November 13, 2007

Rebels host South Alabama

Another tipoff, another opponent, another crowd, another step.

The Ole Miss men's basketball team continues its young season Tuesday night at 7 when the Rebels (1-0) host South Alabama inside Tad Smith Coliseum.

Ole Miss is fresh off a 97-63 win over Mississippi Valley State Saturday, when the Rebels had five players score in double figures led by Trevor Gaskins' 21.

But Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said the most valuable thing to come out of the game was added experience.

"Usually when you have an opportunity to watch the tape, certain things jump out to you. You see some things that guys are trying to do. It was a tough game for us," Kennedy said. "Hopefully, they've all settled in. I think as we get further along into the season, guys will start to step into their roles better."

Part of the Rebels' troubles stemmed from strange matchups created by MVSU's short frontline.

"They played 35 minutes of a 1-3-1 zone, and I'm sure they hadn't practiced it much," Kennedy said. "The first time we went against this season was at the 15-minute mark. We were trying to figure some things out too."

Before the season opener, one Rebel wasn't sure if he'd be able to figure out his own excitement.

Sophomore David Huertas said he didn't sleep before the Rebels' lone exhibition game, and while he did get some rest before Saturday's opener, it did little to calm him down.

"The first game, I came out and was anxious because I haven't played in front of a crowd," he said. "When I get the ball, I feel like I got to make a play. I got to score. I have it in my head, in the back of my mind, that I have to score."

Huertas finished with 12 points, but he started the game 1-of-6 from the field.

And while he had fun getting back on the floor, his anxieties haven't vanished - yet.

"I still got a little bit, still a little bit anxious, but I think it'll be there for a couple of games," Huertas said.

And against South Alabama (1-0), the Rebels face a more traditional foe that Kennedy knows pretty well.

Kennedy, who began his coaching career at South Alabama under Ronnie Arrow, also coached South Alabama's leading scorer Domonic Tilford and forward DeAndre Coleman while the pair were at Cincinnati.

Tilford scored 15 points in South Alabama's 73-41win over West Florida last Saturday.

"Couch Arrow's teams are always going to be tough and fundamentally sound," Kennedy said. "They're going to play fast. I think both teams are going to enjoy the pace of the game. No one's going to have to force tempo."

The Jaguars return three starters from a team that lost to Syracuse in the NIT a season ago. After John Pelphrey left to take the Arkansas job, South Alabama rehired Arrow, who they fired back in 1994 - Kennedy's first season as a coach at South Alabama.

"It's a funny game for me personally," Kennedy said.

For Rebels like Dwayne Curtis, it's a chance to see some bigger bodies in the paint.

"We've been off a while. It's been awhile since we've played some good post players," Curtis said. "It's good to get that feeling back. We haven't really played anybody at all.

"South Alabama's a pretty good test."

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