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Rebels get time to work themselves

For the first time this season, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team has some down time.

And the Rebels plan to use it to work on what head coach Andy Kennedy said are a number of messes his team has got to get cleaned up.

Ole Miss (5-2) played its first seven games in a span of 16 days culminating in Saturday’s 67-54 win at Bradley. The Rebels don’t play again until this Saturday at UMass in the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase and will have another week off before heading to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, for a matchup with Southeast Missouri State on Dec. 12.

“Looking back in hindsight, I might have bitten off a little bit too much trying to play so many games so quickly as we’re trying to find ourselves,” Kennedy said. “But I do think we’ve learned a lot about who we are.”

Right now, the Rebels are a team being carried by shooting-guard-turned-point guard Stefan Moody, who’s averaging 22 points for the season and 21.2 in his first four games at his new position, and forward Sebastian Saiz (12.6 points, 9.3 rebounds). Kennedy said Moody’s move to the point was motivated more by defense, but Sam Finley has struggled in his transition back to a high level of competition while Tomasz Gielo, a graduate transfer from Liberty, has gone back and forth with his shooting touch.

Finley and Gielo are shooting a combined 35 percent from the floor, highlighting the Rebels’ collectively struggle with their stroke, particularly on the perimeter. Ole Miss ranks 11th in the Southeastern Conference in field-goal percentage (42.5) and next to last in 3-point field-goal percentage (29.2).

“We’re just not making shots at the rate that I thought we would,” Kennedy said. “My hope is that some of it is we’ve got guys that have not been in this position before. Maybe nerves and we need to see the ball go in.”

Ole Miss is also costing itself more chances to score by coughing up possessions. The Rebels have committed double-digit turnovers in all but one game and gave it up a season-high 18 times against Bradley.

“There’s a lot of things that we need to work on in these next two weeks,” Kennedy said. “For the first time, we’ve really had a chance to get back to these are the areas that we’ve got to really focus on. That’s what we’re going to do this week and the following week where we now only have two games in 14 days.”

Help on the way?
Ole Miss could have freshman guard Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey and junior forward Terry Brutus in the next few weeks.

Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, a Memphis native, was ruled academically ineligible for the fall semester and ultimately re-signed. Kennedy said the earliest Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, who’s enrolled in classes at Ole Miss, would be available would be against Southeast Missouri State should he get cleared at the end of the semester.

“He’s probably not going to be in a uniform that day,” Kennedy said. “My hope is that we can have him on board the following week for Louisiana Tech, Memphis and Troy prior to the Christmas break.”

Brutus, who missed most of last season with knee and ankle injuries and all of the 2013-14 season with a torn ACL, has been out after having surgery on his right ankle in the offseason. Brutus has yet to be cleared for contact, Kennedy said, but is getting closer to giving the Rebels’ frontcourt some depth.

“We’re probably about another two weeks away before they say (Brutus) is cleared for contact at which time we’ll throw him in and see what he can get,” Kennedy said.

Forward Anthony Perez, who sat against Bradley after suffering a concussion against Georgia State, returned to practice this week and will be available against UMass.