Rod Barnes was a much happier man Sunday night and said so. His Rebels had responded from a devastating 53-point setback to host New Mexico Saturday night in the Jim Thorpe Classic.
Ole Miss had gone 2-1 in the event, beating Southern Utah 69-62 on Friday and losing to New Mexico 95-42 on Saturday.
But on Sunday the Rebels bounced back and beat South Carolina State 71-47. While not pleased with the first two games his team had played, Barnes was highly complimentary of how his players responded from the shellacking they took at the hands of the Lobos.
"I'm really very pleased with how they bounced back," Barnes said. "They gave great effort, they defended, and they played well overall. That is what I wanted to see from them (Sunday)."
Rod said that while Friday night there was some tentativeness and foul trouble, Saturday things snowballed before a large and hostile crowd at The Pit.
"We struggled (Saturday)," he said. "We're so young. Our kids were so pumped and ready to play. I think they were too pumped.
"But on Sunday we got up and talked to them. We weren't negative and we talked to the captains – Londrick Nolen, Todd Abernethy, and Dwayne Curtis – about leading the younger players. Our assistant coaches did a good job. They stayed with them and talked to them and told them we had to fight through this. We left the locker room (Sunday) with much better focus on the job at hand."
Ole Miss led 38-25 at halftime against South Carolina State and the lead expanded to as much as 26 points before this one was over. The Rebels scored 29 points off 25 SCSU turnovers. Sophomore center Curtis led Ole Miss with 18 points and 12 rebounds and played his best game of the young season. Senior forward Nolen scored 14 points.
Against SCSU the Rebels shot 50 percent from the floor and were 6-of-12 from 3-point range.
"We could have beaten a lot of good teams Sunday," said Barnes, whose team does not play again until Saturday in Oxford at 7 p.m. against Centenary College (of Shreveport, La.). "It was our best effort so far and that's what you want – to get better with each game."
Some other notes from Rod:
On Dwayne Curtis: "He fouled way too much in the first game but he bounced back well, especially Sunday. He played well against South Carolina State."
On some of the young players: "(Freshman) Trey Hampton came a long way and stepped up. (Freshman) Xavier Hansbro hit some big shots for us and got some experience. (Freshman) Mike Smith did well, especially Sunday."
On junior Clarence Sanders and freshman Marquis Young: "Clarence only played a little bit in the New Mexico game and that was it. His (jammed right) thumb swelled up. We will let him heal up this week. I don't know if he will play against Centenary or not. Marquis has been having some back pains that have gotten worse this weekend. He did not play. We will get him to a doctor this week for evaluations."
On Londrick Nolen, who played all weekend after having an injured knee a week ago: "Londrick hadn't practiced all week, so he was a little out of shape. But he played better as the weekend went on."
On junior point guard Todd Abernethy's play: "Todd did a good job, but maybe not as well as we'd like to have seen. He was good enough for right now but needs to improve as the weeks go by. He missed some open looks, but he will be OK."
On the positives from the 2-1 weekend: "The best thing was to see our guys respond Sunday. I told our team (after Saturday's loss) that come January we're going to be a good team if we keep working as hard as we have. I was very happy with how they came out Sunday and responded and played."
The team will fly back into Memphis Monday evening and return to Oxford after that. They will practice again on Tuesday.
Barnes pleased with Rebels' response Sunday
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