Notes and thoughts from the Ole Miss’ 83-80 overtime loss to Dayton …
There were familiar and disturbing themes for the Rebels in the loss with lack of frontcourt production and no real scoring threat beyond Jarvis Summers and Marshall Henderson.
As the Rebels transition away from two very productive players in Murphy Holloway and Reggie Buckner, there are issues among the bigs. Andy Kennedy is trying to change this now by playing his freshmen more, but there’s only so much he can do in-season.
Sebastian Saiz and Dwight Coleby may turn out to be really good players. Both of them do some good things now, but they’re not doing good things often enough or at the game’s most critical times.
Saiz was in the game for those critical minutes last night. He had a turnover and a foul in the last minute of overtime. Prior to that, when the Rebels were up 78-76, he caught a pass in the post and instead of taking it strong to the rim to dunk, he passed to teammate Aaron Jones who was standing almost right next to him. Jones was not expected it, and the play resulted in a turnover.
Saiz ended the game with four turnovers, almost a third of the Rebels’ total of 13.
Perhaps in mid-February Saiz will attack the rim and make that play. Coleby too. The question is what will happen with the Rebels’ frontcourt over the next month?
SEC play begins this week, and any team with decent frontcourt play will give the Rebels’ trouble. Last night Ole Miss struggled with Dayton’s Matt Kavanaugh, a 6-foot-10 clunker. I use the term admiringly. He’s a guy who isn’t very quick, isn’t going to jump but has good coordination. He can score when he has good position and can pass out of the post effectively. Think of former Auburn center Rob Chubb. Kavanaugh only only had 10 points last night, but he was 5-for-7 shooting and had 10 rebounds. He turned it over only once in 31 minutes.
Ole Miss started out playing well on the glass. There was a time when the Rebels were plus-5 with a 12-7 rebounding edge. They could not sustain that pace and finished minus-4.
Saiz had 11 of those rebounds. He’s the Rebels’ best in that category.
Offensively, Jarvis Summers continues to impress. It’s not easy for players to go from an old-school point guard mentality to one of a score — and be effective — and that’s what Summers has done. He’s getting to the rim and scoring off the dribble more than he ever has.
Kennedy called Summers his “best player” last night, and he certainly looks the part. Still, it’s part of the re-branding of this team that Summers — not Henderson — would have the ball in his hands at the end of regulation trying to win the game. In so many similar situations last season and this one Kennedy would try to create a shot for Henderson.
Speaking of Henderson, he was 2-for-8 from 3 last night and finished with 15 points. Dayton made it really hard for him to get good shots, and he did a good job of not taking crazy ones.
He’s been a more efficient 3-point shooter this season. Last night was just 25 percent, but he went into the game shooting 39.2 percent from the arc. He began the night just 9-for-36 (25 percent) from inside the arc, and his free throw shooting is down though he was 7-for-9 from the free throw line last night.
The biggest thing Ole Miss needs from Henderson is his 3-point shooting, and that’s been improved, though last night was a tough game.
Henderson will miss the Auburn and MSU games as part of his three-game suspension announced before the season began. Considering the current state of the frontcourt and the absence of a dependable third scorer that will be a big void against Auburn, a team the Rebels should defeat at home.
Then comes a trip to MSU, and Ole Miss has trouble winning in Starkville regardless of circumstances.
The bottom line is the Rebels are 9-4 and don’t look like an NCAA tournament team having now lost at home for the third time this season.
There’s not a quality win that will help carry the resume as the calendar moves toward March. Resume building will have to be done against the league. It’s doable but only if there’s rapid improvement.