Amidst some painful soul-searching and minus the head coach that has guided the team to 245 wins in the past 12 years, Ole Miss remains on the road to start the week as they travel to Missouri for an SEC basketball tilt with the Tigers. Tipoff for the game is set for 8 p.m. on ESPN 2.
Ole Miss (11-16, 4-10 SEC) is coming off of a disappointing 79-62 loss to their in-state rivals Mississippi State. On the Monday prior to that game, Andy Kennedy, looking at a six-game losing streak, decided to step down as the Rebels’ head coach effective at the end of the season. This past Sunday, after the loss to MSU, Kennedy resigned from the program effective immediately.
Kennedy’s initial announcement of his season-end resignation was meant to motivate the players, said interim coach Tony Madlock. “By saying, ‘Hey, listen, I am going to try to take it to where you guys don’t have to think about what is going to happen at the end of the year. Let’s get all that off the table. Maybe you guys will play loose and free.’ It didn’t work. He thought it was going to work. We all thought it was going to work. The guys did not respond the way he thought they would.”
“AK is a legend here, and he is the all-time winningest coach,” Madlock said. “Sometimes [the] coach can’t get to the players like he wanted to. That’s why he did what he did last Monday to try to maybe spark those guys, and it didn’t work, and he went another direction.”
In a press conference on Monday, Madlock was asked how the players are handling their current winless streak.
“You lose one basketball game, two, three or four in a row, seven like we have now, that’s when all the negativity is going to come out,” Madlock said. “That’s when you start doubting your coaches and teammates, and it just happens. I don’t think that there was any trust lost. I just think we got on a losing streak there, and we have got to find a way to get out of it.”
“The guys love each other,” Madlock added. “They are brothers. They work really hard for each other on and off the court. It just matters that sometimes it snowballs and goes in the wrong direction, and that’s what happened.”
Ole Miss looks to rebound against the Tigers.
Missouri enters Tuesday’s matchup with an 18-9 record following a loss at LSU that snapped a five-game winning streak. The Tigers sit at 8-6 in SEC play with four games remaining. Senior guard Kassius Robertson paces the team in scoring (16.5 ppg) and steals (28). He leads the SEC in playing time, averaging 35.6 minutes per game, and ranks second in the conference with 3.0 made-threes per game. Fellow senior Jordan Barnett adds 13.9 ppg.
Freshman Jontay Porter leads Mizzou in blocks (51) and averages 8.9 ppg. As a team, the Tigers top the conference in rebounding defense during SEC games, allowing only 32.4 boards per contest. The Tigers also rank second in the SEC in shooting from beyond the arc (.383) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.310).
Cuonzo Martin is in his first season as Missouri’s head coach after spending three years at California. Prior to heading out west, Martin coached in the SEC by guiding Tennessee for three seasons (2012-14). He began his head coaching career at Missouri State (2009-11).
Ole Miss and Missouri have met just 11 times, with all 11 games coming since the Tigers joined the SEC in 2012-13. The Rebels lead the all-time series 9-2 and have won eight straight of the last nine, including a three-game sweep of Missouri last season.
Adam Brown is the sports editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Sign up to receive Hottytoddy.com morning and evening headline emails HERE!