Game: Ole Miss - Florida
Date: Feb. 21, 11 a.m.
Location: Oxford, Miss.
TV/Radio: CBS/Ole Miss Radio Network
Ole Miss guard Martavious Newby played all of nine minutes Tuesday against Kentucky, and if only going by the box score, his contributions were minimal.
Newby, making his return from a broken hand, had one rebound, no points and two fouls in the 84-70 loss, the third for the Rebels in as many games. Ole Miss is 16-10 overall and 7-6 in the SEC as it readies for No. 2 Florida today at 11 a.m.
As head coach Andy Kennedy will attest, Newby's value isn't in the numbers (or lack of) he puts up, but in the energy and fight he brings to the floor – two traits Kennedy said the Rebels have lacked over a trying two weeks.
"Kind of a positionless guy, but always around the ball, plays with great physical toughness and he's always in attack mode," Kennedy said. "And that's really the thing that he can bring this team that we lost for the three weeks he was gone."
"I saw that when I first came here," Newby said of being the Rebels' energy source. "We don't have that energy guy on the team. My scoring coming out of high school, I took that away. I felt like we needed a defensive stopper. That was my main focus coming in, all these years at Ole Miss - be a defensive stopper."
Newby broke his non-shooting hand in a win over Mississippi State Jan. 25. He missed the next six games, and the Rebels were 2-4 without him.
His nine minutes played Tuesday don't look like much. But Kennedy said there was a noticeable difference in the play of his team with Newby on the floor. Ole Miss trailed by its largest margin, 62-40, when Newby checked in at the 9:08 mark in the second half. He helped spark a 10-2 run.
The Rebels got as close as six points.
"There was a noticeable difference," Kennedy said, "and just the ability to fight. That, as a coach, is what you want. You're not always going to win every game. You're not always going to make every shot. You can do everything you're supposed to and still come up short, be outmanned a little bit.
"But you just want to see guys fight. And I thought for him, he brought us great energy, which he normally does. He kept balls alive – those 50/50 balls, those possessions that we always talk about. I thought he did a good job of keeping balls alive, fighting, giving us extra possessions, giving us a chance."
Newby was cleared medically prior to Kentucky. He even practiced on Monday, but Kennedy had no expectation of playing the sophomore, despite the fact he dressed and went through pregame warm-ups. "We certainly needed him," Kennedy said. "He responded in adverse circumstances."
He'll again be available to Kennedy when Ole Miss hosts Florida, even if he won't be 100 percent. Newby said he has full function in his hand, which is heavily wrapped with a pad and tape.
"Coming out of the game the other day, I was shocked that my hand was back to normal," Newby said. "It surprised me a lot to see I could do a lot of things I used to do. I was ready, but I didn't expect myself to be like that."
Florida enters the game 24-2 on the season and a perfect 13-0 in the SEC. The Gators have won 18 straight games, the longest winning streak in school history.
"I think we're ready now," Newby said. "We are one now. Everybody's back on the team. We're ready to put a win on Florida. Florida's going to be Florida regardless. If we're doing what we're supposed to do, we'll win.
"Once we pull this win this week, we're going to get our credit back, regardless that we lost to Kentucky. Florida is way bigger than them. I'm sure we're going to pull this win."
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)
Florida's 13-0 SEC mark is the best league start ever for the Gators. Florida leads the SEC in scoring defense (57.8 ppg) and scoring margin (+12.8) in conference games. The Gators also lead the league in field goal percentage defense (.339) in SEC play, but rank 11th in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.323). Casey Prather leads the team averaging 15.7 ppg, while Scottie Wilbekin is close behind at 13.6 ppg. Dorian Finney-Smith paces the Gators pulling down 7.1 boards per game.
Saturday's game will be the 105th meeting between the Rebels and the Gators. Florida holds a 61-43 lead in the series, which began in 1940. The Gators had won five in a row in the series, until Ole Miss knocked off UF in the SEC Tournament Championship game last year. Ole Miss owns a 28-21 advantage in Oxford, but the Gators took the last meeting 64-60 in Oxford in 2012. Five of the past seven games in the series have been decided by six points or less. Andy Kennedy is 2-7 against Florida in his career.
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)
* Like most college teams, Ole Miss fares better at home (5-1) than on the road (2-5) in conference play. The Rebels shoot better from the field (.442 at home /.379 on road) and from 3-point (.402 at home /.313 on road) at home and rebound the ball better with a -7.3 rebound margin on the road and a 0-2.7 margin at home. Ole Miss is scoring more points at home in league games (78.5) than on the road (66.9). Junior F Aaron Jones is posting 9.0 ppg and 8.5 rpg in conference home games and just 3.6 ppg and 5.7 rpg in league road games, while freshman F Sebastian Saiz averaging 6.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg in home SEC games and just 3.7 ppg and 3.9 rpg in road games.
* Ole Miss enters Saturday's showdown with Florida ranked No. 75 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com), while the Gators are rated No. 3. The Rebels are 4-8 against top-100 RPI teams this season including wins over LSU, Middle Tennessee, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Ole Miss picked up its first top-50 RPI win of the year against Missouri.
* Ole Miss is seeking its highest-ranked win in school history against No. 2 Florida on Saturday. The Rebels are 0-22 all-time versus the top two teams in the nation (0-14 vs. No. 1 and 0-8 vs. No. 2). Ole Miss is 27-13 (.675 winning percentage) over its last 39 games versus SEC opponents dating back to 2012, which is the best mark in school history. It is also the third-best mark in the league over that time, trailing Florida and Kentucky.