Rebels rip Nicholls State 69-43

Playing its second opponent in a five-game, nine-day stretch, Ole Miss dominated the Nicholls State Colonels to move to 6-2 on the young season. Next up for the Rebels are the No. 5 Memphis Tigers, who come to Tad Smith Coliseum on Saturday with a 7-1 record. Game time is set for 2:30 p.m.

Since the start of this season, eighth-year Ole Miss basketball coach Rod Barnes has called his 2005-06 squad a "work in progress." Seven of the Rebels' 13 scholarship players are playing for the first time in a Rebel uniform, and only six players return with any experience from a season ago.

But Ole Miss (6-2) got a balanced performance from its veterans and its newcomers en route to a dominating 69-43 victory over the Nicholls State Colonels (1-6) in front of 1,121 at Tad Smith Coliseum Thursday night.

"This was a good, but not great, game," Barnes said. "We got to play a lot of people, and we did what we needed to do. But we weren't mentally there, and the stats seem much better than we actually played."

Junior Todd Abernethy and senior Londrick Nolen paced the Rebels in scoring with 11 points apiece, and sophomore Dwayne Curtis added 10 points and 8 rebounds. First-year players combined for 29 of the Rebels' 69 points in Ole Miss' tune-up win for No. 5 Memphis this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Nicholls State's freshman Gil Verner led all scorers with 15 points on 7 of 14 shooting.

Ole Miss raced out to an early lead as Londrick Nolen drained a 3-pointer to put the Rebels up 8-0. Gil Verner's jump shot brought Nicholls State within four points at 10-6, but Nolen had a breakaway steal and dunk to end the Colonels' run.

"We had a slow start," Nolen said. "But we picked it up after the first few minutes. We underestimated them a little bit."

The Rebels extended the lead as Xavier Hansbro hit a 3-pointer to give Ole Miss a ten-point lead at 17-7 with 11:33 left in the first half. The two teams traded buckets over the game's next ten minutes, as Nicholls State kept the Rebels' lead in single digits.

But with Ole Miss up 29-20 with just under two minutes before halftime, Todd Abernethy scored five straight points on a 3-pointer and jumper for a 34-20 advantage. Bam Doyne later added three free throws to give the Rebels a commanding 37-22 lead at the half.

The Rebels started the second half with a 14-3 run to break the game wide open. The Rebels pounded the paint inside and forced stop after stop on defense en route to a 51-25 lead. The Colonels were unable to chip into that 26-point led and finally fell 69-43.

"It feels good to get a win. Any win is great," Abernethy said. "Now, we have to get ready for Memphis. Tomorrow is going to be a big day for us mentally as far as preparation goes, but come Saturday we'll be ready to play."


Rebel eyes now shift towards Memphis

Ole Miss' 69-43 win at Tad Smith Coliseum Thursday night seemed a bit lethargic from the sidelines. Barnes and the Rebel players later admitted they weren't fully in the game mentally, but they "did what they needed to do" with a win to move to 6-2 on the year.

"Our goal of the season is to win," Barnes said. "Every time we win, it just gives us more confidence that we can win. We can't look past any game because every time we lose, it hurts our opportunity to accomplish our team goals."

Now, the attention of the Rebel basketball program moves to No. 5 Memphis (7-1), a team that Ole Miss beat last year in Memphis. But this year's Tigers' team has a new look that has propelled them to the top of the national rankings. Rod Barnes and company are looking forward to the opportunity to knock off one of the nation's Top-5 teams, and nothing could be more special for the Rebel basketball program except to do it at home.

"We've got a tough game on Saturday," said Barnes. "Memphis is very good and very talented. They're coming to our place, and we want to leave the Tad Pad with a good taste in our mouths. I know our kids and our coaches have put in a lot of work and effort into this week, and whatever we've got, we're going to put it on the floor. I think our kids are ready.

"It's a rivalry game," Barnes said. "Our kids will be a little bit more pumped up. The thing that I love is we said early on this year that we want to protect this floor. We want Tad Smith Coliseum to go back to being the Tad Pad. The only way we're going to do that is to win games here. One of the things our kids have taken from this season is to win at home. We have to protect this floor, and that's why I know our kids are going to come out and give everything they've got to protect this floor. Our kids are confident they can win here, and Memphis being No. 5 is not going to deter us at all from defending our home court. We want people to understand that coming in to play at Tad Smith Coliseum is not going to be easy."

Ole Miss' efforts to prepare for the visiting Tigers are hampered by scheduling issues. The Rebels are right in the middle of a five-game stretch of games played in only nine days. That means the Rebel coaches have only one day and night to scout the opposing team and prepare a game plan. Meanwhile, the Rebel players only have enough time to watch the previous game on film and see what they're doing wrong; they don't have an opportunity to work out their kinks in practice, since they only have a shoot-around the day before a game.

The Rebels and the Tigers were originally slated to play on Dec. 4 and had a verbal agreement for that date. Ole Miss made the rest of its schedule based on that assumption, but the two schools were later forced to move the game to the mutually agreed-upon date of Dec. 17, setting up the Rebels' brutal stretch of five games in nine days.

"It's tough, but I told our kids we have to be tough," Barnes said. "This stretch is good for a lot of reasons, especially because we get to play a lot of kids. But not being able to practice before playing one of the top teams in the nation is tough. We'll be ready to play come Saturday though."

Game time for Ole Miss and No. 5 Memphis is set for 2:30 p.m.

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