February 16, 2010 9:54:00 AM
There''s a star in Oxford that must shine brighter for the University of Mississippi men''s basketball team to earn an NCAA tournament berth.
The Ole Miss staff wants more from guard Terrico White.
The sophomore has been up and down lately, turning in 19- and 13-point efforts against Kentucky and Mississippi State, respectively. But he also has gone 5 of 23 from the floor in losses to Arkansas and Alabama.
Ole Miss assistant coach Owen Miller made it clear Monday when he spoke on the Southeastern Conference coaches'' teleconference that the Rebels'' best players must turn-in quality performances on a more consistent basis.
"We''ve got to get those guys all playing together on the same night," Miller said. "The best players have to play well in this league to have a chance."
Ahead of Thursday''s home match against Vanderbilt, the coaching staff''s pleas for stars to be stars every night points to guards Eniel Polynice, Chris Warren, and White.
White''s inconsistencies have come down to teams figuring out how to keep the ball out of his hands, Miller said.
"I know (head coach) Andy (Kennedy) is really trying to have is get him more touches," Miller said, "and when he does get more touches for him, for him to be more aggressive. People are guarding him different, too. People have done a good job making it harder for him to get touches.
"If that happens, Terrico''s got to do things to run to get himself in position where he can make plays. We need more production from him as it relates to scoring for us to be as good as we need to be."
Ole Miss will need to play its best Thursday at home against No. 17 Vanderbilt and Saturday against the University of Florida. The games come at a critical time for the Rebels (17-7, 5-5 SEC).
The Commodores have one of the SEC''s top frontlines with 13-points-per-game scorers A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffery Taylor. With Reginald Buckner''s status still uncertain due to a sprained ankle, the Rebels will enter another SEC contest shorthanded up front.
Buckner''s presence gives the Rebels a different kind of scorer next to Murphy Holloway and Terrance Henry, Miller said.
"(Buckner) is our best post presence as it relates to scoring with his back to the basket. We haven''t had that," Miller said. "Our big guys, Terrence Henry for instance, and Murphy Holloway, are better face-up guys than they are with their back to the basket."
Miller said Buckner''s ankle "looked much better," and he hopes the freshman will be ready Thursday.
Crimson Tide get extended pit stop
Losers of four of their past five games, the Alabama Crimson Tide plan to take advantage of seven full days in between games.
Coming off a 73-68 win against the University of Arkansas on Saturday, Alabama will get a chance to rest and to regroup for its final five Southeastern Conference games.
Alabama will be at Georgia on Saturday after completing a three-games-in-six-days swing. During their four losses since Jan. 30, the Crimson Tide have a pair of one-point defeats to Auburn and Florida and a heart-breaking defeat at the University of Mississippi in which they squandered a double-digit lead.
Alabama assistant coach John Brannen said the team will benefit from the bye week, where it will focus more on itself than installing a game plan.
"When you win a game you want to keep playing, but as far as being able to rest our guys it helps them to refocus," Brannen said. "There''s some things during the course of the year you''re not able to put in. You can make the adjustments per scout, but you''re not able to put in some of the things you want with limited practice times."
With an eight-man rotation, fatigue has been a concern this season. The timing of the bye week will help, but Brandon believes the team is coping well despite extended minutes.
"I found out through experience it often times takes place around the break or early January," Brannen said of players adjusting to the long season. "A lot of times those guys kind of find their second legs or second wind in February. Tony Mitchell being the only one of our guys that plays extended minutes, I think he''s done a good job of keeping his energy level."
MSU fans stir the pot
As if the No. 2 team in the country coming to town isn''t a chore in itself, Mississippi State fans decided to get a head start on some trash talking ahead of an 8 p.m. tip today against the University of Kentucky.
Wildcats freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins had his cell phone number leaked to the Bulldog masses, and the double-double machine received a strange pre-welcome from Bulldog students, John Clay of the Lexington Herald Leader reported Monday.
Cousins said he''d received text messages containing racial and gay slurs from "mainly Mississippi phone numbers." Some were on the lighter side, too.
"Some were racial and others, girls were like, ''Let''s make out,'' " Cousins said. "I don''t know what to expect in Starkville."
Cousins said his number has been leaked before, but the pestering "wasn''t this bad."
When asked if he had changed his phone number, Cousins said, "I''m going to change it after the game; I want to see what they have to say."
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4. Local academy baseball players earn all-state honors HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. White, teammates look for bass fishing success LOCAL SPORTS