From the Ashes

Andy Kennedy strolled into the media room rather casually Wednesday night, his team fresh off an 85-75 win over Auburn.

Ole Miss had trailed by as many as 14 points midway through the second half. The Rebels were sluggish and the tank appeared empty. Another heroic comeback at home seemed implausible.

However, these Rebels had some fight left. They reeled off a 43-19 run over a 10-minute span to win comfortably. Ole Miss scored 63 points in the deciding frame, the most in any half this season.

Kennedy tried not to be too biblical when relaying his thoughts postgame. However, he couldn't help but make a fairly relevant comparison.

"I feel like Lazarus right now," he said.

Most know the story. Lazarus, dead and in a tomb for four days, was resurrected by Jesus in Bethany. Apparently Kennedy knows the feeling all too well.

The Rebels were dead to rights three days ago. They had lost five of their previous six games and needed another miracle against Auburn to close out what would have been a disastrous three-game homestand. In its previous two outings, Ole Miss dropped crucial games to Vanderbilt and Florida.

Another would have meant the collective nail in the proverbial coffin of NCAA Tournament hopes, barring a sparkling finals run in the upcoming SEC Tournament.

But here they are, the Rebels 18-9 overall (6-7 SEC) and in sole possession of third place in the SEC West. And while they haven't sniffed March Madness in eight seasons, they're still somewhat in the conversation for an at-large berth.

To get there, though, Ole Miss must remain unblemished and get plenty of help along the way. The Rebels are 6-8 vs. teams in the current RPI top 115. Among the losses are four of the RPI's top squads – No. 3 Villanova, No. 5 Kentucky, No. 6 West Virginia and No. 15 Vanderbilt.

Wins are all that matter these days.

"We needed this, man," sophomore forward Murphy Holloway, who scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds in the win, said.

"We're not out of the (NCAA Tournament) conversation yet, but we need to win them all. That's what I think. If we don't, we've got to do a lot of work in the (SEC) tournament. For now, we're going to take it game by game."

Considering the downward spiral of the last few weeks, at least Ole Miss is still playing relevant basketball.

The problem, however, is the remaining schedule offers no quality wins. A final home date with LSU is sandwiched between road trips to Alabama and Auburn. Ole Miss meets the Crimson Tide Saturday at 1 p.m.

Kennedy, who claimed his 100th career victory against Auburn, understands the team's dire tournament state. It's either keep on winning or close up shop. There's no margin for error anymore.

"At the end of the day, we hope the numbers add up," Kennedy said. "We know we've put ourselves in a tough spot. We've just got to keep battling."

Coincidentally, the Rebels' last two wins have come in double-digit, second-half comebacks. Three weeks ago, and led by 41 combined points from Chris Warren and Terrance Henry, Ole Miss stormed back from 23 down to top Alabama 74-67.

The teams have split their season series in nine of the last 11 years, but the Crimson Tide swept both matchups last season. Saturday will be the 166th meeting between Ole Miss and Alabama.

"Obviously, we've got to move forward," said Kennedy. "Basketball favors the guy that can get to the next play. I'll be the first to admit I'm not the best at that. I have to get better at that, our players have to get better at that, and get to the next game."

Today's game will be broadcast via ESPN2.


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