The Ole Miss Rebels opened SEC play without senior star guard Marshall Henderson and struggled at times offensively, narrowly winning 65-62 last night in Oxford, MS.
Auburn is not an elite team, and Ole Miss should be able to handle teams like this at home. Without the emotion and streaky shot of Henderson, head coach Andy Kennedy got a chance to work on getting more production from his inexperienced post players.
Junior Aaron Jones stepped up to the challenge and contributed offensively (12 points) and also provided a last-minute block to allow the Rebels to seal the game with their first SEC win of the season.
This win puts the Rebels in a good position, as they play a rival game this Saturday against Mississippi State—another game they should win.
The first half of Ole Miss' SEC schedule is the weakest, so it must take advantage if it hopes to get to a postseason tournament. Forcing the post to contribute and develop during Henderson's suspension could prove invaluable to the team later in the year.
Per clarionledger.com's Hugh Kellenberger, Marshall Henderson was injured during practice on Wednesday of this week, in a practice drill, and likely would not have been available to play, regardless of the school's induced suspension.
As the team's only senior, Henderson's 18.8 points per game are sorely needed. However, junior guard Jarvis Summers has improved his scoring this year (17.5 points per game) and was recently mentioned as the team's best overall player by coach Andy Kennedy.
Having a one-two punch that he can depend on should give the the young frontcourt a chance to improve.
Against the weaker Auburn Tigers, the Rebels' post players combined to score 25 points from six players. Expect to see frequent substitutions for Ole Miss until someone solidifies one of the forward positions. Heralded freshman Sebastian Saiz did not score.
Ole Miss (10-4, 1-0 SEC) next travels to Starkville, MS to face MSU (10-4, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday, January 11, 2014.
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