was doing. He was trying to get me motivated and get me mad so I can go out and play good."

Admittedly, White hasn't been himself this season.

Sure, he's produced 14 double-digit scoring outings so far, but has failed to score 20 or more points against any one league opponent though 10 games.

White has scored 19 points twice. The first was a road trip to Auburn, where he also had seven rebounds. The other was in front of a nationally televised audience at Kentucky.

"I'm trying to get back to where I was last year," said White, his scoring average below 15 points per game. "My biggest struggle is me not making my shots, really. I'm getting open looks. I'm just not making them."

Against the Wildcats, it appeared the Memphis, Tenn. native was turning a corner.

He sparked a ferocious Rebel comeback, and even pulled his team within three with 14 minutes to play. The bucket capped five-straight points for White, which concluded his scoring on the day.

His final shot attempt occurred with close to two minutes remaining in regulation.

For the game, White attempted 13 shots against and made seven. But if you ask Kennedy, he should have been looking to shoot much, much more.

"I challenged him. I wanted No. 24 to take 24 shots (against Kentucky)," he said. "We put him in the position to do so. Obviously the other team in white didn't want him to shoot 24 shots. He was rolling along; they make it difficult for him to get the ball. He can't give into that."

When Ole Miss was hit with three season-ending ACL tears last season, White stepped in at point guard. He'd seldom played the position in his basketball career, but still ranked fourth among all conference players with 18.4 points per game.

He topped all SEC freshmen in both points and 3-pointers, and finished the year with 42.8 percent shooting from the floor.

But in 2009-10, White is adjusting to a new role. He works off the ball now, and is often forced to create his own shot. Opposing teams have made White a defensive priority each night.

It's what's made this season so frustrating for the sophomore. Those times when he's actually been in a rhythm (take Kentucky for instance), those extended droughts without touches follow.

"It kind of is," White said of his frustration in not getting the ball when his shots are falling. "I come off screens and make a shot, maybe two or three in a row. Then I won't touch the ball again for another four or five possessions. That kind of slows me down. I need to focus more on getting to the offensive glass and getting a rebound. I need to work a little harder."

Though he stands 6-foot-5, 211 pounds, White doesn't possess an assertive personality.

Rather, he carries a casual demeanor. He's somewhat reserved in interviews, and approaches his duties as a leader for the Rebels rather quietly.

White isn't one to shoot first, either. While it goes against Kennedy's line of thinking, the preseason All-SEC first teamer often defers to his teammates for point production.

DeAundre Cranston, the lone senior on the squad, has experienced White's eagerness to share the ball first hand. But even the soft-spoken forward agrees White should be shooting at a more rapid rate.

"With Terrico, I feel like he wants to be a team player instead of the guy," Cranston said. "He definitely has the talent to do it. He's very athletic and can shoot. He can do everything. He would rather play as a team. But he knows, when it comes down to it, we want the ball in his hands."

As Ole Miss pushes toward a possible spot in the NCAA Tournament, its first in eight years, White needs to take over. The extended absence of Buckner has clearly played a part in the team losing three of its last four games.

There's a glaring need for the face of the program to make his ascension.

But don't expect White to say as much. Just leave that to his head coach.

"There's a responsibility that comes with being an all-league caliber player," he said. "So we'll continue to try and put him in positions to make plays."


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