'Running Rebs' are 'Scoring Rebs' too

There was a little different feeling surrounding Ole Miss basketball this week. It's almost like the prelims are over and the stretch run has begun.

That might be a bit of a premature assessment since the Rebels' next game is only the first day of December – Saturday at home against New Mexico. But the Lobos are a step up from the first five teams the Rebels have faced on their way to an unblemished mark thus far.

The 1 p.m. tipoff against UNM does signal the start of an interesting December for Ole Miss, a month that includes games in Jackson against Winthrop (Dec. 13), a trio of tough foes in Puerto Rico (Clemson, DePaul, LaSalle), and a game late this month against USM in Southaven – Dec. 28 to be exact.

Yes, there was a little bit of a different air about the place this week. December, starting Saturday, could prove quite interesting.

"We know New Mexico will by far be better than the other opponents we've played," said senior guard Brian Smith. "We'll have to play better than we have to get a win in this one."

Tubby Smith's son says facing Coach Steve Alford's squad gets the Rebels' pulse up a little bit more, knowing the 7-0 Mountain West Conference opponent will provide the final test for this team in Oxford in the calendar year 2007.

"New Mexico can play in many leagues," Smith said. "They have a great coach in Coach Alford, and they'll be prepared. This will be a great test for us as we continue to prepare for SEC play."

It'll be the high-powered offense of the Rebels facing their toughest defensive task so far this season. Ole Miss is the second most prolific scoring team in Division I basketball so far this season, putting up 96.4 points per game, tops in the SEC. UNM is allowing only 54.4 points per game.

Smith likes the fact that the Rebs keep things moving on offense.

"It's fun," Smith said. "It's pretty cool to see the bottom of the (TV) screen and see 102 points, 107 points. It's pretty cool seeing the fans want a hundred and getting into the games."

The Rebels have topped 100 points in two of their five games this season.

"A lot of it is we've played teams that want to play fast as well," Kennedy said. "Tempo has not been an issue. Troy (who the Rebels beat 102-76 Tuesday night) probably wanted to go faster. So we've been fairly efficient offensively. I've been pleased we haven't turned the ball over so much. Could be because we shoot it so quick. Shoot it before we can turn it over."

Kennedy said one surprising thing from opponents so far has been the type of defenses they've faced.

"I don't know that five games into a season if I've ever seen more zone defenses, and I think we'll see a lot Saturday," he said. "That makes it a little more difficult to get the ball inside. But when we do, from DC to JP to Kenny, they're all shooting a very high percentage. Perimeter-wise we're obviously counting on a lot of new guys. They are getting better."

Like his players, Kennedy looks forward to the match-up with the Lobos.

"New Mexico's a good team," he said. "Obviously we're going to a different level with a Mountain West team. Steve Alford is doing a great job, and he's undefeated as the Lobos head coach. He inherited a group that has some good upperclassmen, much like we did here last year. That helps you in the transition. So I know where he is, and I know it's going to be a challenge for us."

After the New Mexico game, the Rebels don't play again for a week when they play at Central Florida on Dec. 8.

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