March 6, 2009
The Ole Miss Rebels will celebrate Senior Day when they host rival Mississippi State in their final regular season game of the season Saturday.
When the two seniors, Ryan Brown and Patrick Spach, are introduced prior to 4 p.m. tipoff at Tad Smith Coliseum, those in attendance may not even know who they are. Both are walk-ons who have not played very much for the Rebels.
Mississippi State had a similar situation Wednesday night when Brian Johnson and Christopher Gay were recognized before the last home game against Florida.
Gay is a walkon at MSU and Johnson has not been much of a factor because of a lower leg injury this season. Johnson was suffering from flu-like symptoms, but both played the final six seconds against the Gators.
What does this mean?
There will be a great deal of talented Bulldogs and Rebels back next year.
"When you are recruting, you know you don''t have to go out and fill a bunch of holes," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "Knowing you have some youth is always good."
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy hasn''t had much time to consider what the future holds for his program.
Kennedy''s situation was created out of necessity when guards Chris Warren, Eniel Polynice and Trevor Gaskins suffered season-ending knee injuries.
Because Kennedy has had to throw freshmen Terrico White, Terrance Henry, Murphy Holloway and Will Bogan into the fire, Ole Miss (16-13, 7-8 SEC) has had an up and down season.
One of the high points came Wednesday when Ole Miss went to Arkansas and won 98-91 in overtime.
"To have so many guys step up and respond in a very competitive game, it gives us hopefully a burst of energy so we can close this season on the right note," Kennedy said.
White (13.2 ppg) scored a career-high 29 points against the Razorbacks and he has made his presence felt as a point guard for the Rebels, while freshman Dee Bost has done the same at the position for the Bulldogs.
It was White that got the better of the matchup between the two players in the last meeting, but not by much.
White scored 18 points to Bost''s 13.
It was White''s production that helped Ole Miss pull out a 67-63 victory in Starkville on Jan. 31.
"Terrico White is one of the most difficult matchups in this league with his strength, athleticism and ability to shoot it," Stansbury said. "He''s tough no matter who you put on him. It''s two good young players. Our guy is pretty good himself. It''s a huge matchup again."
Neither team will have a senior in the starting lineup.
Mississippi State (18-12, 8-7) starts Bost, sophomores Ravern Johnson and Phil Turner and junior Barry Stewart at guards with junior Jarvis Varnado at center.
Kennedy respects the job that Stansbury has done with a four-guard lineup.
"It''s simply playing to the strength of your team," Kennedy said. "That''s what makes Rick one of the best coaches in our league. He''s playing to the strength of his team and that strength is from outside in as it relates to how they generate offense. It''s been very successful for them."
Both teams are dealing with injuries.
Mississippi State won''t have one of its young post players for the rest of the season after sophomore forward Elgin Bailey severely dislocated his right ankle in the second half against Florida.
Doctors determined that there is no fracture or torn ligaments and no surgery is necessary. Bailey''s foot will be placed in a hard cast for six weeks on Tuesday after the swelling subsides. Bailey may be able to start running again in three months.
"He was absolutely playing one of the best games of his career (against Florida)," Stansbury said. "He''ll be missed. We''re just thankful there''s no more damage than what''s already there. It''s still a serious injury, but it could have been a lot worse. If anybody can handle this in a positive way, it''s Elgin."
For the Rebels, junior guard David Huertas missed the Arkansas game because of a bruised foot. Ole Miss spokesman Joey Jones said Thursday afternoon Huertas'' status for Saturday remains uncertain.
That means junior forward DeAundre Cranston will be the oldest player in the starting lineup along with sophomores Zach Graham and Malcolm White and freshmen Henry and Terrico White.
The game between the Bulldogs and Rebels is an important one because the winner secures the third seed out of the SEC Western Division in the SEC Tournament.
"There is something on the line," Stewart said. "We want to make sure we go up there with the same intensity (MSU showed in an 80-71 win against Florida) and get a win. It''s getting down to the wire and a lot of people think we''re not going to be in the postseason, but if we keep winning, we''ll be fine."