The Ole Miss Lady Rebels and Rebels play "at home" in Tupelo Tuesday night as the 8,000-seat BancorpSouth Center serves as the host site for two games.
Ole Miss and Clemson will tip off at 6 p.m. in women's action, with Ole Miss and Tennessee-Martin to play in a men's contest at 8:15 p.m.
Over the course of time, the Ole Miss basketball teams have played off-campus "home" games. The men's team played Tennessee-Martin in Southaven three years ago.
During the early 1990s, the men's team played two Southeastern Conference home games in Memphis, Tenn. – one against Kentucky and one against Arkansas.
The Rebels and Lady Rebels played an exhibition doubleheader in Tupelo in the early 1990s when Rob Evans and Van Chancellor were coaching the teams.
During the Bob Weltlich, Lee Hunt, and Ed Murphy days of Ole Miss men's basketball, the Rebs played in Jackson several times and at least once on the Gulf Coast.
But Tuesday it's Tupelo, a place where the Lady Rebels have never played a regular season game and where the men have not played a regular season contest since losing to the Texas Longhorns 94-67 on Dec. 5, 1964.
There could perhaps become a trend for taking a home game off campus during the holidays each year. Ole Miss men's head coach Rod Barnes says he welcomes the opportunity to take his program to other parts of the state.
"I want to make a commitment to play games other places (than Oxford) around the state from time to time," he said. "We're able to do that now with our scheduling like it is. A lot of times we haven't been able to go to these places because we were locked into our schedule. But we definitely like to get to other places around the state to play."
Barnes says that while it will be fun to play in a different setting in front of Ole Miss fans, it is critical for his team to get a victory.
"I've told our guys the most important things are to play well and to get a win," he said. "Hopefully we'll have a good crowd that can help us."
One major aspect Rod says he has been pleased with this team is the fact that it listens to him and the other coaches and really tries to improve.
"This team takes what I'm saying to heart," Barnes said. "That helps our team to get better. This team has been a team. There has been no selfishness. They don't have any issues. These guys know that I have confidence in them. Our kids are having fun. When that's the case, their coach is having fun. I like this team and have from the start."
The Skyhawks of UT-Martin are 3-5 on the season. Head Coach Bret Campbell's ballclub returned all five starters from last season's 10-18 squad.
This season UT-Martin and Ole Miss have met two mutual opponents, with each team losing to both.
The Rebels, now 6-4 on the season, lost to Illinois State 70-52 in the BCA Tournament in Milwaukee, while the Skyhawks fell at ISU 80-51.
Ole Miss lost at Arkansas State 70-68 and UT-Martin also lost in Jonesboro but by a 92-65 count.
The Rebs and Skyhawks have met only once before in men's hoops, another of these off-campus Ole Miss home games. On Dec. 16, 2001, Ole Miss beat Tennessee-Martin 83-72 in Southaven's Desoto Civic Center.
Barnes says his team has become more confident during its current four-game winning streak.
"This team has accomplished a lot," he said. "They went on the road and got a big win (at Memphis) which we needed. We played well at Arkansas State and had a great opportunity to win the game (lost 70-68). Every time we go out, play well and win, this team gets a little more confident. So we build on that.
"Now we're trying to defend our home floor," he continued. "This team was very disappointed when we lost to Florida State (at home 69-64). The mark of this team has been that it is hurt when it loses. The mark of a good team is to defend its home court."
Tuesday night, that home court is Tupelo's BancorpSouth Center.
The Lady Rebels, 6-3 on the season and on a two-game winning streak, host Clemson in the opener at 6 p.m. The Atlantic Coast Conference squad enters the contest at 5-5.
Clemson has won four of its last five games but lost its most recent outing, a 66-51 setback at Rutgers.
"(Clemson head coach) Jim Davis is a very good basketball coach and has been at Clemson a long time (18 seasons)," Ole Miss head coach Carol Ross said. "He's won a lot of games there and has always had a consistent program. His players are well taught. They do whatever they need to do to win. They will be a good challenge for us."
Reggie Maddox continues to improve for Clemson, and she remains the team's only double-figure scorer at 10.8 points per game. She had a career-high 18 points in the loss to Rutgers, with all of them coming after a scoreless first half. Maddox also leads the team in assists per game (4.0) and steals per game (1.8).
D'Lesha Lloyd has been the top bench player for Clemson, averaging 6.5 points in just over 12 minutes per game. She had 12 points in the win over Wagner last Thursday, and then eight in the Rutgers game.
Ross says the Lady Rebs need a big win, and this is another chance.
"They're a quality opponent, and we need a win against one of the major conferences," she said. "This is our next chance. There would be nothing better than going on Christmas break feeling good about ourselves. Our mood swings are very scoreboard-oriented. This is a very big game for us."
Ole Miss comes into Tuesday night's contest after a pair of wins last week over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Grambling State. The Lady Rebels are averaging 77.6 points per game and have reached the century mark in scoring twice this season. Ole Miss had 100 points in a 50-point win over New Orleans, and then downed Grambling 106-64 last Thursday.
The Lady Rebels have five players averaging at least eight points per game, led by Armintie Price's 14.9 points per game average. Price is also the squad's leading rebounder at 9.1 per game. Amber Watts is averaging 11.0 points per game and is the team's top shot blocker at 20 over the first nine games this season.
Ross has been trying to get her team to become more aggressive, to have even better veteran leadership, and to get tougher. She believes she has seen that lately.
"We're constantly preparing ourselves for January and the start of conference play," she said. "We're not where we need to be yet. Maybe this team is just not nasty and mean enough. I don't think we'll be the most talented team in SEC play. But we have to do the little things better: gotta be mean, gotta be tough, gotta be feisty, gotta have the will to win and be prepared.
"We'll continue to work on these things, and I have to continue to try to bring out these qualities in them. These (pre-conference) games are not only to win but to also get ready for the SEC season," she continued. "We want to win them all and we want to be ready when the New Year rolls around and it's SEC time. Clemson will provide us a test that can help us continue to get ready for SEC play."
Rebels, Lady Rebs play in Tupelo Tuesday night
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