Rebs need road win

Probably the happiest player on the Ole Miss basketball team this week was David Huertas. Certainly the most relieved.

That's because the sophomore guard may have had his breakout game the last time the Rebels tipped it off. Unfortunately that was in Ole Miss' 80-77 loss at home to South Carolina.

In 19 minutes, Huertas had 13 points and four rebounds, went 4-for-6 from the field including 3-for-5 from 3-point range and 2-for-2 from the free throw line. It was perhaps his best game as a Rebel.

"It felt good," said Huertas, mentioning immediately that the good feeling was diminished by the fact that his team lost. "I feel more comfortable. I feel more loose, more confident."

That's good to hear from a player who came into the season with quite a bit of hype but who has struggled much of the time during games.

"Coach (Andy Kennedy) talked to me a lot and told me over and over he had confidence in me," said Huertas of how he handled things during those down times. "He just said keep shooting. I have confidence in you."

But there was more to it than just that. The 6-foot-5 Huertas, who has played in all 20 games, starting 12, and has the team's fourth-best scoring average at 8.7 points per contest, put in a lot of time on the court to get better.

"I worked on my shot every day," he said. "I had a lot of success in practice. But when it came to gametime, I couldn't find my shot. It was very frustrating."

Then came last Saturday. At the beginning, Huertas felt it might be just another one of those bad games for him.

"The first shot I took I like hit the side of the backboard," he said. "I was like, ‘Wow. What was that?' But then I made one early in the second half, and then I started making more."

And the Ole Miss students responded. He heard them and appreciated their support.

"The students got behind me and cheered for me like I had never made a shot before," said Huertas, smiling broadly.

Kennedy said it was good to see Huertas have such a positive game.

"I hope he can build on that," said the second-year head coach.

Kennedy needs for that to happen and more. The Rebels, 16-4 overall and 3-4 in league play, have lost three of their last four games and could fall to two games under .500 in the Southeastern Conference standings today if they don't win against the Arkansas Razorbacks. That will be a tall order considering the Hogs are playing some impressive hoops currently.

"They're playing their best basketball of the season," Kennedy said of Arkansas, 16-5 and 5-2. "Winning on the road is difficult. But losing at home (against South Carolina) means we have to go on the road and win."

After the game in Fayetteville, Ole Miss hosts Presbyterian College Monday at 7 p.m. in the last non-conference game of the regular season.

Then it's on to Tuscaloosa two nights later and a date with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

That's three games in five days. Three important games in five days.

"We've got 10 games," Kennedy said of the regular season, "and there's a lot left to play for."

OM Spirit Top Stories