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Rebels head to UGA looking for more

Andy Kennedy is adamant that his team can still make a late push for the NCAA Tournament.

But Ole Miss men’s basketball team is going to have to elevate its play in a hurry with little if any margin for error.

The Rebels (18-10, 8-7 Southeastern Conference) won their second straight game Tuesday against Missouri, though they were sluggish for most of the night against the team with the worst record in the league. The defense was slow in transition and in its rotations in the half-court, and the offense was inefficient.

It wasn’t until Ole Miss bothered the Tigers with its half-court trap in the second half that the Rebels turned a one-point game at the half into a nine-point victory, leading Kennedy to talk just as much afterward about what the Rebels have to correct as much as what they did right with three games left before the SEC Tournament.

“I just want us to be more efficient,” Kennedy said. “I feel like we can be so much better, and time is ticking on us. This is not November. We’ve got to get back right now so that we can make the run that I think is in us.”

Next up for the Rebels is a trip to Georgia on Saturday. The Bulldogs (14-12, 7-8) are the only top-100 RPI team left on Ole Miss’ schedule according to the NCAA’s updated RPI rankings, leaving the Rebels, who don’t have any top-50 RPI wins, likely having to win out and at least reach the SEC Tournament final to even get in the NCAA Tournament conversation.

“That’s the reality,” Kennedy said.

In order to do that, the Rebels will have to shore things up in their half-court defense and get better shooting nights from their best players. Ole Miss shot just 40 percent from the floor against Missouri and has shot less than 43 percent in each of its last four games and seven of its last eight.

Stefan Moody scored a game-high 29 points against Missouri but was just 8 of 19 from the field. Forward Sebastian Saiz is shooting just 32.5 percent from the floor since returning from his eye surgery while Rasheed Brooks is shooting just 24.1 percent in his last four games.

Georgia enters Saturday’s game on a three-game losing streak.

“It’s really just all on us,” Moody said. “Everything is really in our control. It’s whether we’re hungry enough to go get it or not. We’re definitely hungry.”