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Penny Hardaway acknowledges links to college programs

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One of the most fascinating subplots to this year’s college coaching carousel is what will happen with Penny Hardaway.

A Memphis basketball legend, Penny is currently the head coach of the powerhouse Memphis East high school while running a Nike-affiliated AAU program aptly named Team Penny. Combined, those rosters include an absolutely ridiculous amount of talent. James Wiseman, who may just be the best player in the Class of 2019, plays for both East and Team Penny. Another five-star prospect in the Class of 2019, D.J. Jeffries, also plays for Team Penny while his cousins — Jonathan and Chandler Lawson, the younger brothers of former Memphis and current Kansas players Dedric and K.J. — play for East.

There’s a real debate about whether or not those teams would be able to beat the Memphis Tigers basketball team.

As in the University of Memphis.

That’s where things are in that city.

Which is why Penny Hardaway has been linked to a job that isn’t even open yet. It’s why his name is mentioned when discussing whether or not Ole Miss should hire him to replace Andy Kennedy. We’re talking about a guy with more than a decade of experience in the NBA that can, in theory, bring with him the kind of talent that you would expect to see on a roster like Kentucky or Duke. It would only make sense for the likes of Memphis and Ole Miss to kick the tires.

What if he says yes?

And, according to an interview he gave to SEC Country, it sounds like Penny would, at the very least, listen.

“It’s a huge compliment for any college to even think about wanting me to come in. I feel like I bring a lot to the table even though I haven’t coached college,” he told the site on Monday. “I feel like my NBA experience and the coaches I’ve had over the years, I’ve learned enough to be a head coach in college. But I’m really enjoying this right now and coaching these guys.”

Andy Kennedy resigns from Ole Miss effective immediately

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Andy Kennedy announced that, effective immediately, he will be stepping down as the head coach at Ole Miss. Tony Madlock will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

The reason is simple: Kennedy wanted to “relieve any external pressure being felt by our current players” and he did not believe that last week’s announcement that this would be his final season in Oxford accomplished that.

“It has become readily apparent to me that my continued presence as the head coach is proving detrimental to these players finishing the season in a fashion that is representative of The Standard for this program that has been clearly established and maintained for over a decade,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Yherefore, I believe that it is in everyone’s best interest that I exit my role as head coach effective immediately. We all know that “clean breaks” are always best, and I should have realized this last Monday. My apologies.”

On Saturday, Ole Miss lost by 17 points at Mississippi State. That came two days after Kennedy went viral for a brutally honest criticism of what his team was going through.

“I can’t get to them,” he said. “I can’t reach them.”

It’s sad that this is the way that it had to end for the best basketball coach that Ole Miss has ever had. But it had to be done.

Brown leads No. 11 Auburn over Mississippi 79-70

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OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Auburn was struggling to put away a mediocre Mississippi team in the second half when Bryce Brown made a crucial 3-pointer to give the Tigers a little separation.

The smooth-shooting junior was just getting started.

Brown made several crucial shots down the stretch, scoring 19 of his 23 points in the second half to lead No. 11 Auburn over Ole Miss 79-70 on Tuesday night.

“Bryce has got a different gear,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “He’s got a confidence and a swagger. He’s fearless.”

Brown’s big game earned Auburn its first win over Ole Miss in Oxford in nearly 10 years. He shot 9 of 16 from the field and made three 3-pointers.

Auburn (20-2, 8-1 Southeastern Conference) beat Ole Miss for the second time this season. Mustapha Heron added 16 points for the Tigers. Jared Harper had 13 points and seven assists.

Brown made the difference during a crucial stretch of the second half when Auburn used a 13-2 run to turn a narrow lead into a 72-57 advantage. The 6-foot-3 guard shook off a slow start and some early foul trouble to pick apart the Ole Miss defense when it mattered most.

“That was the biggest difference in the second half — I was in attack mode,” Brown said.

Ole Miss (11-11, 4-5) lost for the first time at home during conference play. The Rebels were led by Deandre Burnett, who scored 16 points. Terence Davis, Markel Crawford and Devontae Shuler each added 11.

Auburn won despite shooting 39 percent from the field. One reason is the Tigers were able to extend several possessions thanks to 19 offensive rebounds.

“They killed us on the glass,” Crawford said. “Whenever a team comes in and gets 19 offensive rebounds — 12 in the second half — I don’t think you’ve got a good chance of winning against a good team like that.”

Auburn hit six 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a 38-36 halftime lead. The Rebels managed to keep the game close despite rampant foul trouble — seven players had two fouls before the break.

Ole Miss trailed the entire second half. The Rebels were hurt by 17 turnovers.

“It comes down to decision making and playing through contact,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “These games are hard to win, and you’ve got to play through some contact. They knocked us off our spot a little bit, and we didn’t handle the ball as well as we needed to.”

BIG PICTURE

Auburn: The Tigers jumped eight spots in the most recent AP Top 25 poll and rewarded the voters’ confidence with a gritty road win. Auburn has another very winnable game this weekend when it hosts Vanderbilt.

Ole Miss: The Rebels still have a decent RPI considering their mediocre record, but they’re quickly running out of chances to make a late push into NCAA Tournament at-large consideration. Ole Miss faces a crucial road game this weekend against Tennessee.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Auburn’s stock continues to rise and with very good reason. The Tigers are at the top of the heap of the SEC and Florida’s loss to Georgia on Tuesday means Auburn now has a two-game lead on the rest of the pack.

Ole Miss gets Memphis graduate transfer guard Markel Crawford

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Ole Miss picked up a double-figure scorer on Wednesday night as a source confirmed to NBCSports.com that Memphis graduate transfer guard Markel Crawford committed to the Rebels.

The 6-foot-5 Crawford had a breakout season as junior as he put up 12.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game for the Tigers. Crawford also shot 47 percent from the floor and 33 percent from three-point range.

Losing senior big man Sebastian Saiz is going to hurt Ole Miss next season but adding Crawford gives head coach Andy Kennedy another proven perimeter option who can play with talented pieces like Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis.

Ole Miss lands four-star Class of 2017 guard

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Ole Miss landed its most important commitment yet in the Class of 2017 on Monday as four-star guard Devontae Shuler pledged to the Rebels.

The 6-foot-3 Shuler is a scorer who is at his best playing fast and the way he likes to play should fit in well with head coach Andy Kennedy’s offense. Regarded as the No. 104 overall prospect in the Rivals Class of 2017 national rankings, Shuler is a plus athlete who is at his best attacking the basket.

If Shuler develops a more consistent jumper, then he can be a very solid overall offensive player. Defensively, Shuler is athletic enough to be a potential impact guy there as well with added work.

Shuler is the fourth commitment for Ole Miss in the Class of 2017 as he joins three-star forward Jatrious Smith, three-star guard Parker Stewart and forward Tirus Smith.

 

No. 24 South Carolina beats Mississippi 77-74 in OT

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OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Michael Carrera scored 19 points, Laimonas Chatkevicius added 17 and No. 24 South Carolina rallied to beat Mississippi 77-74 in overtime on Tuesday night.

Ole Miss led 64-53 with 5:17 remaining in regulation, but South Carolina tied the game at 66 with 43 seconds on a layup by Carrera.

Carrera also made the most important play in overtime, hitting a layup while getting fouled. He converted the free throw to give South Carolina a 75-72 lead with 29.3 seconds left.

South Carolina (17-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) had four players score in double figures. Chatkevicius had a double-double, adding 10 rebounds.

Ole Miss (12-6, 2-4) has lost three straight games. Stefan Moody led the Rebels with 24 points while Anthony Perez added 16.