Rebs regroup before facing slumping Tigers

Published 12:37 am Saturday, February 11, 2012

From staff reports

Time is running out on Ole Miss.

The Rebels’ hopes of making the NCAA Tournament took a huge hit with Thursday’s loss to Mississippi State, their third in four games and second in that span to a team ranked in the Top 25.

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Ole Miss’ best chance at a postseason berth now appears to be either a Cinderella run through the Southeastern Conference Tournament or yet another trip to the NIT. In either event, it needs to start winning some games — beginning tonight against Auburn (13-11, 3-7 SEC).

The three losses have been tough for Ole Miss (14-9, 4-5), but that’s been a theme this season. Three of its five SEC losses, including two in double overtime to Auburn and Alabama, have been by a total of seven points. All four of its wins have been by less than 10 points.

“We’re a handful of possessions away from being 7-1. If you dwell on that, it can drive you crazy,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said earlier this week. “The reality is there’s nothing we can do about the first eight. All we can control is the next eight.”

Things don’t get any easier after tonight. Ole Miss hosts Vanderbilt on Thursday, then has another quick turnaround and plays at No. 1 Kentucky next Saturday.

“There is a lot of talk from the league coaches about these Thursday-Saturday turns. We’ve lost two Thursday games now and for us we have to get on that bus and get back home and immediately start preparing for Auburn,” Kennedy said Thursday’s loss to Mississippi State.

With two home games, the Rebels have a chance to turn things around. They’re 9-1 in Oxford this season. Kennedy also said his players are resilient, and haven’t seemed to get down after the close losses.

“My office is directly off of our practice floor, so I can hear them when they come in, I can hear them when they’re bouncing balls. Sometimes after a tough emotional loss, I’m thinking I need to say something, put it in perspective, give them a day off, maybe their spirits are down. And it sounded like Mardi Gras out there,” Kennedy said. “Kids are pretty resilient. They’re moving on to the next day. They probably didn’t have as tough a Sunday as the old head coach did.”

Auburn won the first meeting between these teams, 69-68 in double overtime on Jan. 14. Like Ole Miss, it has struggled to find success since then. The Tigers have lose five of seven coming into tonight’s game, including two straight to Mississippi State and Alabama — the last two teams to beat Ole Miss.

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