Notes from the SEC Tournament

ATLANTA - Dwayne Curtis has a hurt big toe. It happened against Georgia on Feb. 21, a 67-49 UM win in Oxford. It's been an annoyance for him ever since, but he presses on for the team.

"It's been painful, but we're trying to win," said the Rebels' junior center. "I have to play through it for my team, and that's what I've tried to do."

Since that Georgia game, Curtis has scored 14 points, 12 points, and nine points in games against South Carolina, Alabama, and Auburn respectively. He had five, 12, and seven rebounds in each.

He says it hurts him and hinders him more on the defensive end than the offensive end.

"It hurts my mobility," he said. "I'm not able to move as quickly as usual. It makes it harder for me to do what I'm supposed to do."

The injury came in the first half against Georgia. Curtis sat out the rest of that half but played in the second half. He says he remembers how it happened.

"Me and Kenny (Williams) were trapping (Georgia's Takais) Brown," Curtis said. "He jumped up, threw a pass, and came down on my foot."

But Curtis pressed on and ended up scoring 14 points and pulling down seven rebounds against the SEC East's Bulldogs.

Curtis missed the first several games of the season after injuring his knee in the preseason. Since then he's helped the Rebels to what many would consider a surprisingly successful season. The SEC West champion Rebs got a first-round bye into the conference tournament and will face the winner of the LSU-Tennessee game on Friday night sometime around 10 p.m. Atlanta time, 9 p.m. Oxford time.

As for his health and injuries, the 6-foot-8, 280-pounder has taken it all in stride while working to make the most of his season.

"It's been up and down for me," he said. "But everybody has those things, I guess. It's just part of the game."

The Rebels, 19-11 overall and 8-8 in SEC play, will not have played a game for six days when they tip off late Friday night. If they make a run to the finals, that could be three games in less than three full days, and then there is more postseason play after that. Curtis knows it will be tough on him, but he hopes this week has allowed him to get better health-wise.

"I just ice it down and keep it moving to keep the swelling down," Curtis said. "I just do the best I can with it and keep going. It's like turf toe. I've got a big body, so I put a lot of weight on it. It's been painful, but I just have to play through it. We've got more games to win."

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said he hopes the several days between games will help his center.

"We haven't had him do a lot this week," Kennedy said. "I'm letting him tell me how it's feeling and when he's ready to go. We want him to be rested and ready."


Kennedy said he knows the Rebels have to win some more games to get to the NCAA Tournament. He could look back and say if we'd just won this game or that game. But he knows all teams are doing that at this time of year, and he chooses to look ahead.

Next up for his Rebels - either Tennessee, No. 3 from the East, or LSU, No. 6 from the West.

"We know that whoever we play will be a good team. There are four teams that are locks from this league as far as the NCAA Tournament," he said. "Tennessee is certainly one of them, and they are playing as well as anybody in the league. LSU with Glen Davis back now and with players back from the Final Four last year is a team that's certainly capable of getting on a streak of winning four games in four days. They have the physical ability to do so. Both teams pose difficult matchups for us, but such is the case."

Kennedy said it still comes down to his team and how they approach the games and play in them.

"We've worked on us and the things we needed to do," he said. "Whoever it is we play Friday will be a difficult challenge. We've played them both already, so our guys know a little bit about what to expect."

Kennedy says not playing until the late game Friday poses some challenges. But it also gives him and his staff some time to prepare the players in several areas.

"We'll have a long day since we play late," he said. "We'll have plenty of time to refresh guys as it relates to personnel, as it relates to schemes. The physical part will be done by Friday. We'll probably have a little time in the Georgia Dome, and then we'll find a room somewhere to go through the stuff and reacquaint ourselves with what to expect."


Kennedy has often remarked about how unusual the shot of Clarence Sanders is. He isn't alone. It's been a topic all season from time to time.

The first-year Rebel head coach said all along he wanted the team to shoot more than it had in the past. He wanted certain players to shoot a lot more. Todd Abernethy comes quickly to mind.

There were times when many tried to dissect a win or a loss or why a team might or might not be successful. Kennedy said most of the time it has come down to making - or missing - shots.

With Sanders, there were several this season that were as big as any made around these parts in a long time.

Kennedy said Sanders, who finished as the Rebels' all-time single-season 3-point shooter with 91 treys and a scoring average of 16.5 points per game to lead the team, just needed to keep on shooting.

"It's all shot selection with him," Kennedy said. "At first we tried to get him to understand good shot-bad shot, and we still try to do that. Then we said we know where he's the most comfortable, so let's try to put him in those spots."

Kennedy said Sanders' shot selection has been better, but he still likes to take the tough ones - and often make them.

"Some of his genius is that he's a hard-shot maker. Some guys are hard-shot takers. He's a hard-shot maker. He's consistently done that. He will take some throughout a game that may make you cringe a little bit. But ultimately you have to take the bad with the good."

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