Rebs head to Mizzou still adapting

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Ole Miss men’s basketball team is healthier than it’s been in recent weeks, but the Rebels are still ailing.

And they’re still trying to figure out how to deal with it all.

Stefan Moody will likely deal with a nagging hamstring injury all season but has felt good enough to play in the Rebels’ last two games. Martavious Newby returned to the court along with Moody last week, though he’s still dealing with some swelling in his right eye.

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But forward Sebastian Saiz hasn’t played since mid-January after having surgery to repair a partially detached retina, and there’s no timetable on when the Rebels’ leading rebounder and second-leading scorer will return. The Rebels (13-8, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) are 1-3 without Saiz, the latest setback coming to Kansas State on Saturday in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

Even with some of its key players back, Ole Miss clearly isn’t the same as the Rebels prepare to jump back into league play tonight with a trip to Missouri (8 p.m., SEC Network).

“We’ve certainly adjusted,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “We lost an experienced guy at the basket (Saiz), but what it’s done is it’s created opportunities for others. We’ve had to certainly adjust things that that we’re doing on both sides of the ball in order to play to the strengths to the players we have at hand.”

Sophomore forward Marcanvis Hymon has stepped in to average 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in the absence of the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Saiz, numbers that aren’t too far off Saiz’s 12.8 and 9.8 average, but the Rebels have had to play more zone defense than usual to try to keep their smaller frontcourt options in Hymon (6-7, 216), Terry Brutus (6-6, 235) and Tomasz Gielo (6-9, 228) out of bad matchups.

“When you lose a double-double guy and your anchor on the inside, it’s really changed us dramatically in the way that we have to defend,” Kennedy said.

Help needed
Kennedy said Moody had “a little tweak” in his hamstring while trying to make a defensive play against Kansas State. Moody is shooting 50 percent from the floor (10 of 20) since returning to the lineup last Wednesday against Auburn, but the normally explosive guard hasn’t been able to blow by defenders nearly as often.

All six of Moody’s field-goal attempts Saturday came from 3-point range while he’s been to the free-throw line just eight times in the last two games.

“Obviously teams are game planning to try to put bodies in front of him and eliminate his ability to get it to the basket,” Kennedy said. “We’ll continue to try to tweak some of the things that we’re doing and try to give him angles. … We’ve just got to get some of his teammates to step up through the spaces that he creates and make plays.”

Missouri (8-13, 1-7) comes into tonight’s game at the bottom of the league standings and has lost six in a row. The Tigers’ average margin of defeat in conference play is 17.7 points, though they did get their lone league win at home over Auburn on Jan. 9.