The Ole Miss men's basketball team returned from Chicago a disappointed bunch Sunday night, a day after their 87-75 loss in overtime to Illinois-Chicago.
The Rebels led 60-48 with just over seven minutes to go, but in the end couldn't get a stop defensively when they needed one, according to Ole Miss eighth-year head coach Rod Barnes.
"There were a couple of things that happened that could have helped us win it," he said. "If we had gotten a stop when we were up five points on a couple of occasions with a couple of minutes left, if we get a stop on either of those possessions, we win the game. We got a nice little jump shot by Londrick (Nolen) in the lane with a minute to go and we're up two, and that would have put us up four. But it didn't go down. Then we have a pick and roll situation where Todd (Abernethy) doesn't deliver the basketball. So if a couple of things there had happened for us, then we'd have won. We'd have won a big road game."
But they lost. And fell to 4-2 with a long stretch of home games upcoming. First up – the Saint Louis Billikens of the Atlantic 10 Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Oxford.
"Saint Louis is a good team and has played well lately," Barnes said of the 4-3 SLU squad. "They played North Carolina really well (in Chapel Hill) last Wednesday (losing to the Tarheels 75-63 after leading UNC 34-31 at halftime). They're a great defensive team. They're going to guard us. We've got to make some shots. And we have to defend them. They're a perimeter-oriented team."
Saint Louis has alternated wins and losses through its first seven games, and is coming off its first road win of the year Saturday at Oakland University 66-59. The Billikens' other victories came over Jackson State, Southern Illinois and Eastern Illinois. Saint Louis was within three points of the UNC Tar Heels with four minutes left in that contest.
In his fourth season at the helm, Coach Brad Soderberg returns seven letterwinners and three starters from last year's 9-21 squad that finished 10th in Conference USA. The Billikens made the move to the Atlantic 10 this year and are being led by junior frontcourt force Ian Vouyoukas, who is averaging 13.7 points and 9.0 rebounds. True freshman guard Tommie Liddell follows with 12.0 ppg and 5.9 rpg, while senior backcourt mate Anthony Drejaj is posting 10.1 points, 1.9 steals and shooting 57.7 percent in 3s (15-of-26). Saint Louis is holding the opposition to 40.7-percent shooting.
"They're not very deep. They don't have a lot of bodies they can throw at us," Barnes said. "We're going to have to come out right from the beginning and really try to get after them. We need to keep the pressure on them and keep them working. I think our offense is doing well enough and scoring points. We just need our defense to step up and defend a little bit better."
The Rebels watched tape Sunday night after getting home from the Windy City and went through two practices on Monday.
"Obviously we are a disappointed basketball team," Barnes said. "Right now we need to be eager for another game. I believe Tuesday they will realize it's a chance to redeem themselves. This team really wants to win. I think they will come out and get after it."
Sophomore center Dwayne Curtis continues his strong play with 20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks in the return to his hometown. Junior guard Clarence Sanders came off the bench Saturday to drop in 16 points and 5 assists, while junior guard Todd Abernethy posted 11 points and 9 assists.
The Rebels are in good shape physically and all players should be available for the matchup with Saint Louis.
"It's time for another game. It's another day," Barnes said. "We've got a lot of games ahead of us in a short period of time. We play one and then we move on. That's what this schedule calls for."
Rebel hoops notes:
After the game with the Billikens, Ole Miss hosts Nicholls State Thursday at 7 p.m., Memphis Saturday at 2:30 p.m., Arkansas State Monday at 7 p.m., and Southeastern Louisiana Wed., Dec. 21, at 7 p.m. Then the Rebs break for Christmas.
Ole Miss is 0-1 all-time against Saint Louis. The Billikens won the only previous meeting 82-68 in 1954 in St. Louis.
Prior to the Rebels' matchup with Memphis, the Ole Miss Tip-Off Club will host a gameday luncheon to get fans ready for the game. The event will be held Saturday in C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum in the coaches' offices. Rebel assistant coach Michael White will present the Tigers' scouting report, and a light lunch will be served. Admission is $5 per person. For more information, call Judy Conner at 662-234-6044.
*** Kyle Campbell of Ole Miss athletics media relations contributed to this story.
Rebs get set for Saint Louis
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