Rebels clearly have NYC on their minds

There was a spring in their step today. Maybe it was the fact that it is spring and a beautiful day in Oxford. Or that they are 1-0 on the new season. Or that school is out for Good Friday. How about all of the above?

"All those things factor in," said Andy Kennedy, his 22-10 Rebels having defeated UC-Santa Barbara 83-68 two days earlier. "Our guys want to play some more. You kind of go into that first game not knowing what the mindset would be. I think we competed well. Santa Barbara is a good team. They made some tough shots early and we got behind. It might have been good for us. It got our attention a little bit."

Some teams enter the NIT to prove a point. It appears a potential future Ole Miss foe in this event, Virginia Tech, has that mindset. Nebraska likely does as well. The Cornhuskers beat Charlotte 67-48 in round one. The Rebels, meanwhile, have New York on their minds.

"We had some adversity and we had some disappointment," said Ole Miss senior Kenny Williams. "But this is a good opportunity for us. We didn't make it to the NCAA Tournament. We want to prove we belonged in the NCAA Tournament by winning the NIT."

Williams said Madison Square Garden is good enough incentive for him to play well and win the next two games.

"I may never have this chance again, to play in Madison Square Garden," Williams said. "You tell me we've got to win two games to get there, I'm gonna make sure we do."

Williams said he and the other seniors have impressed upon the younger players how important this tournament is.

"For the most part, we get on them and make sure they know we want to get there," Williams said. "We know we've only got four more games left, and I tell them just let me make it and we'll be good. Just stick it out through April 3 and you'll have a lot of free time. They understand."

The newer players say they indeed understand.

"We're playing for the seniors," said freshman point guard Chris Warren. "This is their last time around. We're trying to do this for them. We want to make it to New York and win it. We got past that first game, and that shows we still want to play."

The Rebels were pleased with the enthusiasm of the 4,089 who attended game one. They are hopeful more fans will show up Monday for the 8 p.m. game against the Cornhuskers.

Kennedy is doing his part to make sure the Ole Miss students are there. He's personally buying 1,000 student tickets at $4 each.

"We want to reward them," Kennedy said of the Ole Miss students. "I appreciate them. It's easy for us all to get down because we didn't get where we wanted to be. They know our kids have given great effort all year and will continue to do so."


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