Barnes hopes Rebs play better against WCU

The final non-conference tuneup for Ole Miss comes Tuesday night when the Catamounts of Western Carolina come calling at Tad Smith Coliseum. UM Coach Rod Barnes is looking for better play from his team than in their last outing, an 82-69 win over Alcorn.

Rod Barnes wasn't a happy man after his team's 82-69 victory over winless Alcorn State last Friday night. He was surprised he felt that way.

The Rebels had practiced well since returning from Christmas break, but the sluggish performance they displayed overall wasn't what he expected to see from his troops. In the grand scheme it didn't ultimately matter. The Rebels beat the Braves anyway. Some of it probably had to do with the fact that playing a game the night before New Year's Eve against a team with no wins might cause players to go through the motions.

Yet it didn't seem that is exactly what they were doing. There was effort. And Alcorn showed they are an athletic team, though 0-9 now, that can give foes fits and make some good things happen. They just haven't won.

The 9-3 Rebels now have a chance to redeem themselves before Southeastern Conference play as they host Western Carolina Tuesday at 7 p.m. Barnes says he is looking forward to better things from his team when it takes the court against the Catamounts.

"We're pleased to be 9-3, but we aren't totally happy with how we've gotten here," Barnes said. "Maybe I wore them out (last week in practice). Maybe I beat them up. But now it's all about Western Carolina and then getting ready for SEC play at Alabama on Saturday."

The big men had good games against Alcorn, especially Dwayne Curtis who scored 25 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Jermey Parnell had 11 points and four rebounds, while Mike Smith had nine points and 11 big rebounds.

Londrick Nolen returned to play after a suspension but was only in the game for 11 minutes and scored just two points.

"I thought he did OK, but you could tell he hadn't played in two games," Barnes said of the Rebs' lone senior. "I saw some aggressiveness. He's just got to get back to practicing better with us and playing hard. And he will."

But it was the guard play against the Braves that may have discouraged Barnes the most.

"We had 18 turnovers, and that's way too many," he said. "We just hadn't practiced that way."

Bam Doyne had a positive night in some aspects with 12 points in 31 minutes. But five of the turnovers were credited to him.

To begin the second half of last Friday night's game, Barnes started Todd Abernethy and Brian Smith in the backcourt, along with Mike Smith, Jermey Parnell, and Dwayne Curtis.

"I started the kids (after halftime) who I felt were totally playing hard," he said. "It was the guys that I thought followed the scouting report and were basically doing what we had talked about."

With practice yesterday and today focusing on correcting all the mistakes the Rebels made and also getting ready mentally for SEC play, the contest Tuesday night looms large for a lot of reasons.

"I didn't expect us to be perfect (against Alcorn), and I don't expect us to be perfect (against WCU)," Barnes said. "But I do expect to see improvement and focus like we need every game."

WCU comes to town 7-8 on the season following last year's 8-22 mark. The Cats this season have already played Maryland, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech and lost to them all. In their latest outing Georgia beat them 89-65.

Barnes says the game against the Catamounts and the rest of this week's workouts will go a long way in determining just how close his team is to being ready for an SEC game.

"Based on (last Friday night's) game, we aren't ready," he said. "From our practices, we are ready. So it's kinda hard for me to say. I was surprised with our play (against Alcorn) overall. We had some kids play well and some others practice well. We're looking forward to putting it together Tuesday night in our last non-conference game against Western Carolina. It's there for us, we've just got to make sure it's consistent and that it's on gamenight.

"I'm encouraged, because I know it's there for us. We've just got to go out and get it done."

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