Rebs face tough challenge in Gainesville

Todd Abernethy knows Saturday's matchup with No. 1 Florida is probably the biggest challenge he and his Ole Miss teammates have faced so far this season. And they've already faced some biggies.

Those include earlier non-conference games at Connecticut and Memphis, games at rivals Mississippi State and LSU, and a home game against powerful Kentucky. Through 18 games, the Rebels have had some huge challenges but probably nothing like they'll face in Gainesville. Throw in what should be a hostile environment matched at few other places and that adds even more to the challenge.

But, as usual, Abernethy approaches this game as an opportunity, a situation he is totally excited about. These type chances don't come along often, and he relishes them when they do.

"It's going to be fun," the senior guard from Carmel, Ind., said. "I've never played against the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. If you can't get up for this game, then there's something wrong. We have nothing to lose. We want to go in and play hard."

Abernethy said he remembers the last time the Rebels went to Gainesville. It wasn't pretty.

"We got smacked," he said of the Rebels' 90-53 loss two years ago. "If we come out not sharp again, we could really get a butt-whipping. We have to come out and be sharp and play aggressively, and then we'll see."

He says it takes a strong mentality to play well on the road, and to get a victory is an even bigger hurdle. And they have to play smart.

"To win on the road you have to have focus and enthusiasm," Abernethy said. "And we haven't been taking the best shots either. In general, our shot selection just hasn't been the best. Some of it is patience. Some of it is standing around and watching and waiting for somebody else to make a play."

The Rebels, 12-6 overall and 1-3 in SEC play, have had some chances to win road games. So far the only one they've managed to get was a Dec. 16 game at South Alabama by a final score of 82-72.

Bam Doyne says the Rebels have to stay the course and finish games, no matter who the opponent straight ahead of them is.

"I guess it's coulda/woulda in a lot of different directions for us," said the senior guard from Little Rock, Ark. "We just have to come out ready to play from the jump. And we have to play until the end of the game. We're not a team that can dig a big hole and get out of it. We have to be more consistent."

Having a lack of success is also difficult to deal with at times, according to Doyne.

"Losing is tough," he said. "We always draw positives from every game we play. We played with the No. 16 team in the nation (LSU) but couldn't finish. We have to keep playing hard and finish."

And no matter the outcome of this one, the Rebels will come back home for Tennessee on Wednesday night and continue to get ready for the rest of the season.

"We have to fight through this," Abernethy said of the challenge at Florida, 16-2 overall and 3-0 in SEC play. "We've played some really good teams so far. Once we come back home, that will help a lot. We have more games that we should win. We just have to keep getting better every day and keep working and know that our time will come."

OM Spirit Top Stories