January 28, 2008

Rebels struggled in three key areas

The scoreboard told the story - 88-68 in Mississippi State's favor.

And in the Ole Miss Rebels' second-straight loss, the Bulldogs did plenty right. They defended the basket with a secret service-like fervor. They blocked shots. They made things tough.

After the game, anyone who watched could only have one conclusion. On Saturday, Mississippi State was better than No. 15 Ole Miss.

But while Mississippi State did more than its share to win the game, the Rebels certainly did their part in losing it.

And three major things stood out.

The Rebels struggled to guard on the perimeter

In what's becoming a disturbing trend, the Rebel guards looked out-matched guarding the opposing ball handlers. Really, it's not that surprising.

In head coach Andy Kennedy's scheme, he asks his guards to put tremendous pressure on the ball, in the hopes of creating turnovers or general offensive discomfort.

But in SEC play, Ole Miss' quickness defensively has been exposed, and Mississippi State and Jamont Gordon highlighted the weakness.

Gordon and the Bulldogs had the Rebels scrambling defensively, leading to a barrage of easy baskets.

It got to the point where you could describe Mississippi State's second-half offense in just four words. Dribble, pass, dunk - repeat.

Key Stat: Mississippi State had 11 of its 15 assists in the second half, helping the team shoot 69 percent from the field.

The Rebels panicked

One Ole Miss' first offensive possession of the game, Gordon guarded freshman Chris Warren on the perimeter and pushed him back. Gordon, who's bigger and stronger, played Warren physically and almost forced an instant turnover.

For one of the first times in Warren's Rebel career, he looked rattled.

While the team eventually settled down in the first half, the offense deteriorated down the stretch. Instead of playing as a unit, the Rebels began to try and make individual plays off the dribble or by forcing shots.

The results weren't pretty. Ole Miss didn't convert near the rim and looked even worse on the perimeter.

They forced shots and missed badly while Mississippi State ran away with the game.

Key stat: Ole Miss had just three assists in the second half and eight in the game.

The Rebels missed Jermey Parnell

When the Rebels took the floor before the game, Mississippi State undoubtedly saw that Parnell wasn't in uniform. Without maybe their most physical interior presence, the Rebels were going to have to play a near perfect game up front.

They didn't.

Dwayne Curtis and Kenny Williams each picked up early fouls away from the ball, and both players spent extensive time on the bench with foul trouble.

That opened the door for Charles Rhodes to go to work on freshman Malcolm White.

In addition to the matchup problems, the Rebels didn't rebound like they had in previous games. For just the second time this season, the Rebels grabbed fewer rebounds than their opponents.

Without Parnell on the inside, Ole Miss missed having a big, strong veteran patrolling the paint.

Key stat: Williams, Curtis and White combined for 11 personal fouls.

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