Beware of Dog

Regardless of records, Georgia has proven nightmarish for Ole Miss. Dare we speak of last year's SEC Tournament? Read about it inside.

It's been almost a year, but Ole Miss fans rarely forget.

The game was a thriller of historic proportions. Not only did Georgia's 97-95 overtime win in last year's SEC Tournament spark a remarkable run, but ended any Rebel hope for their first NCAA appearance since 2002.

Names such as Dave Bliss and Sundiata Gaines will forever be remembered in that fateful comeback, but perhaps overshadowed was a 25-point effort by relative unknown Terrance Woodbury.

Undoubtedly, the Rebels dont intend to make the same mistake twice.

"Terrance Woodbury's a very good player," said head coach Andy Kennedy. "He hurt us last year in the SEC Tournament. He's a hard matchup and a multi-talented wing. They also have a strong, deep line. They really do. They've got four bodies out there bigger than anybody on our team. It's a little concerning from a matchup standpoint."

For the season, Woodbury averages 13.9 point per game and 4.5 rebounds. He is only 14 points shy of 1,000 points for his career, which would make him only the 39th player in Bulldog history to do so.

Sophomore Zach Graham, who draws the toughest defensive assignment each contest, will guard the talented forward, and has been impressed with what he's seen so far.

"He's a good player. I think we all know from last year in the SEC Tournament," Graham said. "I think he's underrated and people don't give him the respect that he should have. He's definitely a good player, but I'm going to be ready for the challenge."

Following a strong effort against Tennessee's Tyler Smith, it's easy to understand Zach's confidence.

While he poured in 16 points and four rebounds, Smith seemed uncomfortable most of the night, committing three turnovers in a losing affair.

He was only 1-3 from long distance, with Graham contesting each shot he took.

"He's done a really good job," Kennedy said of Graham's play this season. "I hope, at the end of the day, he gets some consideration for the All-Defensive team. Typically when that happens, everybody has to go back and look statistically at whose getting things done. You have guys who block shots or get steals, but he does a lot of the things that go unnoticed.

"We put him on the other team's toughest offensive player to guard, and he's done a great job for us. When he's really locked in defensively, I think our whole team is. He did a great job on (Jodi) Meeks and against Tyler Smith, a whole different animal. He did a great job keeping him out of his rhythm."

A similar game will be needed Saturday, as Georgia walks into Oxford eyeing an upset.

Despite a 10-16 overall record and dismal 1-10 mark in conference play, the Bulldogs are a tricky bunch. Having topped bitter rival Florida 88-86, and with the Rebels celebrating 100 years of Ole Miss basketball Saturday, they'll certainly have all the motivation needed to pull out a win.

While Kennedy has stuck to his one-game-at-a-time mantra, his nerves only increase with each matchup the Rebels come across.

"Every game scares me, because of our limitations," said Kennedy. "Take Tennessee for instance. I'm sure Bruce (Pearl) is frustrated with his team in a bunch of different areas, but he can just dig a little deeper in his bench and play a guy who may not be playing as much; just trying to find something. We just don't have that. The guys we're dependent upon, we're going to be dependent upon the next game, and the next game, and the next game.

"Everybody in this league has good players. Georgia has good players. They have matchup issues with us that are concerning. They've dealt with a lot of adversity. As I was watching their tape against Auburn, they were down 20 something points and cut it to six with about 20 seconds to play, and the ball. That tells me Pete Herman, the interim coach, he's done a good job. Those kids keep fighting and keep battling. Nobody likes to lose and the frustrations, and uncertainties, but they've done a really good job of continuing to battle and being competitive."

That fighting spirit is what makes Saturday a worrisome contest.

With only five games to go, and a Volunteer victory under their belt, the Rebels sit as controllers of their own destiny.

A victory over the Bulldogs would not only mean a two game sweep at home, but could catapult Ole Miss into prime position for postseason play.

But with the youthful Rebs maturing by the day, fears of complacency are quickly diminished.

"I have a better understanding of what to expect from them now. Also, I think they have a better understanding of what is expected of them," Kennedy said of the team's recent successes. "They went through the initial phase, of ‘Ok, I'm going to be in the game as the game is being decided,' to ‘I not only have to be in the game, I have to be making the play.'

"For a while, I think they just accepted being in the game, and they were still looking for someone else to make the plays. Now they understand, if we're going to be successful, they have to make the plays."

Boy, have they.

Against UT, freshmen Terrico White and Murphy Holloway led the way, scoring 21 and 18 points respectively. Holloway also added 13 rebounds for his second straight double-double, while White added five rebounds and six assists.

Better yet, the two helped spark a 7-0 run in the opening minutes of the second half, extending the score to double digits - a lead they would never relinquish.

Kennedy has been pleased with the youngsters' growing leadership.

"Terrico doesn't say a whole lot, but he's much more animated," he said. "He's a lot like Dwayne Curtis, in that he's not a vocal guy, but you can tell by his body language he's becoming more animated. That tells me he's becoming more comfortable.

"Murphy's always been a vocal guy. Murphy's going to be a leader. He has some natural leadership abilities; it's just a matter of him understanding. He's high energy, talks, is kind of the locker room clown. He has some natural leadership abilities."

The importance of today's contest cannot be overstated.

Not only are the Rebels celebrating the program's history, but any hopes for the postseason could possibly ride on the game's outcome.

Having battled through adversity all season just to get to this point, Georgia presents an opportunity to continue some strong momentum before heading to Auburn Wednesday.

"We're just trying to keep getting better," Kennedy said. "I don't know what is left in these guys. I know we had a good performance against a quality opponent in Tennessee, but I still think we have a lot of areas that we can improve.

"If we do that, then hopefully, we can get some more [wins]."

Celebrating the first 100 years of Rebel hoops, the university will recognize the recently released All-Century Team at halftime.

Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. and can be heard through the Ole Miss Radio Network.

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