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Summers trying to find game for Mississippi’s stretch run

Mississippi’s Jarvis Summers is struggling through his senior season while dealing with a variety of nagging injuries and a wayward shooting touch that have kept his production well below last year’s levels.

Yet the Rebels – for the most part – continue to win.

Coach Andy Kennedy said that’s a testament to the senior point guard’s willingness to do other things – distribute the ball and play good team defense – and a deep roster that has taken more of the scoring load.

”If you would have told me, with the type of year statistically that Jarvis has had, that we would be sitting here right here right now (with this record), I would have said you have lost your mind,” Kennedy said. ”But we’ve just got more guys. I think this group is deeper and more versatile.”

But for Ole Miss (17-8, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) to achieve its goal of making the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years, Kennedy knows it would help if Summers found his shooting touch during the final three weeks of the regular season.

The Rebels travel to face rival Mississippi State (12-13, 5-7) on Thursday. The Bulldogs have won five of their last nine after starting conference play with three straight losses.

The 6-foot-3 Summers is the SEC’s active career leader in scoring with more than 1,500 points and was superb last season as a junior, scoring 17.3 points per game while shooting nearly 49 percent from the field. But those numbers are down dramatically this season – 13 points per game and 35.1 percent shooting.

He’s had a few good moments – like 23 points in an overtime loss to No. 1 Kentucky and 22 points in the first meeting against Mississippi State – but he’s been mostly relegated to a role player. Stefan Moody leads the team with 17.5 points per game during conference play.

Kennedy said the physical issues Summers dealt with early in the season have mostly disappeared. Now it’s just a matter of regaining confidence.

Summers has scored in double figures just once over the past five games and missed a potential game-winner on Saturday in a 71-70 loss to Arkansas. It was a 12-foot jumper in the lane that’s usually right in Summers’ comfort zone, but it bounced off the back of the rim just before time expired.

”Physically, I think he’s in a good place,” Kennedy said. ”I just think we’d all like to see the ball go in. And if it did, he would be back to the Jarvis we’ve all come to know.”

In the meantime, the Rebels have received production in different areas. Moody, a junior college transfer, has improved as the season’s progressed and become the team’s leading offensive option. His go-ahead 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds left lifted the Rebels over Florida last week.

A surprisingly productive frontcourt has been consistent during conference play. M.J. Rhett, Sebastian Saiz, Dwight Coleby and Anthony Perez have combined to average about 25 points per game and all four are shooting at least 50 percent from the field.

”If (Summers isn’t) making shots – that’s why we’re a team,” Moody said. ”The rest of the team has to pick it up, not just an individual person.”

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

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