Saturday at 5 p.m. in Mobile, Ala., the Rebels get another shot to win on the road, facing host South Alabama, 5-4 on the season, in the first game of a doubleheader at Mitchell Center on the USA campus. Southern Mississippi and Alabama play game two.
A mindset to play away from home is what players and coaches say they have to continue to develop, and this weekend gives them another shot to do that.
"You have to have a road mentality," said senior guard Todd Abernethy, who should know about such things since he's in his fourth year with the program. "There's a huge difference in playing at home and on the road. At home things fall your way more and you're more comfortable. But on the road you have to be that much more aggressive, taking it to the hoop, getting to the free throw line, playing with more emotion. It's really us against the world."
In preparation for this Saturday's game and their other remaining non-conference road game at Saint Louis on Dec. 30, Abernethy said the Rebels' two prior tough road foes have helped them get ready.
"We know we've played two bigtime teams," he said. "We're getting better and better as a team ourselves. We're getting closer and closer to getting ready to win games away from home."
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said it takes digging down deep and competing harder and better to win away games.
"You just have to be better on the road," he said. "You have to take on a me vs. the world mentality. We've played two top 20 opponents, and 20 minutes of good basketball just isn't enough. It won't be enough Saturday either. We'll have to put together two good halves in order to have a chance."
The Rebels, 8-2, put together two good halves Tuesday night in their 87-53 win over Louisiana-Monroe in Oxford. Dwayne Curtis being back helped as the Rebels jumped out early and rolled.
"He just brings a whole new presence to us," Kennedy said of Curtis. "Once he gets his conditioning back and his latitude and ability to move and get back to game speed, then I think he will take this team to another level. He's had no pain or discomfort. We've been really lucky to this point. We'll continue to up his reps in practice and slowly get him back right."
Having Curtis back in action clearly changes things for the better, says Abernethy.
"We've really counted on perimeter play this season," Abernethy said. "By having DC come in, he can score, rebound, and the big thing about him that hasn't been brought up much is his defensive rebounding and keeping the other team from getting offensive rebounds. His presence helps in that area. Just having him out there helps this team so much."
Kennedy said the game Tuesday night was positive in that it showed progress. But more is needed.
"It showed we are capable of playing better and putting two halves together, which we were beginning to wonder about," he said. "Saturday will be a big challenge. South Alabama's a team that is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance, which is where we aspire to be. They lost some key players but they return some guys who have experienced a high level of success. That's something we can't say.
"They will go into the game, I'm sure, with the expectation of defending their home floor," he continued. "We'll go into it as an opportunity to get a much-needed road win."
Playing at South Alabama was already a part of the schedule before Kennedy and staff arrived in March. The Jaguars are scheduled to come to Oxford twice in the near future for games against the Rebels.
"My understanding is that it's a two-for-one," Kennedy said. "I haven't seen the contract, but my understanding is that they will be coming here for the next two years."
Kennedy said he's heard from some Ole Miss fans about this game, and he hopes the team will have a lot of supporters Saturday.
"I've actually had a number of e-mails from Rebel fans in south Mississippi and along the coast who are looking forward to us playing closer to them," he said. "Hopefully a lot of them will be there."
Rebs hit the road again, this time to Mobile
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