Ole Miss hopes for success in Connecticut

The 2-0 Ole Miss Rebels are in Connecticut playing three games this weekend in the Hispanic College Fund Classic.

Kenny Williams is experiencing a lot of new things as a major college basketball player.

"I've never had this happen before," Williams said smiling as seven or eight reporters gathered around him outside the Ole Miss locker room following the Rebels' 69-54 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Tuesday night. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound junior power forward had 12 points and eight rebounds against the Ragin' Cajuns.

The Rebels, however, got outrebounded 44 to 29 including 19 to 5 on the offensive boards. Williams said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy told the team that can't continue if the 2-0 Rebels are to be successful.

"He told us we won't win too many games being outrebounded by 15," Williams said. "That's been one of our main things to focus on right now."

That's been especially important with junior center Dwayne Curtis out for at least a few more games with a stress fracture in his left foot.

"I have to play well on the boards for this team to be successful, especially with Dwayne out now," Williams said. "I was a little nervous in these games, especially the first game. But I have to get over that and go play. I have to do hustle plays and let the game come to me, and then I'll be more productive."

Senior guard Clarence Sanders had one of his best games in two years with the Rebels. He says he feels he's just getting started.

"I just try to come out and play my role and help this team get wins," said Sanders, who had 22 points and two steals in the game Tuesday night. "I have be solid defensively. I'm one of the quickest guys on the team. With my length and my speed, I should be one of the best defenders on the team. I have to defend and rebound and get my teammates in the game."

The Ole Miss schedule in the Hispanic College Fund Tournament in Hartford, Conn., has the Rebels playing Fairfield today at 4:30 p.m. CT, Central Arkansas Saturday at 4:30 p.m., and host Connectiucut at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Playing three games in three days is tough. But Kennedy said playing games is the only way the Rebels will get better.

"We need to play," he said. "The more we play the more guys get game experience, the more they know how to handle game situations, the more I understand who I can count on. Right now we're all still learning and searching."

Kennedy says things are moving fast now for the Rebels.

"This is a monster trip for us," he said. "It's planes, trains, and automobiles up there and back. We're back home Monday, practice Tuesday, play Wednesday night (vs. Tennessee Tech in Oxford), it's Thanksgiving Thursday, play Friday night (vs. Nicholls State in Oxford). Then watch the (football) Rebels beat the (Mississippi State) Bulldogs in the Egg Bowl on Saturday."

But for now, Sanders says the Rebels are looking forward to the three games in Connecticut, and especially so that final one on Sunday night.

"We're ready," he said. "We've been working hard toward this. I've been dreaming of playing a team like UConn all my life. So to have this opportunity is big."

Ole Miss and Fairfield, today's foe which is 0-3 on the season, have never met in men's hoops. A new era began this season for Fairfield as head coach Ed Cooley took over the program. Cooley joined the Stags after spending the last nine seasons as an assistant coach at Boston College, and the last 10 years working with Head Coach Al Skinner. Cooley has seven letterwinners and two starters back from a Stags squad that was 9-19 in 2005-06.

This year's starting lineup features three freshmen, including 6-foot-7 forward Greg Nero. The New Yorker is pouring in 18.3 points per game and scored 23 vs. Holy Cross. Fellow underclassmen Anthony Johnson (Fr., F) and Jonathan Han (So., G) are each adding 8 points per contest.

Rebel senior guard Todd Abernethy, suffering a slight concussion a week ago in a 72-49 season-opening win over Mississippi Valley State, is day to day. It's not yet known if he will play this weekend.

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