About to get on the road now for a morning of fun with the trucks on I-40.
After the egg Ole Miss laid at home against Alabama last Saturday I thought I had seen the last of the marquee wins for the season, but Andy Kennedy rallied the troops again last night in the absence of injured guard David Huertas, the team’s leading scorer at 18.5 points a game.
When Chris Warren went down in late December – becoming the third season-ending knee injury – we hacks who cover the team looked around and thought maybe four SEC wins. Now the Rebels will play for a break-even SEC season Saturday at home against rival Mississippi State.
Kennedy recruited the talent on this team but has also coached and developed it. Terrico White is the obvious key in the SEC success, but Kennedy has reinvented this team more than once. It’s also debatable how developed White would be at this point if his role hadn’t changed so dramatically. Clearly he would have been a major player; his skills show that. But it’s not clear that he would have been an 18 points a game scorer in SEC play or that he would be as confident and savvy as he’s become if this was still Chris Warren’s team.
For Kennedy, the victory in Fayetteville wasn’t so much about putting this piece here and that piece there. Frankly, there weren’t that many pieces to play with as he was down to seven players. But Kennedy did a nice piece of bench coaching by seeing the trouble Arkansas was having when trying to make switches during a defensive possession. He told Will Bogan to keep an eye open for teammates underneath, and Bogan responded with three of his seven assists over a 2-minute span to keep the heat on the Hogs late in regulation.
White showed that he’s the SEC Freshman of the Year last night, and if he isn’t an investigation needs to follow. Quite impressive with 25 points in the second half and 5-for-7 behind the arc then, but just as impressive was the way White handled the game-long pressure from the Hogs, the way Courtney Fortson bodied up to him to try and force turnovers, but White got the ball up court and into the hands of his teammates.
Sitting around looking at limited options in the pre-game warm-ups, I thought Zach Graham would have been the most likely candidate to replace Huertas’ points. Certainly Graham was key with 20 points, and he really took over early in the extra period.
But the Rebels don’t win without the heady play of Will Bogan. Recruited for his spot shooting as much as anything else, Bogan finally delivered with big shots, and as the shots fell his confidence rose. Because of that he was able to deliver the pin-point passing.
Huertas will likely be ready to go Saturday against State, but it’s almost like the Rebels had better chemistry without him.
Perhaps he comes back and does a better job of playing within himself.