Following an 80-77 win over Missouri, Ole Miss looks to ride the momentum of back-to-back wins into its final two games of the regular season.
Winning six of their last eight games, the Rebels find themselves trending in the right direction as they prepare for Wednesday’s game in Tuscaloosa. Both Alabama and Ole Miss sit at 9-7 in conference play, making this a pivotal game as regular season play comes to a close. Alabama, a team that wins most of its games in low-scoring affairs, relies heavily on its defense.
“They’re good at what they do,” head coach Andy Kennedy said. “They’re the best defensive efficiency team in the league, and they’re the best rebounding team in the league.”
With a win in Tuscaloosa, the Rebels would move to 10-7 in conference play and would put themselves in very good position to secure the five seed in the SEC Tournament. Kennedy sees the opportunity his players have before them and hopes they do not focus too much on hypotheticals. By keeping things routine and practicing like any other day, Kennedy has focused his players on finishing the season strong.
“We need to go and play as well as we can in Tuscaloosa, come home and play as well as we can against South Carolina and try to build momentum to be as whole as we can heading into Nashville,” Kennedy said.
Following an early exit in last years SEC Tournament, the Rebels hope to make their presence known this year in Nashville, Tennessee.
A team without a superstar, Ole Miss has relied on a cast of individuals and team play to win games.
“We don’t have a guy like last year who can go 40 a night,” point guard Breein Tyree said. “This year, we have to feed off each other. If one guy isn’t having a good night, we look to each other to pick us up.”
Tyree has been one of the players called upon to carry the team throughout the season. He’s grown mightily throughout the course of his freshman season and has shown flashes of the explosive player he can be. Keep in mind that Tyree is still less than a year removed from his second torn ACL, and his knee still isn’t quite 100 percent.
Tyree has been a centerpiece of the Rebels’ offense toward the latter part of this season. With his performances in recent games – 15 points against Missouri and 24 against Mississippi State – Ole Miss will continue to look for Tyree to lead the offense in coming games.
As the season comes to a close, the Rebels are reaching a stretch of games they cannot afford to lose. A team that has struggled with consistency all season is now going to face its toughest tests yet in a series of must-win games. Kennedy said he hopes through recent games and practices, the team has worked out some of the issues that have caused it problems throughout the year.
“We seem to solve one problem, and then another one will pop up,” Kennedy said. “But I do like the fight. This team finds ways to win games, and not always the most aesthetically pleasing ways.”
The ability to win games when it really matters is how teams continue playing in the month of March. With the momentum of recent success, Kennedy and the Rebels hope to finish the season strong and carry their confidence into the postseason.