The bleeding has stopped, at least temporarily, after a good win at home over the Ole Miss Rebels last night. It wasn't always pretty, but the team played hard and controlled for most of the game.
The most encouraging aspect of the game was the play of freshman Justin Knox. He seems to be developing nicely. He played much better defense than he did in the Kentucky game, and he contributed a few points and rebounds as well. Being a freshman big man in the SEC, it's probably not reasonable to expect to be able to get performances like this out of him consistently, but he needs to play more. He's only going to get better with playing time. I really like him in the high post. He provides a big target for our guards to get him the ball at the elbow, and he has the size to see over the defense and make the correct decision once he has the ball. I would like to see Knox continue to take playing time away from Jemison. I like Jemison, he plays extremely hard and he had a pretty good game himself last night, but he just doesn't have the tools that Knox has, in my opinion.
For the second game in a row, Yamene contributed not only with his defense and rebounding, but he was able to provide some offense as well. His hands seem to be improving, so maybe he is finally starting to come around. He also took 3 charges at crucial times in the game. I really like the way he has played the last couple of games. It would be nice to be able to count on 10-15 solid minutes per game out of him without feeling like he's a huge liability on offense.
Riley had his best game in a long time. It's amazing how much better we are as a team when he is shooting the ball well. We did a good job of executing plays designed to get him open shots in the halfcourt offense. His defense was still not great, but better. He did lose his man a few times, but the rebels were unable to make us pay. He showed a lot of hustle and was able to come up with a few steals.
Hendrix was not his usual dominating self, but he still had a solid game. He was able to get Ole Miss' big man in early foul trouble in both the first and second half, which really hurt the rebels on offense. Fortunately, Hendrix did not have to dominate in the post because he actually had some help from Yamene and Knox. Our interior defense against the rebels halfcourt offense was very good.
We did a much better job against the press than we have in previous games. Ole Miss is not as aggressive in their trapping as Tennessee, and for the most part our guards were able to beat it on the dribble. Still, we made better decisions and did not panic against their 2-2-1.
With the exception of a few lazy passes early in the game, we took good care of the basketball. I still like Torrance better than Hollinger at the point, as I think Hollinger is better suited to play the 2 guard. Hollinger even said he prefers to play the 2 guard over the point on last week's Coach Gottfried show. Torrance was more efficient in the halfcourt offense than he has been all year. I do wish he would learn to not jump in the air when he doesn't know what he plans to do with the ball. We had at least one turnover, and a couple more near turnovers due to that fundamental mistake.
Rico did not play at all. Neither did Justin Tubbs, and Hillman only saw a couple of minutes. My only real beef with Gottfried this game is the lack of playing time, especially for Rico and Hillman. With the season pretty much down the toilet anyway, the young guys like Rico, Hillman, and Knox should be playing significant minutes every game.
Praise Jesus, we shot 75% from the free throw line! With the exception of Hendrix, everyone shot reasonably well, although Gee missed a few. Hopefully this is the start of a new trend.
The team played hard, but did not look very energetic in the first half. They seemed to pick it up a notch in the second half. They had a few chances to put Ole Miss away, going up by 14 at one point, but could not close the deal until the final minute. Give credit to the rebels for scrapping and finding a way to stay in the game.
Andy Kennedy made some questionable coaching decisions for them. The technical foul he got late in the game was crucial. If memory serves, Ole Miss had cut the lead to 4, and there was only a couple of minutes left. Hollinger was dribbling the ball up the court against the press, and was clearly blocked by an Ole Miss defender. Tons of contact, the Ole Miss player was out of position, Hollinger went down, and the ball rolled out of bounds. The ref pointed the wrong way, indicating it was our ball. Kennedy blew his lid, and had to be restrained by his assistant coaches. He made it several feet out onto the floor, and thus was hit with the T. I'm not sure how many people saw it, but he literally turned around and slapped his assistant who was trying to restrain him. I'm thinking if this game would have been on TV, Kennedy would be in some hot water for that one. If he could have kept his composure and allowed the refs to discuss the play, they would have had the ball, as they reversed the original call and ruled the ball out of bounds to Ole Miss. Of course, they missed the obvious blocking foul call, so I guess it all worked out.
Between Mi$$ $tate fans and old piss fans, I'm convinced that the average IQ in the state of Mississippi does not break triple-digits. Hell, it might not even break double digits. Admittedly, there were a lot of bad calls in that game, that went against both teams. There were a bunch of Ole Miss fans sitting behind us bitching and whining about EVERY call that went against Ole Miss. At one point in the second half, Hendrix jumps for a rebound and is clearly shoved in the back. He catches the ball, but of course lands well out of bounds. No foul call, it's ruled out of bounds, Ole Miss ball. Of course, I start yelling at the ref. Keep in mind I've been listening to these jackasses bitch about every call all night and refrained from arguing with them. Well, some douchebag Ole Miss fans yells at me, as if I asked for his opinion in the first place, "dude, he was 6 feet out of bounds." I said, "yeah, because he got shoved in the back." Knowing that he couldn't win that argument, he responds, "well, they haven't called it all night, yall just suck." So, I pointed out to them, that while we probably do suck, we were kicking their ass by 14 points at the time. He made some comment about us only being able to get 8,000 fans to a game, to which I responded that our small crowd of 8,000 would fill their crappy gym. At the end of the game, they blamed the refs for their loss.
In case any Ole Piss fans are reading this...you lost fair and square. The intentional foul calls were blatantly obvious and were the right call. You also lost the football game this year fair and square. The replay official made the right call. The big bad world out there is not a part of some huge conspiracy to screw poor little old piss. In fact, you guys are pretty much irrelevant to the rest of us. The sooner you accept the fact that you are a small step above Mi$$ $tate, but second rate to the rest of the world, the happier you'll be.
The announced attendance was over 9,000, the inbred ole miss fans estimated it at about 8,000, but in reality I think it was probably somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000. The student section looked as if it were a non-conference game in the middle of Christmas break. I know people are disgusted with the way the season has gone, and I understand some of the animosity toward the coaches. No doubt, with our talent, our record should be better. However, I don't feel we are in this situation due to a lack of effort. With the exception of the second half of the Clemson game, these guys have competed hard in EVERY game. For that reason, I'll continue to show my support at the home games, and I hope you will too.
Up next, we go to Columbia, SC Saturday to take on the Cocks and lame duck coach Dave Odom. Tip off is set for 6pm central time. USC is a hard team to figure, they've won a couple of surprising road games but have some perplexing losses at home. If we can continue to shoot the ball well, hopefully we can give them another one. This will be my last away game of the year, unless we make it to Saturday of the SEC tournament.