March 12, 2008

Rebels arrive in Atlanta, shoot around

ATLANTA- Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy is as sympathetic to a shooter's plight as much as any coach.

As a player, Kennedy made sure to get out on the court early to get a feel for the rim he'd be shooting for later.

If anything, he studied a little too much.

"I was a peculiar shooter. 'The ball had too much air. What's the wind?'" Kennedy said. "I was out there like a field goal kicker. I was trying to test the elements.

And the results of all the studying?

"None of that matters; it doesn't," he said. "If you make a couple early, that thing will swell up on you."

Ole Miss got its first taste of the Georgia Dome rims Wednesday, as the Rebels had an open shootaround.

On the floor, the Rebels showed no signs of struggling, hitting open jumpers like they have at Tad Smith Coliseum.

Freshman Chris Warren said he's got a simple solution to shooting at a place where the rims are perceived to be tight.

"I'm a shooter. It won't matter," he said. "I just won't hit the rim."

But senior Dwayne Curtis said he's felt, seen and heard the differences playing in the dome.

"I think it is (different to shoot)," he said. "Every time I go there, the rims are tighter. Everything's different in there."

Sophomore David Huertas, one of Ole Miss' biggest three-point threats, said different gyms can affect shooting.

"In your mind it can look weird if there's a lot of space between the basket and the baseline," Huertas said.

But that won't stop the sophomore from pulling from inside of the Georgia Dome.

"I don't care. I'll shoot anywhere."

Positive about the neutral

Ole Miss has had its fair share of struggles on the road this season, winning just twice - at Central Florida in early December and at Georgia last Saturday.

But the Rebels' 2-7 road record doesn't mean the Rebels have to play at Tad Smith Coliseum to win. In five neutral court games, the Rebels are undefeated.

"Statistically, we're undefeated," Warren said. "So, statistically, we should win all the games. That's on our side."

Ole Miss won three games in Puerto Rico, one in Jackson, Miss. and one in Southaven, Miss.

Curtis said one reason the Rebels have had success on the neutral floor has to do with balanced crowd support.

"We've played pretty good on neutral courts," Curtis said. "They won't have the advantage and we won't have the advantage in the stands, and we have to take advantage of it."

Name game

When it comes to being on the bubble, Kennedy said the name on the front of a jersey certainly helps.

Two teams in the SEC on the bubble have strong traditions, two-time defending national champion Florida and traditional powerhouse Kentucky.

Past national champions Arizona, Maryland and Villanova are firmly on the bubble, as well as last year's runner up Ohio State.

"It's name recognition, teams they're more familiar with that have had success," Kennedy said. "We have to earn our way into it."

Tip ins

• Sophomore Eniel Polynice's injured left knee is serious enough where Polynice will play in a brace. Polynice said the injury was a "torn or stretched meniscus." Polynice said the knee is sore, but he'd try to play through the pain.

• In 28 first-round games in the SEC Tournament, Ole Miss is 9-19 - going 2-5 in first-round games in Atlanta.

• Freshman Trevor Gaskins, a member of the SEC all-freshman team, has scored just six points in the Rebels' last five games.

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