Flirtin' With Disaster

No. 20 Ole Miss hosts Centenary today at 1 p.m. and hopes to move away from the ups and downs the Rebels have experienced lately.

But sophomore guard Terrico White jokingly says, in not so many words, as long as the 9-1 Rebels keep winning, who cares?

"The past three games we've been coming back and winning, so we're kind of used to it now," he said after Ole Miss beat UTEP 91-81 in overtime on Wednesday.

The Rebels had fallen behind McNeese State by 15 in the second half of the game a week ago and came back to beat the Cowboys 83-67 in regulation. Two weeks ago against Southern Mississippi the Rebels had to come back from six down in the last minute to win 81-79 also in regulation.

White said the Rebels were confident against the Miners, even down 12 points with six minutes to go, that they'd still win.

All kidding aside, White said he knows a loss will jump up and bite the Rebels if they keep testing those comeback waters time and time again.

"Yeah, it will," he admitted.

This afternoon the Rebels get another chance to play a complete game, this time against 4-5 Centenary in Oxford.

Andy Kennedy sees the reasons the Rebels are doing it the way they're doing it lately, and he hopes he's on the course to correcting it.

"One of the problems we're having as a group, and I'm not sure it's a bad quality, is we get down two or three possessions, and we've got guys on our team like Chris (Warren) or Terrico (White) or EP (Eniel Polynice) that feel like they have to go make a play," he said. "In the game of basketball, if you're forcing the action, it compounds on the other end. So all of a sudden a four-point game turns into a six-point game because we take another bad shot. We've got to settle down and still stay within the confines of what we're trying to accomplish. When we do that, we're not a bad basketball team."

Kennedy said he's seen this characteristic coming on since the Rebels lost their lone game of the season in the title contest of the tourney in Puerto Rico.

"The first time it presented itself was when we got behind against Villanova," he said. "It went from a four-point game to an 11-point game in the blink of an eye simply because we made some poor decisions offensively which led to transition defense problems. (Wednesday night) the same thing happened."

UTEP head coach Tony Barbee said he knows the Rebels don't want to get in that same situation time after time. But he is impressed with how they've handled things when it has happened.

"I know Andy doesn't want them to get in a habit of doing that," he said. "But when you get in it and have some success coming back like they've done, they play very loose and confident down the stretch and know they can make plays, and they did."

Kennedy liked the way his team responded when it had to, as it had the previous two games.

"I think this team is very scrappy, and that showed down the stretch," he said. "We came up with a lot of loose balls and were one block-out away from ending the game in regulation. We got the stop but we didn't get the block out.

"We didn't get the shot to go down at the end of regulation, and our guys were a little down," Kennedy continued. "We had to say hey we're fortunate to continue to be playing. Now let's take advantage of it. We hit a three, followed that up with a stop and score, and from that point on we were in control."

Hoops Notes:

*** Ole Miss is offering free student tickets and reducing all remaining tickets to $5 for today's game against Centenary. All parking lots surrounding the coliseum will be open to fans, free of charge.

*** Centenary enters today's game having lost its last three outings. Of the three losses, two were close - an 84-83 defeat to Missouri-Kansas City and a 102-96 double-overtime contest against Louisiana Tech. The Gentlemen average 81.8 points per game and allow 83.4 ppg with a fast-paced, 3-point shooting style.

David Perez leads the Gents and the Summit League in scoring at 21.4 ppg, while making 46.9 percent of his field goals, including 28-of-71 from 3-point range, and he shoots 88.2 percent from the charity stripe (45-of-51).

Roman Tubner contributes 13.9 ppg, while Daman Starring adds 10.7. The team forces 17.7 turnovers per game and posts 9.0 steals per contest, but it also allows foes to shoot 46.5 percent from the field.

*** Reginald Buckner had his best night as a Rebel in the UTEP game. He scored a career-high 11 points with six rebounds and three blocks. Normally a dependable free throw shooter, he was only 1-of-5 at the line.

"I thought Reginald Buckner showed up in a big way," Kennedy said. "This kid's a true freshman. This was a high level game, and I thought he gave us tremendous minutes. Not only did he score effectively from the field, but he rebounded and blocked some shots and gave us a presence. I thought he had some terrific finishes vs. contact at the rim against an enormous front line, and that will do wonders for his confidence. It was a good test for Reg, and I think it was a good growth opportunity for him."

It was especially important since some other inside Rebs were not on their game. Murphy Holloway and DeAundre Cranston combined for four points and six boards.

"We got very limited production from Murphy and Cran because of fouls," Kennedy said. "A lot of that is because we were a step late and their bodies were bigger than ours on the front line. As a result we lost a lot of those wars."

*** Terrance Henry's stat line was nothing special, but Kennedy was pleased with other aspects.

"I thought Terrance came in and gave us quality minutes, although statistically it doesn't jump out at you," he said of Henry's one point, three rebound, one block effort. "I thought his presence defensively was very, very key for us, especially when we were making that run with four guards. We had four guards and him. That was the team that took the tempo up and allowed us to make the run at the end of regulation."


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