Rebs in Memphis for big game with Tigers

Dwayne Curtis dressed out for the New Orleans game a week ago Thursday. He warmed up in sweats but went to the locker room before the game and got back into street clothes. His ailing foot was almost ready. But not quite.

In the days since, the Rebels' 6-foot-8 junior center says his left foot's gotten even better. He practiced this week and is available for Saturday's game at Memphis. Will he play? Time will tell.

"It feels good," Curtis said on Thursday. "It's mostly pain free now. I practiced against the starting five all week, and it hasn't hurt me. I feel I can play."

"He's still day to day, and he should be available Saturday," Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy said also on Thursday. "But we'll see how he feels. I certainly don't want to put him into a position he's not ready for. He's further along than I anticipated, and he's made great strides. We don't want to rush him. It would be foolish for us to do that."

Kennedy is impressed with Memphis, 6-2 on the season and ranked 16th nationally this week.

"They are very talented," he said. "They spread the floor and try to do everything to create an angle to beat you off the bounce. That's an area we've had trouble with for quite some time. Their speed is concerning. They're a top 20 team playing at home. That's challenging in and of itself right there."

Memphis is facing a second straight SEC rival and struggled with the first, falling to Tennessee in Knoxville on Wednesday night 76-58. In their only other loss, the Tigers surrendered a 16-point lead in a 92-85 defeat to No. 19 Georgia Tech at the Maui Invitational. After posting a 33-4 mark and reaching the NCAA Elite Eight a year ago, Memphis has risen to as high as 11th in the national rankings this season.

Four players are scoring in double-figures, including sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts at 15.3 ppg. Sophomore forward Robert Dozier is averaging 12.8 points and 7.0 rebounds, and senior guard Jeremy Hunt is coming off the bench with 11.6 points and 34.6-percent 3-point shooting (16-of-44). Junior forward Joey Dorsey is totaling 9.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per outing.

Memphis is 3-3 against Ole Miss under head coach John Calipari.

"I caught it all," Kennedy said of the televised Tigers-Volunteers contest. "I thought Tennessee played really, really well. I thought Memphis showed they're human, that if you don't make shots it's hard to win. They didn't shoot the ball very well, and Tennessee had a lot to do with that."

Ole Miss has won four of the last seven games with the Tigers and notched a 12-point victory in their only previous meeting at the FedEx Forum, a 65-53 Rebel victory two years ago.

At 7-1, Ole Miss is off to its best start since 2000-01 when the Rebs advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

"There are a lot of Ole Miss people in the Memphis area. Hopefully they'll come out and support the Rebels," Kennedy said. "We need their support. I'm anticipating a big crowd, obviously pro-Memphis. It will be a challenge for our kids."

Kennedy said it will be the second hostile road environment of the season for his troops. The first was a 77-59 loss at UConn. He also says that his team has improved a lot since then.

"Huge difference," he said of his group since the Nov. 19 contest. "I see a lot of differences. We've had the chance to get on the floor and get a lot of things done. Hopefully we've made some adjustments with what we've learned about our team."

They'll find out even more on Saturday when the Rebels and Tigers tip off at 12 noon.

One other Rebel hoops note, Kennedy announced Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Justin Cerasoli has departed the squad.

"Justin has left the team for personal reasons," said Kennedy. "We wish him well in all his future endeavors."

A sophomore guard, Cerasoli saw action in seven games for the Rebels this season. The Chicago native averaged 3.4 points and 1.1 rebounds in 13.1 minutes per game.

Cerasoli signed with Ole Miss in July 2005 and sat out last year after transferring from Seton Hall.

OM Spirit Top Stories