March 02, 2015

Mississippi's basketball team has picked a bad time to struggle.

Just one week ago, the Rebels appeared well on their way to making the NCAA tournament for a second time in three seasons. But consecutive losses - at home to Georgia and on the road against LSU - have made their case for an at-large bid a little less convincing.

Now the final two games of the regular season loom large.

The Rebels (19-10, 10-6 Southeastern Conference) travel to face Alabama (17-12, 7-9) on Tuesday before hosting Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said there's no time for the Rebels to feel sorry for themselves.

''We had a rough week. Played two really good teams,'' Kennedy said Monday. ''We played hard enough to win, but just didn't play well enough to win. In this league, as competitive as it is from top to bottom, you have to play well to win games.''

For the Rebels, that simply means making more shots.

Ole Miss is shooting just 38.5 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from 3-point range over its past five games. Stefan Moody - the team's leading scorer at more than 18 points per game during SEC play - made just 3 of 16 attempts from the field in the loss to LSU.

But Moody wasn't the only problem.

''Of course it's frustrating,'' Moody told reporters following Saturday's loss to LSU. ''At the end of the day, it's all of us, it's the whole team. We've just got to play better.''

Kennedy, who was known as a 3-point marksman during his playing days at North Carolina State and Alabama-Birmingham, said there are no tricks to stopping a shooting slump.

''All that I know how to do through playing experience and coaching experience is to get them reps and then put them in a position where we feel they can play to their strengths,'' Kennedy said. ''From there, they've got to take ownership.''

Kennedy is confident the Rebels will be able to get it done.

It's a veteran team that has won big games in the past. Guard Jarvis Summers and forward LaDarius White were key contributors two seasons ago when the Rebels rallied to win the SEC tournament in 2013.

They'll both need to help Moody with some offensive production if they want to return to the Big Dance as seniors. Kennedy said his team won't need any motivation.

''Guys who are struggling know they are struggling,'' Kennedy said on Saturday. ''I'm a big believer in owning it. Let's own it and figure out how to fix it. I've played this game and coached this game a number of years and you know how you fix it? You see that ball go in the basket. You don't allow the negative to weigh you down.''

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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