Road Trip awaits Rebs

Tad Smith Coliseum has been good to the Rebels with a 6-0 home start, but now the real work begins. Ole Miss faces its first away game Saturday.

The current win streak is the largest to begin the year since taking 11 straight to open the Sweet 16 season of 2000-2001. The quicker, more athletic Rebels have overcome opponents with speed and scoring spurts. Now, the challenge is to win the first road game to keep the momentum going. Historically speaking, that has been a difficult thing to do.

Ole Miss last won its first game on an opponent's floor during the 2001-2002 year with a two-point victory against Kansas State in Manhattan. However, that squad dropped its season opener to Bowling Green at a neutral site.

Andy Kennedy's first group of Rebels ventured to UCONN and found success against inferior teams before falling to the Huskies in the tourney final. The loss snapped a four-game win streak.

Central Florida may not be Connecticut, but the Golden Knights will pose challenges for the young Rebels. Ole Miss has thrived off runs to extend the lead, but the energy will need to be produced from the team and not the crowd in Orlando, Fla. That is why staying mentally prepared is pertinent.

"We have a lack of focus at times, and that can't happen," Dwayne Curtis said. "Especially when we are about to take ourselves on the road. Getting rattled can't be a possibility."

Central Florida is 6-3 on the season and 5-0 on its own hardwood.

"It is definitely going to be a test to be on the road after being at home all this time," Curtis continued. "We have to get ready and understand how to prepare and focus on the game with someone else's home crowd, and their fans yelling at us for a change. It is time to feel that, especially the freshmen."

The freshmen have yet to face a crowd not decked out in red and blue, they their collective athleticism and ability to score should improve the road woes of past Rebel teams.

Ole Miss is finding minutes for 11 different players and has been able to receive scoring from all positions. The increased depth will help away from the Tad Pad because of less foul trouble and the ability to stop runs with different players.

Also, the Rebels are averaging more than 90 points per game, so confidence shouldn't be a problem. One freshman is ready for the road but understands the need to play for all 40 minutes.

"The New Mexico game showed us where we're at with the first road game coming up," Chris Warren said. "Hopefully we will come out ready to play. Can't start slow in someone else's house. "The home games allowed us to be mentally ready. That is really important with all us new guys."

Kennedy is still concerned with the youth and inexperience, but finding things to worry about at 6-0 is better than the alternative.

"I wanted to ease the young guys in, but we can't do that," AK said. "They have to grab the bulls by the horns so to speak. I have been able to control their environment so far, but that changes starting with Central Florida. Hopefully, the added things to deal with won't be a huge factor."

After the trip to face the CUSA member Saturday, the Rebels get a visit from Winthrop before hooking up with Clemson, LaSalle and DePaul.

Those will be other tests to see where Ole Miss is at, but first thing's first, the Rebels need to stop the road streak and keep the win streak going.

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