Rebels set to defend homecourt again

Defending their home court, winning games in Oxford, is one of the real keys to a successful season, according to the Ole Miss Rebels.

Picking up a road win here or there is obviously important, too, and adds to the resume' as the season moves on. But it's at home where it all begins, and where the Rebels are 24-1 since Andy Kennedy took over the program prior to last season.

Kenny Williams, a senior from the state of Florida, says he's excited about playing the Florida Gators tonight, but it's more about winning at home no matter who the Rebels are facing.

"To us, it doesn't matter who is coming into the Tad Pad, we don't lose in the Tad Pad," Williams said.

Fellow Floridian, sophomore Eniel Polynice, agrees it's important to win them at home.

"We'll just come out and play our game," he said. "It's SEC time, and we have to be ready no matter who we play. This is Florida, and we want to prove to everybody we can beat them. We'll come out humble and play hard with a lot of energy. And we don't lose at home."

The Rebels enter tonight's contest with a 16-game homecourt winning streak, currently tied with Kansas for the eighth-longest such streak in the nation. Ole Miss' only home loss the past two seasons was a 68-58 setback at the hands of Kentucky on Jan. 6, 2007.

Kennedy said his team is indeed looking forward to playing the two-time defending national champions - especially at home, of course.

"I believe our kids will be really excited," he said. "They beat us twice last year (in Gainesville and in the SEC tourney in Atlanta). They've had their way with us. For us it's just about protecting home floor. That is so vitally important. We have to do that."

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Kennedy said he is going to try to get more players into the games. Two players who were more involved in games earlier in the season, Zach Graham and Trevor Gaskins, haven't found their way onto the court as much lately.

"I've actually talked to them about that," he said. "I've got to do a better job of getting them into the game earlier. We're in a possession game, and one or two possessions are going to determine winning and losing in league play. These guys have to understand the importance of each and every possession. But I'm going to try to do a better job of getting them into the games earlier so they can get into the flow. I've had a tendency once the team has developed a rhythm to stay with that group. That may not be wise. I may have to adjust that."

Both have played in every game this season with Gaskins averaging 16.7 minutes and Graham 11.3 minutes.

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It's still a gametime decision on Jermey Parnell. The senior C/F turned his ankle against Tennessee in Knoxville a week ago.

Terrence Watson, the junior guard who turned his ankle in early December, continues to improve and could see more playing time soon.

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Tonight's game will be the 98th meeting between the two schools. Florida holds a 56-41 lead in the series, which began in 1940, while Ole Miss boasts a 27-19 advantage in Oxford. The Gators have won the last six games, including last year 79-70 in Gainesville and also 80-59 in the second round of the SEC Tournament in Atlanta.


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