Rebels finish non-conference a perfect 14-0

Presbyterian College head coach Gregg Nibert said having the game within reach at the five-minute mark was all his team could ask for following Ole Miss' 66-55 win over the Blue Hose.

"This is the best team we've played," said Nibert, whose 4-23 team has faced the likes of Ohio State, Nebraska, Wake Forest, New Mexico, Clemson, Georgia, Auburn, North Carolina State, and Georgia Tech. "They were hard-nosed and tough."

Nibert said the Rebels' backcourt had his staff game-planning differently for this one.

"They're the best fast-breaking team I've ever seen," he said. "We put four guys back to stop their defensive transition. For a team that averages over 80 points, it was a good effort from our team."

Ole Miss, now 17-5, finished the non-conference portion of its schedule 14-0 and unblemished for the first time since 1948-49. That record wasn't the concern in this one, however. Getting a win for only the second time in nearly four weeks was the most important factor.

The Rebels beat Florida 89-87 at home on Wed., Jan. 16. Since then there had been four losses and only one win, a 74-58 victory over Vanderbilt on Wed., Jan. 30.

Just getting a victory was a positive change for a team looking to regain its early season form when it established a new school record at 13-0 for best start by an Ole Miss men's basketball team.

"Hopefully this will give us an edge again, especially winning at home after coming off a loss at home (vs. South Carolina 80-77 on Sat., Feb. 2), said Dwayne Curtis who led the Rebels with 24 points on 11-14 from the floor and pulled down 11 rebounds. "Getting this win will definitely give us a little boost."

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said there was no doubt having this game sandwiched between two Southeastern Conference road games was not the best situation for his team.

"We had to do it because back in the summer the UNO (University of New Orleans) game was postponed," he said. "The only team you can find in a situation like that is a team like Presbyterian who doesn't have a conference schedule that would conflict. Obviously the date wasn't great for us on a Monday night between two road games. Other than that, we would have had to give up one of our allotted games, and we didn't want to do that.

"So at the end of the day, we get our 17th win, and we're one step closer to our goals," Kennedy continued. "Obviously they won't ship this (game) off to the basketball hall of fame, but we'll take it."

As Nibert pointed out, the Blue Hose, in their first season of Division I basketball, more than made a game of it. But immediately after the contest, the Rebels were already watching film of Alabama. The Rebels face the Crimson Tide (13-11 overall, 2-7 SEC) Wednesday in Tuscaloosa at 7 p.m. Ole Miss is 3-5 in league play.

The Rebs led by 10 points against the Blue Hose at 33-23 when David Huertas connected on a 3-pointer with 5:23 to go in the first half. It would be their largest lead until moving out to an 11-point lead at 58-47 on a Kenny Williams bank shot off an assist from Chris Warren with 5:47 left in the game.

Williams had 15 points and was 7-9 from the floor. Huertas finished with 13.

Warren, Ole Miss' leading scorer averaging 16.4 points per game this season, did not score at all in this one. The freshman point guard did have five assists, which is his season's average in that department.

The Rebels, who shot 58 percent from the floor for the game, had led 37-31 at halftime. Their largest lead of the night, 14 points at 65-51, came on a Curtis putback with 1:41 left.

Al'Lonzo Williams led Presbyterian College with 17 points.

"A win is a win and we needed one," Huertas said. "It's good to get a W."

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