Ole Miss basketball rose the last week and a half like the center section at an old-fashioned revival with three-straight, double-figure wins in its just-completed homestand.
Today the Rebels will try to continue their comeback from a 1-7 SEC start in the league’s toughest tent – Rupp Arena.
Ole Miss takes on No. 15 Kentucky in a 1 p.m. tip in a game that will air on ESPN. The Rebels are 2-54 all-time in Lexington which includes a 26-23 loss in the first game of the series in 1925.
“What a great opportunity,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said.
As the Rebels try to play their way back into NCAA Tournament relevance they’ll have a better chance to cash in on the opportunity if junior college transfer center Khadim Sy repeats the performance he had Tuesday night in an 83-58 win over rival Mississippi State.
Sy had 10 of his 18 points in the last 3 minutes, 58 seconds of the first half, the key factor as the Rebels shaved a 10-point deficit to one at the break.
Guards Breein Tyree – who had a career-high 40 points – and Devontae Shuler found Sy with space, and Sy was able to get to the rim.
“We were trying to go to our middle ball screen action. They were just keying so much on Breein and Devontae the long roll was open,” Davis said. “Those guys gave him great passes. Then he made some really nice post moves with somebody on his back.”
Sy will oppose 6-foot-11 Kentucky junior Nick Richards, who averaged 3.9 points last year but is averaging 14.6 points on the season plus 17.1 points and 9.5 rebounds over the last 12 games.
He ranks fourth nationally with 10 double-doubles.
Davis believes Sy is rounding into SEC shape.
“I think conditioning was a big part of it. He’d shoot and fall down a lot. His balance was bad. Tonight he gathered himself, played on the balls of his feet. He absorbed contact and scored, and that’s great to see,” Davis said following the MSU game.
It was a month into the season before Sy, a 6-10 junior from Dakar, Senegal, had his first double-figure scoring game. Even then his transition was slow, so much so that Davis left him at home to consider his attitude when the Rebels played at Florida on Jan. 14.
The one-game suspension made an impact on Sy.
“It’s just about trusting coach, trusting the process. It’s on and off the court,” Sy said. “Everything is about how you approach practice, going to school. After that trip I felt like I let my team down.
“I’m just trying to be a better person, be more mature, trying to help my team as much as I can.”