Working To Improve

Although they struggled to get a victory, the Ole Miss Rebels felt they improved in several areas during Monday night's game against Alabama State.

The final score against the SWAC team was 85-81, but few were fretting the final tally in what could have been Ole Miss' first men's basketball loss to a member of that league in 29 games all-time.

After a 33-point loss at New Mexico, there appeared to be a sense of relief to be at home, to win again, and not to have to face two losses in a row heading to a showdown with Louisville in Cincinnati Thursday night on ESPN.

"I didn't know how we would respond," Andy Kennedy said concerning his team having a game less than 48 hours after returning from the setback at The Pit. "I know I'm paid to know, but when you've got so many young guys, you just don't know. You really don't. I feel pretty confident every night with what Chris (Warren) and David (Huertas) are going to give us."

Then he smiled a bit, maybe from the relief that this one was in the win column for a 7-3 record after 10 games.

"I'm not saying I always like it," he said of what he gets from Warren and Huertas. "They've got some issues. But I feel pretty good about what they're going to give us. But everybody else on our roster - everybody – I don't have a clue. Don't have a clue."

But there is learning going on – he about them, them about him.

"Our fight is good," Kennedy said. "Hopefully we can build on the things we did out there. We have a huge game coming up. There are still some areas we have to address and address quickly. Hopefully from going into The Pit and that atmosphere, we'll be a little more prepared this time."

Huertas, who continues to lead the team in scoring and had 25 points against Alabama State, said he was happy with the way the team stepped up and finished the game for the important victory.

"I thought we responded pretty well," he said. "We got beat by a lot out there (at New Mexico). We have to play better defense. Alabama State scored too many points and shot almost 60 percent from the field. We have to get better in that area. We rebounded pretty well tonight and that was the difference."

The Rebels outrebounded ASU 30-29 overall and 17-11 on the offensive boards. Huertas said defensively the Rebs are simply not getting the job done at times.

"We breakdown and relax too much," he said after the Hornets shot 57 percent from the field, including 45 percent from 3-point range. "Off the ball we relax and they get open shots. They penetrate, we help, and they get open shots. We have to improve that."

Huertas said it's all about moving on from here.

"We struggle because we're young, with a young frontcourt, and they're learning," the fourth-year junior said. "We have to keep working, play harder, keep getting better."

One of those youngsters is Murphy Holloway, who had 15 points (5-9 from the floor, 5-5 from the free throw line), with six rebounds, a block, and a steal. Consistency is a key but certainly with nights like that, Holloway's progress is apparent.

"We work on everything in practice, and we just have to continue to carry things over," said the freshman forward.

From New Mexico to Alabama State, it appears the Rebels carried over much of the good and left at least some of the bad behind in Albuquerque. They hope to continue that against the Cardinals in the Big East-SEC Showdown Thursday night.

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