February 28, 2008
Defensive effort keys comeback
LEXINGTON, Ky.- When things go bad for the Ole Miss men's basketball team, they go bad.
In the first half of the Rebels'58-54 loss Wednesday at Kentucky's Rupp Arena, the Ole Miss defense struggled as much as the Rebel offense.
Kentucky got easy baskets at the rim and in transition, scoring 14 points in the paint and 16 points of Ole Miss' 12 turnovers.
However in the second half, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy and the Rebels tightened things up on the defensive end.
"We did a better job of containing the bounce, not letting them crack us by (us) constantly rotating," he said.
And the Rebels did it by backing away from Kennedy's preferred up-tempo pace.
"It's difficult for us to generate pressing opportunities. It's just who we are," Kennedy said. "I'm not proud to say that. I thought we'd be able to extend the game, and we pressed some early, but we gave up open opportunities.
"We backed off and got more solid in the half court. It helped us get back in the game."
Kentucky shot just 26.3 percent in the second half.
The Rebels had an "Oh no, not again," moment in the first half when Ole Miss went without a basket for their first six possessions until David Huertas scored a lay up.
"I would say we didn't come out mentally prepared," freshman guard Chris Warren said. "We didn't come out ready to play, and they exposed that on the offensive and defensive end."
Ole Miss has gotten off to some pretty rough starts at Arkansas and at LSU. But against Kentucky, the Rebels went long spans of time without baskets.
After not scoring for the game's first 4:36, the Rebels had another six-minute stretch without a point later in the half.
Senior guard and Lexington native Brian Smith made his first start of the season Wednesday night.
Smith's father, current Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith, coached Kentucky for 10 years, and his brother, Saul, played for the Wildcats.
"I'm trying to get a little kinder as I get older. It was something for Brian. I knew it'd be something he'd remember.
Smith was the only Rebel to receive applause after being introduced.
With Smith starting, Kennedy elected to sit Eniel Polynice, who arrived late to an academic function earlier in the week.
• Huertas, Polynice and Trevor Gaskins combined to go 3-for-22 from the field in the loss, scoring just eight points.
"We're getting empty trips from our wings," Kennedy said. "3-for-22 just won't get it done."
• Terrence Watson didn't make the trip, serving a one-game suspension for disciplinary reasons,
• Warren has now scored over 20 points four times on the road in SEC play, with Ole Miss losing all four.
• After shooting just 4-of-7 from the line in the first half, Kentucky, the SEC's top free-throw shooting team, connected on 16-of-19 attempts in the second half.
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