Rebels aim for redemption in SEC Tournament

Published 7:55 am Wednesday, March 7, 2018

This basketball season has been nothing short of a disaster for the Ole Miss men’s team. They started off with high aspirations, losing just two seniors from last year, and returning star wing Terrence Davis and point guard Breein Tyree.

Instead, Ole Miss has finished dead last in the Southeastern Conference, and is facing South Carolina in the first round of the league tournament Wednesday night. It could be the Rebels’ final game this season.

Andy Kennedy, the winningest coach in the history of Ole Miss basketball, stepped down in mid-February, leaving Tony Madlock as the interim coach.

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The Rebels are trying to regroup and salvage their season with a strong run in the tournament.

“Come Wednesday, we have a new season,” Davis said after the Rebels finished the regular season with a loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday. “We have to move forward and not worry about the past. I know I will be ready for the tournament, and I’ll get my troops ready with me. We have to get up and play. Anything can happen.”

Ole Miss is coming off a brutal stretch in which it went 3-12 in its last 15 games.

“We just didn’t guard,” Madlock told the the Oxford Eagle after the 82-69 loss to Vanderbilt. “And then of course when you’re not making shots, then it kind of affects the defense and that shouldn’t happen. It’s kind of been the story all year.”

South Carolina also had an underwhelming season, following up a surprise Final Four appearance with a 16-15 regular season, and just a 7-11 record in SEC play. The Gamecocks are seeded 11th in the SEC Tournament and only above Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Georgia. South Carolina coach Frank Martin said he felt the team’s record wasn’t indicative of how much they had improved over the course of the season. For now, he was focused on their first round matchup and not looking too far ahead.

“We’re not there to win five games,” Martin said in an interview with the Associated Press. “We’re there to beat Ole Miss.”

Chris Silva leads South Carolina with 14.1 points per game and 7.8 rebounds, and Frank Booker is averaging 12.5 points and 1.1 steals per game. For the Rebels, Davis leads the team with 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while Deandre Burnett is averaging 13.6 points and 3.9 assists per game.

As Ole Miss prepares for its matchup with the Gamecocks, the coaching search is already underway for Kennedy’s successor. There is mutual interest between the Rebels and former Ohio State coach Thad Matta, who reportedly met with Ole Miss officials in Oxford last week.

Matta left Ohio State before this season, citing back and foot issues as one of the reasons behind his departure, but ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that he is in better shape physically following his year off. In 13 seasons with the Buckeyes, Matta went 337-123, with nine NCAA Tournament berths and one Final Four appearance.

At St. Louis
Games on SEC Network
Wednesday – First round
6 p.m. – Vanderbilt vs. Georgia
8:30 p.m. – South Carolina vs. Ole Miss
Thursday – Second round
Noon – Texas A&M vs. Alabama
2:30 p.m. – Missouri vs. Vanderbilt or Georgia
6 p.m. – Mississippi St. vs. LSU
8:30 p.m. – Arkansas vs. Ole Miss or South Carolina