Big City Stage

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy can barely stand to watch.

His last visit to New York for the National Invitation semifinals ended sooner than it began. Ole Miss trailed eventual champion Ohio State by as much as 27 points, before losing, 81-69, inside Madison Square Garden.

When he popped in the game film last week, his team seemed a mere shell of itself. Chris Warren, who finished with a game-high 19 points, was the only Rebel not playing tight. Ole Miss strived all season on its explosive offensive, only to perform at its worst with a championship appearance a game away.

"Two years ago, I examined some of the things I've done, and I may have made it too much of a game," Kennedy said. "We came out tight. I watched the Ohio State game, which was hard to do. We really did not play very well against a good team. We're better when we're loose and free."

Chris Warren

The Rebels will have their second crack at an NIT championship when they tipoff Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT vs. No. 3 seed Dayton. The winner advances to meet the winner of North Carolina and Rhode Island in the finals Thursday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Warren, one of three current players who made the trip two years ago, expects a more business-like approach this time around.

"A few of us know what to expect," he said. "Other people haven't been. We're going to try and make it more of a business trip than having fun. The trip got cut short (in 2008). Hopefully that doesn't happen this year."

Junior Zach Graham says the same. The Rebels, as he tells it, are more equipped to handle the bright lights of Broadway due to veteran leadership.

"We're a more experienced team," Graham said. "We really just want to go there and handle our business, because last time it was good to be there, but we didn't end it the way we wanted to."

The No. 2 seeded Rebels boast a 24-10 record and are coming off impressive wins against Troy, Memphis and Texas Tech. The 24 wins are tied for the second-most in school history with the 2008 team.

Zach Graham
The Flyers (23-12) are certainly familiar with the NIT semifinals. This season marked their 22nd appearance in the tournament, with the last coming in 2007-08. Dayton won the NIT in 1962 and 1968, which was also its last Final Four.

Dayton defeated Illinois, 77-71, in the quarterfinals to advance.

"We've been able to take a situation of disappointment and turn it into hope again," Kennedy said. "My hope is we can take advantage of that. Every game that you can play, and with the experience of throwing them into the Garden with the intensity that Dayton's going to bring, I'm anxious to see how we respond."

Ole Miss and Dayton have met only once before, with the Flyers claiming a 72-70 home win in an early-season tournament in December 1980.

"We better be ready and we better be sharp, because Dayton is on a mission," Kennedy said. "They're playing fantastic basketball. There's a lot of pride in that program. We better take the right approach."

Ole Miss arrived in New York today, and will spend much of the afternoon touring the city. The Rebels plan on visiting many historic city sights, including the former location of the World Trade Center, Times Square, Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty.

"I'm very excited about going to New York," sophomore forward Terrance Henry said. "This will be my first time going. We just want to go up there, play hard, have fun and hopefully come back with a championship."

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