Tide Turning

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy can sympathize with Alabama.

The Crimson Tide lost a hard-fought game at Vanderbilt Thursday night for only their second loss in league play. But in college basketball, there's little time to look back. The next game almost always comes quickly. Just a two-day layoff, however, is tough for any team.

Ask Kennedy. Or Chris Warren. Or Zach Graham. Ole Miss lost a heartbreaker at home to in-state rival Mississippi State on a Thursday night in mid-January. The loss lingered. It stung. And what followed was a blowout loss, also at home, to Georgia Saturday afternoon, when the Rebels were never really in the game.

"The one advantage is they play (Thursday). We've been in those Thursday-Saturday swings a number of times," Kennedy said.

Warren won't speak for Alabama -- a team who, record-wise, is the best in the Southeastern Conference -- but he understands the tall order in letting go of a Thursday outcome and turning to Saturday. Warren admitted it's difficult.

Warren understands the tall order in letting go of a Thursday outcome and turning to Saturday.
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
Ole Miss (16-8, 4-5 SEC) and Alabama (15-8, 7-2 SEC) meet Saturday at 3 p.m. in Tuscaloosa on the SEC Network.

"In general, it depends on how the Thursday game goes," Warren said. "If you won, you tend to take that into momentum. If you lose, depends on how long you dwell on it. It can be tough."

Alabama and Vanderbilt went back and forth in an emotional game.

Official Tim Higgins ruled Alabama's JaMychal Green stepped out of bounds on a baseline drive with 6.3 seconds remaining. At the time of the call, the Crimson Tide trailed by two points. Replay showed Green didn't come close to stepping out.

Alabama eventually lost, 81-77.

For Ole Miss, Kennedy said, having an extra day of preparation time for one of the team's biggest games of the season is an advantage. However, the team will have to be much sharper than it was Wednesday in a 66-60 win over LSU.

"It'll be a game that we're going to have to be much sharper in a lot of areas than we were (Wednesday)," Kennedy said. "This is our 10th league game, and we haven't seen them yet. It's a little odd. I have great respect for Anthony (Grant) and their program. They're really playing well."

Ole Miss watched last night's controversial finish after practice. Kennedy and staff put together a scouting report. The Rebels practiced again Friday before embarking on the three-hour ride east.

"It's going to be one of the biggest games yet in conference play. Alabama's a tough team," Graham said. "We're going into a hostile environment. Coming off (the LSU) game, you see we have to play hard. Alabama's a much better team than LSU. We've got to go in there and fight."

Road Warriors:

Ole Miss is 6-4 away from Tad Smith Coliseum this season. In the Rebels' four losses, only twice (Miami and Vanderbilt) did they lose by double-digits.

Graham ranks 14th in the SEC with a 14.3 scoring average.
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
Even further, in conference games, Ole Miss is 2-2 on the road, compared to 2-3 at home.

In their first SEC game of the season at Florida, the Rebels lost by just six points. They led Vanderbilt by three at the halftime, but were outscored by 13 in the second half in a 13-point loss.

Ole Miss parlayed an easy win at LSU into its second straight road win at Arkansas a week ago Saturday. The Rebels are 4-3 in true road games this season.

"It'll be a big challenge for us," Kennedy said. "But for whatever reason, this team seems to be more focused, more energized on the road. I hope that's the case Saturday."

Digging deeper into the numbers, Ole Miss is shooting 47.5 percent in SEC road games and 41.3 percent in SEC home games. Warren, who averages 18.5 points on the road and 19.6 points at home in league games, said the Rebels seem to play better on the road because opponents tend to underestimate them.

"That's because people probably underestimate us because of our record or just because of who we are," he said. "Some players like to play on the road opposed to playing at home."

Graham, like Warren, scores pretty evenly at home (14.4 ppg) and on the road (14.75 ppg). But as a team, Ole Miss averages 73 points in away games, compared to 66.8 points in games played in Oxford. The Rebels have played five of their nine conference games at home.

"Maybe we are more focused on the road," Graham said. "I hope we'll be focused and ready when we go to Tuscaloosa on Saturday. It's going to be a big game. It's going to be a battle. But I think we'll be ready for it. We're going to get focused. We'll be ready for it."

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