Polynice says Rebs getting more respect

Eniel Polynice has been a part of two successful Ole Miss basketball teams. The Rebels have surpassed 20 wins both seasons he's been here.

The junior guard from Sarasota, Fla., said earlier this week it appears the Rebs are beginning to get some looks.

"We feel we've earned some respect," said Polynice when quizzed about the fact that Ole Miss is no longer an automatic vote near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference Western Division. "People are finally starting to realize we can beat good teams and that we're a good team ourselves. We've just got to keep that up and make sure it all comes together as the season starts."

The season starts Friday when Arkansas State comes to Oxford for a 7 p.m. contest.

Actually since head coach Andy Kennedy has been in Oxford, the Rebels have been much better following four straight losing seasons. They won a share of the SEC West two seasons ago, and if not for a couple of home game slip-ups against South Carolina and Auburn last season would have most likely been in the NCAA Tournament.

They've been close to being a more widely respected program than they've become. And now they have to go out and prove it all over again. Polynice said they are ready to do that.

He also said last weekend's closed, no-stats-made-public exhibition game at UAB was another step for this year's team to become ready for the day-in, day-out grind of the season.

"There are always things we need to work on," said Polynice, who has more games under his belt than any current Rebel. "We ran plays, got everybody involved in the offense, got everybody involved in the game. We just basically went over there to try to become a better team, just get the right guys in and in the right situations and make better plays. We were just trying to get better in a different setting on the road."

And they were doing it without one of their veterans – sophomore guard Trevor Gaskins. They had only found out the day before that Gaskins would be lost for the season after a knee injury in practice on Thursday.

Polynice said knowing Gaskins is gone hasn't been easy to shake.

"It affected us a lot. You're never ready for something like that," Polynice said. "Trevor's a big guard. He helps out in many different ways. We hate it happened. We just have to stay positive."

And fill in the gaps by the absence it makes on the squad. Kennedy mentioned a week ago the Rebels had seven guards and that it would be hard to find playing time for that many. Now that's down to six.

"It puts more of a load on us," Polynice said of the rest of the guards. "We've just got to continue to work hard and fight through it. Take things one day at a time and I think we'll be allright."

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One of the Rebels' upcoming non-conference foes continues to get hype as a national title contender. The Louisville Cardinals, who face the Rebels in Cincinnati on Thursday, Dec. 18, as part of the SEC-Big East Invitational, were among ESPN commentator Jay Bilas' top five teams he mentioned on the air Tuesday.

Bilas, the former Duke star, said North Carolina is his preseason pick to win it all, followed by UConn, Louisville, Michigan State, and UCLA.

The contest between the Rebs and Cards, to be televised on ESPN, is the second half of the SEC-Big East doubleheader that night. Cincinnati and Mississippi State play the early game on ESPN2.

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Season tickets for Ole Miss home games have passed the 5,000 mark for the season (not counting student tickets; there are 1,500 student seats). That includes the full packages and the mini-season packages.

The full packages may be purchased for all 16 home games for as little as $200 each. Those priced seats will be above row 20 in the 30-rows-high Tad Smith Coliseum.

The mini-season ticket pack, also in the rows above 20, includes all eight SEC home games and a ticket to the home game against West Virginia on Wednesday, Dec 3. A mini-season pack cost $130 for the nine-game set.

With additional floor seats for this season, the coliseum capacity is listed at 9,061, the highest in its 43-year history.

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