Both head coaches are hopeful their teams are ready.
"We've still got a lot of work to do," said third-year coach Renee Ladner, whose team won its exhibition game 84-22 against Division II member Christian Brothers University of Memphis. "We don't base a lot of things on the Christian Brothers game other than we played hard and our focus was good. Everybody got to play, and we got some idea of who we are."
Same thing for the men in their exhibition win, a 102-62 victory against NAIA member Auburn-Montgomery.
"It's time to play," said Andy Kennedy, in his fourth season with the Rebels. "As a coach you're always making sure you've covered everything that could possibly happen Friday night. So we've been making sure we're prepared."
Arkansas-Little Rock, playing Ole Miss for the first time, dropped a surprising 80-77 exhibition game to in-state foe Harding University. The Trojans, under seventh-year head coach Steve Shields (105-73), will have a couple of familiar names to Rebel fans.
Solomon Bozeman, a former Oxford High star and the son of former Rebel assistant coach Eric Bozeman, had committed to play at Ole Miss. But after the coaching change from Rod Barnes to Kennedy, the 6-foot Bozeman played for two seasons at South Florida, averaging 7.3 points and 2.5 assists in two years with the Bulls. He sat out last season after transferring to UALR.
A 6-7 senior forward, Mike Smith played in 29 games as a freshman at Ole Miss during the 2005-06 season before electing to transfer to UALR when the coaching change occurred.
Bozeman and Smith combined for 47 points in the Trojans' exhibition loss against Harding. Bozeman led all players with 27 points in the losing effort, making 7-of-14 shots from the field and 13-of-14 at the foul line. Smith scored 20 points off 7-of-10 shooting and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
UALR, 23-8 last season, returns just one starter and six total lettermen off last year's squad, which captured the fourth Sun Belt Conference division title in six seasons under Shields.
Junior Matt Mouzy is the lone returning starter from a year ago, though each of UALR's other five returning lettermen played in at least 23 games last season. The 6-0 Mouzy is the only returning player to average double figures in points last season, having ranked fourth on the team in scoring at 10.1 ppg.
"They're man to man, very fundamental," Kennedy said of UALR. "They're going to guard you. They play a motion-based offense. He's got good guard play, and that will be a challenge for our guards."
Ladner said the Lions will also prove to be a challenge for her team as well.
"We played them here last year, and they lit us up pretty good," she said. "They made 16 3-pointers, so we've got to defend and get back into transition."
Ole Miss won the game against Southeastern Louisiana in Oxford last year 85-73. The Rebels lead the alltime series 11-0.
Southeastern is coming off its most successful season since 1994-95. Last year the Lions finished with a 19-11 overall record. However, Southeastern will be looking to replace four starters – including All-Southland Conference performers Kristy Carlin and Charinee Mitchell – from last season's team.
Southeastern returns eight letter winners from the 2008-09 squad. Senior guard Kim Edmonson (7.0 ppg in 08-09), senior wing Quantae Thomas (7.0 ppg) and junior guard Chelsea Hix (6.1 ppg) are the top returning scorers for the Lady Lions. The Lions won their exhibition game 64-57 against Texas A&M-International.
More Pre-Game Notes:
*** Although the opener won't be one of them, the Ole Miss women's team will be televised 10 times on various networks this season, beginning with a game at Vanderbilt on Jan. 3 on CSS. "Any opportunity we have to play on TV is a good thing," Ladner said.
*** Kennedy said he and his staff aren't set on a starting lineup yet. "We've got some ideas, based on different things. A lot of it will depend on how guys play. Most nights we'll play eight, nine, ten guys, and I think that's realistic for this group. But a lot of it will be game to game."
*** Eniel Polynice, one of several injured players back this season, said Friday will be a special day for him and his teammates. "We want to make a statement early in the season that Ole Miss basketball is really here, and I think we're going to surprise a lot of people."
*** Highlighting the list of returnees for the women's team is 5-10 senior guard and preseason All-SEC selection Bianca Thomas. She finished last season fourth in the SEC with 15.8 points per game to go along with her 5.1 boards per game.
In addition, Thomas ended the season with nine games in which she scored at least 20 points, including a career-high 31 points against Arkansas in the first round of the SEC Tournament. She enters the 2009-10 season as the conference's returning leading scorer.
*** Ole Miss point guard Chris Warren, who ignited the Rebels in the second half of last week's exhibition win with a barrage of 3-pointers, said it felt good to be back in a game after also being one of the injured players last season.
"I've got confidence, but that got me going a little bit," he said. "I was probably 0-for-4 starting off (in the first half), so it was good to see those shots go in. I'm ready for this Friday."
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