Forward Aaron Jones and guard Nick Williams, the Rebels’ top two reserves, had both been hurt in the game - Jones suffering a knee injury and Williams further injuring his foot. A day later, the worst came.
An MRI revealed Jones has a torn ACL, a season-ending injury. Williams, who started 12 of 20 games, is out indefinitely. The senior guard was seeing the fourth-most minutes on the team, and scoring 9.4 points per game. His 34 percent clip from 3 was third on the team, having made 22 of his 64 attempts.
“Nick’s been suffering from plantar fasciitis, which is a connective tissue issue in the bottom of his foot,” Kennedy said after the game. “We think it snapped. We think the ligament in the bottom of his foot snapped. Actually, we’re pretty sure it did.
“Now, that’s not as dire as it sounds. Sometimes that can alleviate some of the symptoms if indeed it’s the one initially injured. He could be back. We don’t know how quickly.”
While Kennedy was optimistic on Williams’ return following the game, an 87-74 loss to move the Rebels to 17-3 overall and 6-1 in the SEC, Kennedy said the initial prognosis for Jones wasn’t good.
The final word, unfortunately, matched the initial prognosis. And without Jones, the primary backup for senior forwards Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss is alarmingly thin along its front court.
“If A.J.’s done, that hurts me also,” Holloway said following the loss. “Just got to play more careful, man, as far as being so aggressive.”
Ole Miss was already without junior Demarco Cox, out indefinitely with a leg injury. Cox, Kennedy said Wednesday, has been cleared to begin conditioning. He could work his way back into game shape to help sometime in the next few weeks.
Newcomer Jason Carter was dismissed due to a violation of team rules in early December without having stepped foot on the court for the Rebels.
True freshman Terry Brutus is all that remains behind Buckner and Holloway. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Brutus has appeared in 11 games, making five of his nine shot attempts, with 11 total rebounds in 4.3 minutes per game.
Guard Anthony Perez, at 6-foot-9, 205 pounds, will be called upon to play meaningful minutes in the post. Kennedy has used Perez, of Cumana, Venezuela, mostly in the back court. He’s played in 17 games, averaging 6.8 minutes. He’s 11 of 37 from the field, including 4 of 20 from 3.
He’s averaging 2.1 minutes per game.
“It changes everything,” Kennedy said of losing Jones following the loss to Kentucky.
“We still don’t know if Demarco can come back. It changes everything up front. Terry Brutus is going to have to step up. Anthony Perez is going to have play some at the four.”
Jones was averaging just 3.5 points per game, but his real value was on the defensive end and in his ability to rebound.
He was grabbing 4.1 rebounds on average each game, and his 32 blocks ranked only behind Buckner, who has 54 on the year.
Ole Miss next travels to No. 4 Florida on Saturday at 6 p.m. CST.