Todd Abernethy's family is in town this week. That's not necessarily unusual. His parents make most games, and even his older twin brothers make the trip down from Indiana for a game now and then.
For this week's two games, Todd's whole family was in Oxford - for the 86-77 win Wednesday night over Tennessee Tech, and Friday night for the 100-80 victory against Nicholls State.
His brothers and a couple of others in the group even wore t-shirts in the win over the Colonels that spelled out "Todd."
They actually aren't the original "Todd's Squad." Those t-shirts were adorned by some Ole Miss students last season. At least one of those was also seen in the coliseum Friday night.
So what did Todd do with so much visible and vocal support? He went out and set a personal collegiate career mark of 23 points to lead the Rebels to a 6-1 overall record with only one game to be played in the next two weeks. Ole Miss hosts New Orleans Thursday at 7 p.m. in Oxford and doesn't play again until Sat., Dec. 9 with a noon tip at Memphis.
"It feels good," said Abernethy of his game - he went 8-for-10 from the field including 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 3-for-3 at the free throw line. "But it feels even better that we're winning."
Abernethy, smiling about his support in the stands, said the Rebels are making progress as the young season moves into December within the next week.
"Slowly but surely we're getting there," said the senior point guard from Carmel, Ind. "We've played a lot of games in a short amount of time. Now we have a chance to work on some things in practice and get our legs back. We've been sluggish, and hopefully we'll be better next time we play."
The Rebels played seven games the first two weeks of the season, including three games in three days at Connecticut last weekend, which obviously included quite a road trip to Hartford for that tourney. Then two games this week didn't allow the Rebels any "bounce back" time.
Maybe that was why in both the Tennessee Tech game and the Nicholls State game Ole Miss took more than a half of play to really get going.
At halftime in each one they trailed, including 48-42 to the Colonels Friday night. In the second half against Tech, Ole Miss fell behind by as much as 10 points at 56-46. Against NSU the Rebs were able to fairly quickly eliminate the deficit and move out in front.
A Kenny Williams turnaround bank shot in the paint tied the score at 50-50 with less than three minutes gone in the second half. A putback dunk by Xavier Hansbro off a missed 3-point shot from Abernethy gave the Rebels a 69-62 lead midway through half No. 2.
NSU had shot the basketball well in the first half, shooting 50 percent from both 3-point range (9-of-18) and also inside the arc. Ole Miss turned its 40 percent first-half shooting around to 63 percent in the second half and basically took over the game as Nicholls State, now 0-7 on the season, cooled off.
Defensively the Rebels were better in the second half as well, and by the time the lead reached 12 points at 86-74 on a layup by Abernethy with 4:13 left, this one was all but decided.
The UM lead swelled to as much as 21 points before the final horn. Abernethy's final basket, a 3-pointer, put the Rebels at the century mark with 31 seconds left.
As fun as victories are and as interesting as these have been this week, Ole Miss first-year head coach Andy Kennedy still searches.
"Questions? Answers? No I don't know why it takes us so long to get going," Kennedy said matter of factly, almost jokingly, in his opening statement to the media after the NSU game. "I just don't understand everything yet. I do know we have some issues that need to be resolved as it relates to our approach. Sometimes we get caught up in thinking that 'OK, so we play hard but why is it that we play hard?'
"When I got this job, I looked at the tape and said 'These kids play hard.' And they do play hard. They're good kids and they listen. But I'm just not sure they understand why they're playing hard. Their has to be an objective, and we're still trying to find that objective."
Kennedy and company are glad to have a few days now to work on that and more.
"The list is long - long and varied on both ends of the floor," he said of the issues his team must deal with and overcome. "My job ultimately is to put these kids in position to be successful. We'll go back to work now on doing just that."
Abernethy-led Rebs beat Nicholls State 100-80
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