Rebs hope quick trip to Arkansas produces win

The Rebels got a week off between games since losing at home to South Carolina 80-77. Andy Kennedy and company are staying the course, obviously, but with a few shakeups here and there.

Like travel. Ole Miss plays at Arkansas Saturday at 4 p.m. The team will leave Oxford by charter, fly to Fayetteville, play the game, and fly back.

"If I had my way, we would literally fly in, tape on the plane, play the game, get home." said Kennedy, his team out of the polls now following three losses in its last four games, falling to 16-4 overall and 3-4 in Southeastern Conference play. "Just completely change what we're doing (as far as travel)."

But the logistics won't allow for that. Weather could always be a factor, and a forfeit because of travel would obviously be unacceptable. So they still must leave early enough to have a decent amount of time between arrival and tipoff.

"The travel issues wouldn't allow for that, and you have to be aware that something might happen," he said of the six-hour window for the approximately one-hour flight. "So we're going over the morning of the game."

Normally teams arrive at a game site the day or night before and have a shoot-around on the game court. That won't be the case this time. It is hoped the change will do the Rebels some good.

It is also hoped that senior forward/center Jermey Parnell will be available for this game. He saw limited action in the Florida game on Jan. 16 after severely turning his ankle in the Tennessee game on Jan. 9.

Parnell has practiced this week. Kennedy has guarded hope that Parnell can play against his homestate Razorbacks Saturday.

"He's out there practicing," Kennedy said. "Who knows if he will be out there Saturday? But we're hopeful."

Kennedy said the Razorbacks, 16-5 overall amd 5-2 in SEC action, are playing good basketball presently.

"They've got a lot of weapons," he said. "That's why I guess everybody predicted them to win the (SEC) West. They seem to be playing their best basketball right now."

Coach John Pelphrey's Razorbacks have won their last three contests to move into a tie for first place in the SEC West. After starting SEC play 2-2, Arkansas has won at LSU and upset a pair of ranked teams in No. 25 Mississippi State and No. 19 Florida.

As a team, the Hogs rank second in the league in scoring defense, allowing 63.7 points per game. They also force the most turnovers for their opponents, averaging 16.5 takeaways. Sonny Weems, the SEC's reigning Player of the Week, tops the squad with 14.5 points per contest, while Patrick Beverley (12.0), Darian Townes (10.9) and Charles Thomas (10.4) all contribute in double figures.

Townes and Gary Ervin (9.0 ppg) are non-starters that put in 20-plus minutes per game. Ervin is the team's top assist man averaging 3.4 per game, while the 6-foot-1 guard Beverley tops the squad with 6.9 rebounds.

Kennedy said there are several reasons the Razorbacks appear to be coming into their own in a big way.

"They've got the most experience in the league. They've got the deepest front line and a lot of size. They've got depth off the bench. They've got a lot of pieces and they're putting them together."

Saturday's game will be the 61st meeting between the two schools, with the Razorbacks holding an all-time series lead of 39-21. The series began in 1937. Since Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference in the 1991-92 season, the series is even at 16-16.

Ole Miss has won 13 of the last 19 meetings against the Razorbacks, while the teams split the season series the last two years with each winning on its homecourt. Arkansas holds a 13-6 series lead in games played in Fayetteville, but holds a narrow 6-5 edge in the last 11 encounters in Bud Walton Arena.

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