Rebels fall to Memphis 82-70

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The score indicated improvement from the UConn game to the Memphis game. Those are the two powerhouse teams Ole Miss has played so far through nine games.

The Rebels lost 77-59 at 18th-ranked Connecticut on Nov. 19. Ole Miss lost Saturday afternoon to 16th-ranked Memphis 82-70.

Andy Kennedy said earlier this week his team had indeed gotten better since losing to UConn. While he still felt that way after a loss to Memphis, the first-year Rebel head coach was in no mood to talk about anything but winning.

"I did not come to Ole Miss for moral victories," Kennedy said minutes after his team fell to 7-2 on the season. "I did not come to Ole Miss to have people say 'Your kids play hard.' We came here to win. We came into this game with the expectation of winning."

Kennedy said defensively there were some breakdowns, and he and his staff continue to work to correct those.

"Right now defensively we have to do some things with smoke and mirrors, as I've said before," Kennedy said. "In the second half (Memphis) stopped thinking and started attacking, and they do that really well. As a result we did not respond. They got higher percentage shots and it paid off for them."

Kennedy was also disappointed in his team's ballhandling.

"We continue to have empty trips (on offense)," he said after his team committed 21 turnovers against the Tigers. "We've done that every game this year. Against teams that we're superior to, we have a chance. Against quality teams, we can't have those lulls. You dig such a hole that it's sometimes impossible to dig out. We've played two top 20 teams and we've done it in both. The results have been the same."

Ole Miss started slow, which has become the norm for this team much of the season. The Rebels fell behind 21-8 at the midway point of the first half. To their credit some adjustments were made, and they made a comeback to pull within a single point at 30-29 with 29 seconds to go before intermission on a Kenny Williams jumper in the lane. Jeremy Hunt scored for the Tigers to give his team a three-point cushion at the break at 32-29.

Eniel Polynice helped the Rebels surge back into the game with seven first-half points (3-3 from the field; 1-1 from the line). The freshman guard had 10 points in the game in 29 minutes of action.

"I just played defense and also took the open shots," Polynice said. "I'm getting comfortable and working hard every day. I play hard regardless. I love to compete, get wins, and I hate to lose."

"Eniel made a couple of shots, but we're still terribly careless with the basketball," Kennedy said - Polynice had a team-high five turnovers. "I put him in a position (to help out) because we were grasping for straws, for somebody to ignite us. Eniel really helped us get back in it (in the first half). But we had that lull and were fighting uphill. It's difficult to do against a quaility opponent."

"We felt good at the end of the first half," senior guard Todd Abernethy, with 16 points in the game, said. "We went into a 2-2-1 zone press and a 2-3 matchup that kind of caught them offguard a little bit. We got more comfortable out there and had glimpses of the team that we can be. They came out from the jump in the second half, and we didn't respond. It was an uphill battle the rest of the game."

The Tigers scored the first six points of the second half for a 38-29 lead. After Abernethy nailed a try to cut the Memphis lead to 47-41 with 14:43 left, the Tigers roared out to a commanding 65-45 advantage with nine minutes to go. Their lead was as large as 23 points (76-53 and 78-55) before this one was in the books.

Senior guard Clarence Sanders paced the Rebs in scoring with 18 points. Chris Douglas-Roberts had 17 to lead Memphis, while Hunt had 16 and Antonio Anderson had 14.

"That was a good win," said Memphis head coach John Calapari, his team now 7-2. "We're not where we want to be yet. This team has a lot of growing to do."

Dwayne Curtis made his 2006-07 debut after recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot on Oct. 15. He came off the bench, entering the game four minutes in, and scored just two points with six rebounds and three fouls in 17 minutes.

"It was good to be out there," he said. "I still have a ways to go, especially getting my legs stronger. I was a little winded but I will get it back soon. First time back, I just wanted to help all I could."

"I apologized to Dwayne after the game because quite frankly he probably wasn't ready," Kennedy said. "He wanted to play. I wanted him to play. I wanted him to be ready. So that probably wasn't fair to him."

Kennedy said he wanted some players to step up and he didn't see that from enough of them.

"I'm just really disappointed because we're counting on a few guys," Kennedy said, mentioning that his team had been impressive until today in the turnover department. "If we don't respond better, then quite frankly we don't have a chance against quality opponents, especially on the road.

"We're a team that's third in the nation in fewest turnovers committed," he continued. "We've done that by taking the care of the ball and trying to get quality shots. We turned it over 21 times. Our leading scorer (senior guard Bam Doyne - seven points in the contest) had an off game. We had nobody to take up the slack. We still have some missing pieces. We have to regroup and get ready to have a better effort (the next game)."

Ole Miss hosts Louisiana-Monroe in Oxford on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

OM Spirit Top Stories