Basketball Scouting Report: Ole Miss
The sane, well-developed, whole person is aware of limitations. Last Saturday in Baton Rouge, Vanderbilt met those limitations and had to absorb a loss that seemed likely from the get-go. Thursday-Saturday turnarounds – or any two games played roughly 48 hours apart – will leave this team ragged in the second of the two contests. Now, VU plays a game with normal rest on its home floor. This is an opportunity for the team to move forward and show itself that, when given enough time to recover, it can play up to its capabilities… even with a diminished and depleted roster.
What is conspicuous about this year's Southeastern Conference is precisely what defined last season's SEC as well: So many winnable games exist in conference play, given that few teams are clearly NCAA tournament material. Even among the teams that have a good chance of getting into the Big Dance, road and home splits will often (though not always) reveal split personalities, giving underdogs a good chance of winning at home. That dynamic probably applies to this game in Memorial Gym. Ole Miss, coming off an NCAA tournament appearance last season, should probably be favored against Vanderbilt, but there's also no question that this contest is very much up for grabs. The Commodores will obviously be motivated by the desire to not have Marshall Henderson celebrate on the Memorial Gym floor.
OLE MISS AT-A-GLANCE
The Ole Miss Rebels were toast.
They started horribly in the 2013 SEC Tournament quarterfinals against Missouri and fell behind by 14 points in the second half. The Rebels would not have been able to make the NCAA tournament with a loss on that Friday night in Nashville. The outlook was bleak for a team and a coach – Andy Kennedy – that had not been able to take the proverbial "next step" over an extended period of time. Ole Miss rallied, but it still trailed the Tigers by three points in the final minute of regulation. The Rebels were swimming against the odds and had to gather themselves in the crucible of crunch time.
Derrick Millinghaus hit a tying three-point shot with 29 seconds left. Marshall Henderson stole an inbounds pass to deny Missouri the ability to hold for the last shot. Millinghaus then hit a driving shot with 1.1 seconds left to push Ole Miss across the finish line, 64-62. The Rebels went on to beat Vanderbilt in the semifinals and then Florida in the final, punching their ticket to the Dance and (possibly, not assuredly) saving Kennedy's job. Ole Miss then outclassed Wisconsin and Bo Ryan in the round of 64 in the NCAAs, forging an impressive feat which made a round-of-32 loss to LaSalle almost insignificant. (Almost.) The Rebels revived themselves as a program and tasted the kind of success that had been missing for roughly a decade.
This season, Ole Miss is and has been a marked team. Opponents want to beat the Rebels so badly because Henderson – one of the bad boys of the sport and its foremost trash talker – never lets anyone forget about an Ole Miss victory in a high-stakes situation. All in all, this team hasn't fallen on its face, but in the same breath, it has not yet won the kind of game that screams "NCAA resume-builder." The Rebels are in the thick of the hunt, but they have work to do. Vanderbilt would love nothing more than to push Ole Miss downward in the bubble's pecking order.
Forward – Aaron Jones – Junior, 6-9, 220; 2013-14: 6.9 points per game, 7 rebounds per game, 2.6 blocked shots per game
There is a general similarity between Ole Miss and Auburn, in that two Rebel guards carry an overwhelmingly large share of the scoring workload. However, Ole Miss – unlike Auburn – has role players in the paint who can defend and rebound. Jones is an embodiment of this reality. He plays with a great deal of intensity and announces his presence both on the glass and as a rim protector. Vanderbilt will not have an easy time dealing with the defensive skills Jones brings to the table.
Forward – Anthony Perez – Sophomore, 6-9, 213; 2013-14: 5.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg
Perez is a "placeholder starter" who averages roughly 16 minutes per game. Frontcourt teammates Demarco Cox and Sebastian Saiz play several more minutes per contest. Cox, in 23.2 minutes per game, averages 5.5 rebounds per game. Stretched over 40 minutes, that's close to 10 boards for a full-length game. Saiz is actually even better on the glass, grabbing an average of 6.2 rebounds per game, averaging 19.9 minutes. Saiz's "rebounds per 40" rate is therefore just over 12.4. You can see that this team's post players hit the boards hard, which is why the Rebels are in the NCAA hunt and (by contrast) Auburn languishes at the bottom of the conference.
Guard – LaDarius White – Junior, 6-6, 211; 2013-14: 7.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.4 apg
White is the worker bee on the perimeter for this team. He cedes the scoring role to his backcourt teammates. If he's defending and rebounding while setting screens and doing things to free up Henderson, he's making good use of his time on the floor.
Guard – Jarvis Summers – Junior, 6-3, 186; 2013-14: 18.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.6 apg
This is a vital player for the Rebels for one obvious reason: He puts the ball in the bucket when Henderson is either double-teamed or otherwise taken out of the play. Henderson can't do everything (or score on every possession) by himself. He needs an outlet, a second option who can score off a pass and also create his own shot once in a while. Summers is that man for the Rebels, and for that reason, he becomes in many ways a foremost point of attention for Vanderbilt tonight.
Guard – Marshall Henderson – Senior, 6-2, 177; 2013-14: 19.2 ppg, 2.3 apg, 1.3 steals per game
Henderson is a complicated player to analyze. Yes, he takes a lot of bad shots, but he is a volume shooter who can get on very hot streaks, and when he sizzles, he makes Ole Miss a very hard team to beat. Shooters are supposed to keep shooting even when shots don't fall. No, they shouldn't just chuck every 25-footer they get without a second thought, but they must still look for their offense, and Henderson does this. He puts great strain on defenses by running and running and running around screens to get open for threes. He has shown an ability to pass out of double-teams, setting up teammates for good scoring chances. He's not a consistent defender, but he's an active one with quick hands. All in all, there are plenty of things Henderson does poorly, or at the very least, not as consistently as he could. Yet, Henderson is skilled enough to make Ole Miss a far more potent and threatening team at the offensive end of the floor. His emergence as a player enabled the Rebels to make the NCAAs last season and then take down a respected Wisconsin squad. He's not a great player, but he's a very good player, no matter what else you might think of his manners or antics.
In addition to Cox and Saiz (two players who have already been mentioned), Kennedy turns to guard Derrick Millinghaus as a primary reserve. Millinghaus is a seasoned player who, as noted above, helped the Rebels in their time of need against Missouri in the 2013 SEC Tournament. He receives starter-level minutes and averages 9.9 points and 2.7 assists per game. Guard Martavious Newby also picks up a reasonable amount of minutes.
Keys to the Game
1) Contain Henderson and Summers as a tandem, not as separate individuals. If Henderson makes a pass out of a double-team to Summers, he might not score… but Summers will, and vice-versa. "Not making Henderson score" could help Summers, and the same is true in the other direction. Vanderbilt needs to contain the duo, not each player. An even more specific key will be for VU to make sure that Henderson and Summers take uncomfortable threes (if they take any at all). If the Commodores can't run these two players off the three-point line, they must at least get on the shooting hand and contest the shot all the way through.
2) Get to the foul line. If you recall, last season's SEC Tournament semifinal started brightly for VU but then turned sour in the second half. Vanderbilt settled for too many jumpers and, with tired legs from two games the previous two nights, couldn't hit them. The Commodores are probably going to feel a certain degree of fatigue in the second half of this game as well. They will need to be able to get to the foul line and collect cheap points.
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