February 11, 2008

Kennedy looks for answers to struggles

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.- It's time to start facing some facts about this Ole Miss men's basketball team.

When you look at Saturday's 75-69 loss at Arkansas, it's easy to point fingers for the disappointing result.

The 11 free throws that bounced off the rim, the 17 mistakes that ended offensive possessions, the shots that didn't fall and the stops that didn't come all take credit for handing the Rebels' their fourth-straight road loss.

But the most glaring cause for concern has to be the horrific 16-2 start Arkansas put on the Rebels, killing Ole Miss slowly.

"I didn't like the look in our eyes," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said.

Kennedy's said he's spent plenty of time this year trying to figure out what's going inside his players' heads. The Rebel head coach has been doing just about everything short of ordering up psychiatric couches in bulk,

He's benched players. He's shuffled the starting lineup. He's changed up the travel plans, electing to fly in the day of the game this past weekend instead of arriving Friday evening.

But at Bud Walton Arena Saturday, Kennedy and his staff were left with only more proof that this team is almost an entirely different team away from home, almost like the Rebel road uniforms are lined with kryptonite.

"We need to come out with more intensity and better focus, especially on the road," assistant coach Michael White said. "I mean, we're a team that's really only lost one home game in the past year."

But to be fair, this is also a team that's only won once on the road in SEC playing - winning at Auburn a season ago.

Maybe one of this team's best qualities could be holding the Rebels back away from home.

For most of the year, writers like myself have heaped praise on the Rebels for their even-keel attitude.

But by avoiding the lows, Ole Miss is also missing out on the highs.

Saturday,Chris Warren made one of the biggest shots of his young career, hitting a three over the reigning SEC defensive player of the year, 7-foot Steven Hill, to cut the Razorback lead to three points with less than a minute on the clock.

Arkansas rightly responded with a momentum-dictated timeout, but on the Rebel sidelines, the team reacted with limited excitement.

Maybe this is what happened when every game is no bigger than the next and not shot is more important than any other.

And, White said, maybe this is what needs to change.

"We do lack for emotion on the high end," White said. "Because of the fantastic start we got out to and the lull we're in right now, there's almost a depression amongst the team.

"Only we can get ourselves out of it."

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