Rebels head to Auburn

Ole Miss travels to Auburn today for a game tomorrow at 4 p.m., the scene of the Rebels' lone SEC road win last season, an 82-59 victory.

But Andy Kennedy said the 15th-ranked Rebels, 15-1 overall and 2-1 in SEC play, are too new and with many different players for that road win last year to have any positive effect.

"None whatsoever," he said matter of factly. "It's simply another opportunity for us to try to get to 3-1 in league play and to keep pace."

He says the Rebels have to win some games away from Oxford if they are to have a chance to win the SEC.

"If you're going to do that, you have to break through on the road," said Kennedy, whose team's lone loss is an 85-83 road setback at Tennessee. "We've proven to be pretty good at home. We have to find a way to be mentally and physically tough on the road. This is another opportunity."

Auburn is 10-5 overall and 1-2 in the SEC. The Tigers had a road win Wednesday night 74-67 at LSU after falling at home to Arkansas 76-70 in the league opener and losing at Florida 72-56.

"They've been affected by injuries. It's cut into their depth," Kennedy said. "They're playing small. Quan Prowell is playing the five for them at 6-foot-7. He's actually a small forward. He was a handful for us here last year when we were trying to win the West (in the regular season finale). I think he had 26 points. They're playing Frank Tolbert at the four and he's 6-5, along with two points guards and also Rasheem Barrett who is 6-5. They've got some issues as to the way that they can play. But they've done a good job and they play extremely hard. They shot 69 percent in the second half at LSU."

Kennedy continues to harp on the Rebels' free throw woes.

"In the last four minutes (in their 89-87 win over Florida Wednesday night), we go six for 13 including missing two front ends. I don't think we should have gone 15 for 15, but if we're on par we go 11 for 15 which is another five points and gives you more of a working margin."

The Rebs obviously work on free throws, but there's a fine line as to how much to push the issue with his team, Kennedy said.

"I really just think it's a mental thing. I've got to be very careful with how I deal with it. I may have already messed it up."

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Kennedy said despite the fact that Chris Warren only had eight points vs. the Gators on 3 for 11 shooting and missing all six of his 3-point attempts as well as an uncharacteristic 2 for 5 at the line, the freshman point guard was OK overall.

"Ten assists and two turnovers versus their pressure and I thought Billy (Donovan) did a good job with pressure, sometimes aggressive pressure and sometimes passive pressure. But they pressed us most of the game. Chris was instrumental in getting Trevor (Gaskins) those shots, delivering the penetration, drawing the defense to get it to him. Chris just had a poor night shooting the ball. He was 0 for 6 from 3, but I'll take all those six shots again. There have been times (this season) he's made some poor selections with his shots. I didn't think (against Florida) was one of them. He just didn't make them."

Warren will be featured in a story in an upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated.

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The season has begun to take its toll on the Rebels, as it does all teams by this point in the year. Dwayne Curtis will play Saturday, but his foot is giving him some problems. He was on crutches Thursday, but Kennedy said that was only to take some of the pressure off his foot.

"He has a strained arch. We're just trying to keep the weight off of it. He's fine," Kennedy said as Curtis moments later also confirmed he is OK and will play.

Jermey Parnell's ankle injury seems to be getting better all the time.

"He's got some tightness in his Achilles, and I guess that's just some compensation from his body (in regard to his ankle injury)," Kennedy said. "He's fine. DC's fine. I assume everybody will be ready to roll."

The Rebels are indeed a little banged up, and with a week between games after Auburn (they go to Mississippi State a week from Saturday), they are trying to push through for one more win in this stretch.

"These games are hard and they're physical. Mentally they're draining and physically they're draining," Kennedy said. "And now we're getting nicked and banged up which alters what you can do from a practice standpoint. We've got a very quick turn against a very good Auburn team that has found itself and is fighting as if its back is against the wall. Then we've got a week off, so maybe we can regroup. It's mid-January and the grind of the season can begin to wear on them. I have to be cognizant of that."


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