Rebs say it's not over with win over UCSB

A sign posted on each player's locker said "It's not over until YOU say it's over." The Ole Miss Rebels obviously said they didn't want things to be over on Wednesday night and advanced to round two of the National Invitation Tournament with an 83-68 victory against UC-Santa Barbara.

Ole Miss, 22-10, now hosts Nebraska, who defeated Charlotte 67-48, on Monday in round two at Tad Smith Coliseum.

It took a while for the Rebels to lock into their locker room signage. They fell behind early 17-6 but picked things up to lead 37-36 at halftime. In the second half Ole Miss' largest advantage was 75-57 on a layup by Kenny Williams with four minutes to go.

"We finally attacked," said Dwayne Curtis, who admitted he and his teammates didn't want the season to end against the Gauchos. "In the second half we came out and attacked even more."

That they did, and the visitors from California, whose season ended at 23-9, had no answer.

"I was surprised at how well Ole Miss shot the ball from the 3-point line in the second half," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams as the Rebels went 7-for-12 from beyond the arc in the game's final 20 minutes. "We shot well early on but didn't stay hot. Their size was a bit much for us in the paint."

The bigger Rebels, before an announced 4,089, outrebounded UCSB 44-27 including a 32-20 edge on the defensive boards.

"We knew we would have some issues as it relates to matchups, but we also knew we had an advantage inside," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We led the SEC in rebounding margin, and that is not their forte'. We had to exploit them on the glass, because we knew we'd have some issues elsewhere. We did what we had to do."

Kennedy said the way the game started didn't surprise him, and neither did the way it eventually unfolded.

"I thought UC-Santa Barbara really came out and attacked us," he said. "They weren't intimidated at all, and I knew they wouldn't be. We knew they would be very aggressive. They knocked down some big shots early. Our defense picked up a little midway through the first half and we were able to get out in the open court. That's when we're at our best."

Curtis led the Rebel attack with 17 points and 16 rebounds, his 16th double-double of the season. His 16 boards moved him into eighth place all-time in Rebel rebounding with 740, surpassing Fred Cox who had 729 in three seasons from 1972-74.

Chris Warren, scoreless in the first half, had 16 in the second half. David Huertas had 15 and Williams 13.

Alex Harris led UCSB with 20 points, followed by James Powell with 18 and Chris Devine with 14.

The Rebels were without third-leading scorer Eniel Polynice who has been bothered by an injured knee for a couple of weeks. Little-used sub Rodney Jones played 22 minutes and scored five points with his best overall outing in two seasons.

Curtis said the Rebels just kept on playing and finally things went their way.

"Rebounding," he said was the key. "Doing what we do. Going after the boards and making something happen."

Kennedy said his team's offense finally got into a flow after the Rebels settled down and figured out some of the things UCSB was doing defensively, which he said were plentiful.

"It was an unusual defense," he said. "They switched everything, literally everything. A lot of teams switch ball screens. But they switched down screens, cross screens. It kind of made it chaotic and threw our guards off a little until we adjusted."

And by that time, the signs in the locker room were still intact. The Rebels move on because they indeed said this season isn't over.

OM Spirit Top Stories