November 30, 2007

Rebels prepare for undefeated New Mexico

So far this season, the Rebel basketball team has had five tests, and Ole Miss, in large part, has cruised in passing each of those tests.

But the little mistakes the Rebels have made along their way could be more important Saturday, as Ole Miss hosts undefeated New Mexico Saturday at 1 p.m. at Tad Smith Coliseum.

Ole Miss (5-0) caps a six-game stretch at home to start the year, and freshman guard Chris Warren said the team has a simple principle.

"They're coming into our gym. We've got a rule; we can't lose in the Tad Pad," he said. "We're going to give what we've got. If we come out mentally ready to play, we should be all right."

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said Ole Miss' schedule hasn't been as soft as it looks on paper, but the Rebels are definitely stepping up in class Saturday.

"I think New Mexico's a good team," he said. "I really believe that we've played three teams predicted to do well in their leagues. Now, we're going to a different level in league with the Mountain West."

The Lobos (7-0) come to Oxford under first0year head coach Steve Alford - the ex-Indiana star guard and Iowa head coach.

Kennedy said he sees some familiar things when looking at Alford's situation.

"He's inherited a group that's got some good upperclassmen - very similar to what I did last year," Kennedy said. "That helps in the transition. He's also trying to incorporate his style of play."

Ex-Kansas wing and McDonald's All-American J.R. Giddens leads Alford's Lobos with 13.4 points and 8.3 rebounds.

Giddens, who has fought injuries and off-court issues, will be the most talented player Ole Miss has had to defend this season, Kennedy said.

"He's very long. He's not quite as tall, but he's a Scottie Pippen-type player," Kennedy said. "He's long, versatile and athletic. He affects the game a number of different ways. He can make shots. He can create off the bounce. He can rebound.

"He'll be the best player we've faced to this point."

The Rebels will run a couple of different defenders and defenses against Giddens, including Eniel Polynice and Terrence Watson, who should return from an ankle injury that sidelined him Tuesday.

"I'm sure we'll try a number of different guys and a number of different looks," Kennedy said. "That's one of the advantages this team has over last years. We do have a number of different people we can try."

Warren said it'll be a challenge, but taking care of New Mexico and Giddens will just be another test - and Ole Miss has passed the five they've already taken.

"This is going to be the biggest game we've played," he said. "It's going to show where we're at."

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