COLUMN: The Ole Miss Rebels gained momentum in a major way with Wednesday night’s 75-68 win over No. 15 Mississippi State.
Not only did the Rebels improve to 8-0 in Oxford, they improved their Southeastern Conference record to 2-2 overall heading back on the road where they haven’t been nearly as sharp.
For Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, who has had to deal with the dismissal of two players and the loss of Murphy Holloway to injury for a period of time this year, grabbing some much needed momentum is welcomed even if he doesn’t know for sure what the future holds for the team.
“It shows what we’re capable of doing. The thing I was most proud of is we only turned it over five times and that’s been the Achilles Heel of this team,” Kennedy said. “We made some shots. We only hit 4 of 13 (from 3-point range) but we hit three of four early and that relaxed us a little bit. It got us to do some other things offensively. Now we’ve got to carry that over to the road and break through. We’re 0-2 on the road. Georgia won tonight in overtime so that won’t be easy, but at least we can go in there with a little momentum earned tonight.”
There is no denying that what happened Wednesday in the “Tad Pad” was a breakthrough for the Rebels. The victory signified a lot of different things for a team in desperate need of positives. It also finally broke a hex that MSU has held over the Rebels for quite a while in several different sports.
Billboards have been put up around the state, on both sides, touting the positives of each school. Talk in the state has been focused on the rivalry, in all sports, by the two fan bases so the win was a positive not only for the men’s basketball team and Kennedy, but for the entire Ole Miss athletics department.
Proof in social media
If you don’t believe me, then check out the various social media sites that involve both schools. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze stood in the tunnel Wednesday and watched the final minutes turn into seconds, enthused when the Rebels made a positive play or MSU made an error. He showed great joy about the win through his Twitter account later in the night. Students and players also sounded off about the win, while MSU’s star point guard, Dee Bost, could only lament the loss after spouting off about the rivalry and the Bulldogs’ ability to earn the road win a day earlier.
Ole Miss’ win over MSU was big, really big, for every fan, every supporter who wears red and blue. It has already become a big source of pride in the rivalry between the two most prominent schools in the state and something that will be talked about until Feb. 9 when the two teams meet again in Starkville. Results on the basketball court maybe shouldn’t have anything to do with football or baseball or tennis or any other sport for that matter, but it does when the rivalry has gotten as intense as it is now for both fan bases.
Kennedy and his Rebels were able to provide some relief in that category Wednesday and now it’s up to them, like it or not, right or wrong, to keep things rolling in the right direction. (January 19, 2012, Page 6)