Ole Miss lost 73-67 Saturday when more was on the line than at most moments in Ole Miss men’s basketball history.
When was the last Ole Miss men’s basketball loss that was this devastating? Probably the loss at LSU late in the 2001 season that basically cost Ole Miss its shot at its one and only Southeastern Conference title. That Rebel team went on to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
This Rebel team probably won’t make it to the NCAA Tournament unless it wins its last two games and gets to the SEC tourney finals. Then it might still not make it.
That’s how devastating this loss was to Ole Miss this season.
Kennedy has more losses to Mississippi State than he has wins over the Bulldogs. This was one against the arch-rival he could not lose.
But his team did, and it was outhustled from start to finish. Certainly that was the reason the Rebels lost, because a depleted and downtrodden MSU team with seven wins total and none since Jan. 12 had nothing left to play for.
Except to ruin things for Ole Miss. Mission accomplished.
State’s three players it brought into the press conference postgame said collectively and almost simultaneously about likely ruining the Rebels’ season: “It feel good.”
Was it more because it was Ole Miss? “Yes.”
But they felt pretty good, too, because they hadn’t won in two months. Not one single game.
Their dismal season is now made with the victory against the Rebels, and another 20-plus-win season for Ole Miss is likely headed to the NIT.
Unless, as Kennedy said, they win the next two games and make a big run in Nashville.
Kennedy was visibly frustrated throughout the game. But, to be fair, he seems that way a lot of games on the sideline.
Why doesn’t his team respond better? Why, in its most important game of the year, did it not respond better?
“I thought right from the jump, Mississippi State was the team that was playing for its NCAA Tournament life,” Kennedy said. “I have no explanation. I’d like to sit up here as the leader of this program and give you some poignant answer or explanation.
“I have none. It’s inexcusable. I don’t know how that happens, quite frankly. We were lucky to even be in the game down the stretch.”
Really, the Rebels weren’t in it down the stretch. You could tell that if you were in the building.
Oh sure, the Rebels pulled off come-from-behind wins against the likes of Vanderbilt on the road and Georgia at home. But they weren’t able to do that here against a team that had no business winning this game, but a team that wanted it badly.
“There was no way I thought we’d lose it,” said senior Murphy Holloway, who finished with 22 points, 19 rebounds, and five steals.
Holloway said he wasn’t surprised State came out so pumped up.
“We came out timid and they came out with a lot of energy,” Holloway said. “We expected them to. It was going to make their season.”
So why didn’t Ole Miss try harder to make its season instead of likely having it ruined?
No answers. From anybody.
This is an Ole Miss team that at one time was 6-0 in SEC play and ranked 16th nationally. Now it’s gone 4-6 since then and if the bubble hasn’t burst, the needle is a whisker away.
Holloway was asked about the seniors – himself being one. Reggie Buckner being another.
And what of Buckner, getting a technical foul at a critical time with Ole Miss down only two points, and then fouling out.
“We’ve just got to keep pushing is all I can say,” said Holloway of the seniors, which also includes Nick Williams. And the rest of the team has to, too.
Kennedy said he knows what to expect from those guys. After all, he’s had them their whole careers, give or take.
“I know what I’m dealing with,” he said. “I’ve had Murphy Holloway for four years. I’ve had Reginald Buckner for four years. I know what we’re dealing with. Our preparation really doesn’t vary.
“We came in here and I thought the guys were excited about playing. But we didn’t transfer that over to the court. We had opportunities. There’s moments of truth throughout the course of a game that determine winning and losing. (Mississippi State) seized all those moments.”
And in doing so may have cost Ole Miss and this program everything.
We shall see.