January 3, 2008

Huertas and Polynice stepping up

Standing outside the Ole Miss locker room after the Rebels' 86-50 runaway win over Alabama A&M Wednesday, David Huertas answered questions from reporters.

He talked about his poor start to the year, the missed shots, the turnovers and the frustration. He spoke about being refreshed by a trip home to Puerto Rico. He talked about getting back in the groove.

Then almost on cue, Eniel Polynice snuck up on Huertas from behind. He listened in and put his arm around his teammate.

"I'm just making sure he's alright," Polynice said. "This is my boy right here."

Both Polynice and Huertas have come alive of late, helping the No. 18 Rebels get off to the best start in Ole Miss history.

Polynice has scored 13 or more points in each of his last four games and is averaging eight rebounds over the stretch.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy saw Polynice help push Ole Miss in the first half against Alabama A&M, when the 6-foot-5 sophomore led all scorers with 13 points at the half.

"He's a hard match up because of his size and his ability to dribble through defenders," Kennedy said. "He can create so much for our team. He's really been playing well the last four games."

In one stretch Wednesday night, Polynice got out into the open floor for a slicing layup. Then on the next possession, he ripped the Alabama A&M ball handler and went the length of the floor for a two more quick points.

"We just wanted to play an Ole Miss game," Polynice said. "We're a fastbreak team. We work on it every day. When it comes time for the game, we know what we're going to do."

While Polynice is more successful when he's playing fast, the challenge with Huertas was slowing him down.

After transferring from Florida and sitting out an entire year, Huertas struggled early this season. His timing was shot.

If the team was dancing a waltz, Huertas was off on his own, doing the Charleston.

"I think basketball is a game of rhythm, and he was a kid who hadn't played for two years and looked really out of sync," Kennedy said.

The results weren't pretty - 0-for-5 against South Alabama, 3-of-14 against Troy, 1-of-7 at Central Florida.

But at the San Juan Shootout, Huertas began playing better. It started with 10 points against DePaul, then 14 against LaSalle and Clemson. For good measure, he added 12 against Southern Miss.

Then against Alabama A&M, he broke out with a game-high 17 points.

"I feel more comfortable," Huertas said. "That's all. That's everything."

In each of his last three games, he's shot over 50 percent from the field.

"He's just a little more relaxed. His rhythm and his timing are so much better," Kennedy said. "Now that he's relaxed and made some shots, he's been able to exhale."

After getting through the worst slump of his life, Huertas said he's figured things out with his shot.

"It was my feet. They were always moving," he said. "We work every day on them, and it's helping."

And it's also helped that he's got teammates like Polynice always looking out for him,

"We play together. We play as a family," Huertas said. "We work hard. I love this team."

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