The Rebels, now 7-1 on the season, are winning games. But Andy Kennedy says the current trend doesn't bode well for the future.
"I just know that ultimately what goes around comes around, and if you continue to run uphill then you're going to wear out," said the Rebels' first-year head coach of his team's recurring theme of falling behind and having to play catch up. "That concerns me."
Kennedy says the Rebels will go about fixing that over the next several days since they don't play again until Sat., Dec. 9, at Memphis.
On offense in this one, UNO found the going to its liking from the outside. In the first half, which had the visitors leading 41-37 at the break, the Privateers were 6-for-8 from beyond the arc for 75 percent. Add to that an 11-for-12 first-half showing at the free throw line and UNO was where they wanted to be at intermission.
But the Rebels had trailed both Tennessee Tech (43-40) and Nicholls State (48-42) in similar fashion at halftime before winning both contests by scores of 86-77 and 100-80 respectively. It's a trend the players admit won't likely work in their favor as the schedule gets tougher.
"We've worked on that and we continue to work on that," said senior guard Todd Abernethy. "But we're 7-1 and that feels great. We're going to keep going from here. We have so much to improve on, and we can play so much better. So to be 7-1 and still not playing our best is good."
The Rebs went up 17-9 early in this one on a layup by junior forward Kenny Williams with 13 minutes to go before halftime. But UNO tied it at 19-19 over the next three minutes with more outside shooting.
A 3-pointer by Ole Miss freshman guard Eniel Polynice gave UM a 24-21 lead with 9:23 to go before the break. But UNO continued its hot shooting with a couple more treys to move out front 30-26. After the game was tied 37-37, the visitors scored the last four points of the half.
Junior guard James Parlow gave UNO a 7-point lead at 44-37 on the first basket of the second half, but that would prove to be the Privateers' largest margin of the evening.
After senior guard Jamie McNeilly gave UNO a 59-58 lead on a 3-pointer, Polynice answered with a trey for a 61-59 UM advantage with 8:25 left, a lead the home team would not relinquish.
"We just have so many breakdowns," Kennedy said, more specifically talking about his team's defense especially against opposing team's outside shooting. "These are Division I scholarship athletes stepping into shots, and so those are easy shots. If you continue to give them to them, you shouldn't be surprised when they go in."
New Orleans head coach Buzz Williams said the Privateers, now 2-6 on the year, had a chance until Ole Miss got hot.
"In the guts of the game with six or eight minutes left, they started making shots," he said. "We just didn't finish the game the way we had started it. We have a small margin for error, and every possession is vital for us to have success."
Junior guard Bo McCalebb led UNO with 26 points.
Polynice had his best game so far for the Rebels with a career-high 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor. The 6-foot-5 Floridian was 4-for-4 from 3-point range and 1-for-2 at the free throw line.
Abernethy was impressed.
"Eniel Polynice is very confident, he's talented, and I'm really pleased with the way he played tonight," Abernethy said. "He really stepped up big for us."
"He made some big plays for us offensively," Kennedy said of Polynice, "and we certainly needed a lift."
Junior Jermey Parnell also had his best night as a Rebel. The 6-8 center scored a career-high 16 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting performance from the floor and a near-perfect 6-for-7 at the free throw line.
"I'm getting the ball in the post and making something happen," Parnell said. "If you keep working, things will pay off."
Senior guard Bam Doyne was also in double figures with 16 points. Williams for the Rebs had 15.
Kennedy said junior center Dwayne Curtis is almost ready to play, and that given another week before the next game, he could contribute.
"He's been practicing the last three days," Kennedy said. "He's much further along than I anticipated. He'll be ready for our next game. His foot's fine. His feet and legs are a little sore because he hasn't done anything in a while. His timing is off. All those things we'll be able to correct over the next 10 days, and hopefully by Memphis he will be able to give us that presence inside that we so sorely miss."
Rebs move to 7-1 with win over New Orleans
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