Ole Miss eases past Georgia 59-54

Rebels get first SEC win of the season against Georgia; at Auburn Saturday at 4 p.m. up next.

Rod Barnes said we could call it ugly if we wanted to. It clearly was that.

He said he would call it a win. That is what it was as well.

What happened Wednesday night in the Rebels' 59-54 disturbingly unpretty victory against outmanned (that's right, outmanned) Georgia was a combination of things - some I had already thought of as the game progressed and some Rod mentioned postgame.

The Rebels played down to their competition. My thoughts there.

The Rebels were coming off an emotional game, an emotional week, and it showed. Rod's thoughts there.

The Rebels have gotten into a bit of an offensive funk, like some of the past few teams we've seen here. Too much passing the ball around the perimeter, although tonight there didn't seem to be as much as against State. My thoughts again.

The Rebels had several guys step up - specifically Marvin Moore - and help out when some others didn't come through. Rod's comments.

The Rebels can't expect to have guys not play their best, especially at home, in any of the remaining games. Georgia is the least talented team in the league. Most other teams would have beaten Ole Miss tonight. My thoughts again.

So here we sit; 10-6 overall, 1-2 in SEC play. Next up Auburn, another team that is near the bottom of the league in terms of overall talent and expectations but who gave Florida fits tonight before falling at home in overtime by six.

Georgia, which had beaten Ole Miss five straight times in men's basketball, looked for the most part like a team of walkons but played better than that. It was obvious they were well coached and were effective on the boards - 36-32, winning both ends of that spectrum.

And Ole Miss couldn't shake 'em. Not the whole game. A 10-0 run (8-0 to end the first half and a Todd Abernethy basket to begin the second) gave the Rebels a 33-23 lead early in the second half. But the Bulldogs, who fell to 6-7 and 0-3, weren't about to fold, even when Ole Miss went up 12, its largest lead of the game, at 44-32 with 10 minutes to go on an Abernethy layup. You had to know the visitors knew this was one of the few SEC games they had a shot to win this season, all things considered.

So when Bulldog Toney Channing made a layup to pull his team to within two points at 53-51 with 3:06 left, it was a nervous bunch of Rebel players and coaches - and some 3,000 fans - inside Tad Smith Coliseum.

This was a game they couldn't lose if there is any hope of having some sort of decent season. So they kept playing and got the "W."

But not before an ugly skirmish on the Rebels' offensive end with 1:41 to go. Fists may not have flown, but there appeared to be thoughts. There was some rolling around on the floor, and an unsettling moment or two as players and coaches made their way out on the court.

The officials broke things up before too much else happened. But it took several minutes and a TV monitor for them to come to some conclusions.

When the dust had settled and the smoke had cleared, technicals were handed to Justin Johnson and Londrick Nolen of Ole Miss (their fifth fouls thus eliminating them from further competition on the night) and to Georgia's Levi Stukes and Sundiata Gaines. Both Dogs had some fouls to spare.

The Rebels led 58-52 at that point, and Georgia got the basketball as the arrow pointed the red and black's way. At the 1:09 mark, Channing hit a layup and it was still anybody's game with the Rebs up 58-54.

The Rebels managed to get the clock down to 34 seconds before Cavadas Nunnery missed a 3-pointer. Georgia handed the ball right back to the Rebels as Nunnery stepped in front of a pass near midcourt. After Stukes fouled him, Nunnery missed two win-icing free throws with 26 seconds left. After rebounding the second miss, Georgia's Steve Newman soon pulled the trigger on a trey but missed. Only 15 seconds remained and with a four-point lead, the Rebels most likely had this one in the bag.

Nunnery got the board and and was fouled by Gaines. At the line with 13 seconds to go, the Rebels' senior point guard missed one and made one, and that was the ole game.

"We've got to get better, and we understand that," said Barnes, happy but maybe more relieved following the victory. "We've got to play better, and we understand that. Sometimes that first win in SEC play is the toughest one to get. Now that we have this one out of the way, we'll be a little bit more relaxed going to Auburn on Saturday.

"Obviously we feel like as a coaching staff, we will be better come Saturday," he continued. "We get a couple of more days to work with these guys."

Rod said the turn of events late which resulted in the technicals were unfortunate but a part of the game.

"The ball was on the floor and a couple of guys went after it and there was a pileup. I'm happy nobody threw any punches and we won't be without any players for the next game."

The Rebels lost both Johnson and Nolen for the rest of this game, but there were less than two minutes left. Had those two not been available for Auburn....well let's leave that thought right there.

As the Rebels move on to game four of the SEC season of 2004-05, they'll need a little more of what Marvin Moore said they will need as the season continues.

"Coach has been telling us to be ready when called upon," said the senior who had 10 points and four rebounds in 17 minutes. "I just went out and tried to be aggressive. You never know when your time will come. But when it does, you have to be ready to attack."

"Any given night we have players who can step up, like Marvin did tonight," said Abernethy, who led Ole Miss with 13 points. "It's huge to get this first SEC win. Just by winning a game, we're more confident going to Auburn now."

Another game that's winnable for the Rebels, and one that most likely will be ugly as well.

But if it's a win, as Rod said, you can call it whatever you wish.

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