February 14, 2008

Rebels have to get tougher

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- Losing does a lot of things, and for the Ole Miss basketball team, it's brought some truth to the surface.

After falling 76-67 to a seemingly inferior Alabama team, the Rebels found it was time to admit some difficult truths.

Senior Kenny Williams said it's time for the team to be held accountable for its shortcomings.

"We're just mentally weak as a team," Williams said. "Now that we've come into some real adversity and up against some real players in conference, some players can't take what's going on."

Senior Dwayne Curtis echoed the sentiment, saying the team needs to find some life before things fully slip from its grasp.

"That's the biggest thing with this team right now," he said. "Mentally, we have to be prepared for anything. We can't blame it on being young. We definitely need some fire."

With just seven SEC games left on the schedule, the Rebels (17-6, 3-6) need to figure things out quickly.

"Right now, we just have got problems as a team. We will overcome this. Right now, we're just falling apart," Williams said. "We just have to get this together. We have four seniors, and we're not going to go out like this."

Walking Wounded

Injuries have largely avoided the Rebels for much of the season, but a pair of ailments shortened the Ole Miss bench considerably Wednesday night.

Freshman Malcolm White dressed but didn't play due to a muscle strain in his side. White suffered the injury in the Rebels' win over Presbyterian Monday night.

White's day-to-day with the injury.

The Rebels were also without senior guard Brian Smith, who went to the locker room before even entering the game.

"He said he was feeling faint," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "Hell, I said I was too; I can't leave."

The injuries affected Kennedy's rotation at bad times. Kennedy said he wanted to get Chris Warren a rest in the first half, and with Curtis sidelined with foul trouble, White's absence mattered.

Also, Eniel Polynice didn't start due to a twisted ankle. Polynice played 18 minutes.

Big men, big deal

On paper, the Rebels' game at Alabama looked liked it could be determined in the post, with Curtis and Richard Hendrix battling it out.

When the game ended, neither was much of a factor.

Curtis finished with three points and seven rebounds on 1-of-4 shooting in just 17 minutes.

"It changes the way we do things when he's not in the game," Kennedy said. "He picked up some early fouls, and we had to try and do some different things. Without Dwayne at the basket, it's difficult to manufacture points."

Hendrix, battling the flu, played 33 minutes and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Finding his stroke

David Huertas finished the night with 13 points off the bench, tying him with Warren for a team high.

Huertas hit on 4-of-9 from the field and 3-of-8 from three-point range.

Huertas has now scored 10 or more points in four straight games after six-straight games with less than 10 points.

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