Another Opportunity

Ole Miss hits the road again, searching for the same formula the Rebels used at home to beat Arkansas Wednesday night. Auburn on the plains today at 12:30 p.m. provides the test.

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It appears to be a winnable game for Ole Miss, but only if the Rebels find a way to play like they did in the 71-63 win against the Razorbacks. The Tigers are 11-6 and stand 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play, their latest loss to Kentucky Wednesday night at home 68-53. The Tigers fell at Vanderbilt 65-35 to open SEC play.

Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy knows the SEC road is never easy.

"It's very difficult to go into other people's buildings - most especially against a team that obviously has its back against the wall early in the season - and win," said the sixth-year head coach of the Rebels. "We know it's going to be a big challenge. My hope is we can regain a little confidence from our outing (Wednesday) night. It's obviously great to have Murphy's production back in our lineup. If we can go to Auburn with the right approach, we'll have a chance in that building."

Murphy that Kennedy speaks of is, of course, Murphy Holloway, the junior forward that means so much to the team. That was proven Wednesday night when, after missing three games and the final 10 minutes of a fourth with an ankle injury, he returned to action against the Razorbacks. Ole Miss was 1-3 in those four games.

Holloway led Ole Miss against Arkansas with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

Holloway makes a difference for Rebs
Bruce Newman

"Nice to have him back," Kennedy said afterward.

And so Ole Miss tries again today to see if their slump of the recent few games before Arkansas is behind them. Standing 11-5 now after a 9-1 start, the Rebels are 1-1 in league play.

Kennedy is hoping they mentally and physically have some of their early-season certainty back.

"When you lose games, regardless of the reason and especially when you're 18, 19, 20-years-old, it's hard to have a lot of confidence," he said. "Us having won two out of the last three (games) and us reaffirming the fact that we're 10-2 when Murph finishes games, I hope gives this team confidence that we can go into hostile territory and find a way to win."

Prior to SEC play, the Rebels defeated SMU 50-48 on Jan. 3. Then came an 81-55 loss at LSU a week ago before returning home to face the Razorbacks.

Auburn is averaging 65.4 points per game to its opponents' 64.8. A balanced offensive attack features five players averaging nine or more points an outing.

Kenny Gabriel leads the way with 11.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Frankie Sullivan adds 11.1 ppg, Chris Denson 10.8 ppg, Rob Chubb 10.0 ppg and Varez Ward 9.0 ppg.

Like Ole Miss, Auburn is one of the country's top shot-blocking teams, averaging 5.8 blocks per outing. Gabriel ranks second in the SEC with 2.8 bpg.

Defensively Ole Miss has made a lot of improvement this season. Six different times the Rebels have held their opponent below 60 points, including a pair of games under 40. Most recently, the Rebels limited Arkansas to 63 points, which was one point from their season low of 62. The Rebels rank fifth in the SEC in field goal percentage defense at 39.4. Ole Miss is 9-1 when the opponent shoots below 40 percent from the field.

Kennedy hopes his road-seasoned ballclub will be a little more comfortable than usual away from home as league play gets into full swing.

"You know, one of the things we did in our non-conference schedule, more so than anybody else in our league, we played eight of our 14 non-league games away from home," he said. "We only played six home games, which is unheard of for a BCS level team. We did that for a couple of reasons but the first of which was to prepare us, with young guys, to deal with playing on the road. We were fortunate to win a couple of close games at DePaul and at Penn State. My hope is that that experience will pay dividends as we move into league play."

The Rebels return home to face Mississippi State Wednesday at 8 p.m.

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