OXFORD • Lack of toughness for his teams is unusual, and it’s causing Kermit Davis no small amount of stress he says.
A year ago Davis debuted as the Ole Miss basketball coach with an NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Rebels look much unlike that team now as they open their home SEC schedule today at 5 against Arkansas.
Both teams are coming off losses, though the Razorbacks (12-2, 1-1 SEC) won 12 of their first 13.
For Ole Miss (9-5, 0-1) there was an upward trajectory early with a narrow one-point loss at Memphis and an impressive neutral site win against Penn State.
Since that November victory against the Nittany Lions in Brooklyn the Rebels are 4-4 but are 0-4 against name brand teams like Oklahoma State, Butler, Wichita State and Texas A&M.
“It’s something we’ve got to figure out as a team. I don’t think it’s one specific thing. I think it’s a whole lot of things,” senior guard Breein Tyree said.
Pressed for specifics Tyree named defensive energy, rebounding, getting to 50-50 effort balls and buying into Davis’ philosophy as areas to improve.
Tyree had 26 points against in a 57-47 loss at Texas A&M on Tuesday but just five points after halftime. He was 5-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half, 1-for-6 in the second.
The Rebels shot just 30 percent from the floor.
In its five losses Ole Miss is shooting just 32.6 percent.
Arkansas is coming off a 79-77 loss at LSU in which it was minus-29 on the glass.
The Razorbacks, though, will make it tough for the Rebels to reverse poor shooting trends.
Arkansas leads the nation in 3-point defense holding opponents to 22.6 percent. It leads the SEC steals, turnover margin and turnovers forced.
“We got annihilated, destroyed, whatever word you want to use on the glass and still played a two-point game against a really good team,” first-year coach Eric Musselman said.
For Davis, the Ole Miss struggles come back to one thing: toughness. This Ole Miss team, right now, doesn’t reflect his personality, Davis said.
“It does not, which is killing me, it is,” he said. “We can show signs of it. We’re doing toughness things in practice every single day. We’re going to keep fighting it, every single day.
“Without toughness in this league it’s going to be really, really hard.”