December 1, 2007

Ole Miss off to best start in six years

Heading into Saturday's game with New Mexico, there were plenty of questions about just how good the Ole Miss men's basketball team actually was.

But with undefeated New Mexico in town, the Rebels faced a major test and answered some of those questions with an 85-77 win.

Ole Miss (6-0) led by as many as 23 in the second half before a late Lobo rally closed the gap to eight.

The last time Ole Miss started 6-0 was the 2000-01 season - a year when the Rebels began the season with 11-straight wins on their way to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy started an all freshman backcourt with Chris Warren and Trevor Gaskins. The first-year guards combined for 30 points in the win.

New Mexico head coach Steve Alford said Warren left him impressed.

"He's just a hard guy to keep track of," Alford said. "Their offense starts with him."

Warren finished five assists, three steals and three rebounds to go along with his 16 points.

The Rebels' 85 points was the lowest scoring output for the SEC's top offense.

"If we'd have made some free throws and done what we were supposed to do in some situations, we'd have been right at our normal output," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said.

Prior to the loss, New Mexico's opponents had been averaging just 54.4 points per game.

Eniel Polyniceand the Rebels held J.R. Giddens to nine points and six rebounds. Ramon Martinez came off the bench to lead New Mexico (7-1) with

"Our number one goal was to limit his touches," Kennedy said.

Ole Miss jumped out quick, hitting back-to-back 3's to start the game. The Rebels led by as many as 10 early, but New Mexico chipped away at the Ole Miss lead.

Gaskins, who hit a three to start the game, said the quick start was key.

"We wanted to start with some energy," he said. "AK made the decision to start me, and I decided I'd be someone who brought energy

With 8:17 left in the first half, the Lobos cut the lead to two points on a Martinez three-point basket.

But the Rebels tightened things up on defense, holding New Mexico to just one more field goal for the rest of the half and extending their lead to 17 points.

"We can't give up runs like that and expect to come back," Alford said.

Dwayne Curtis scored 13 of his game-high 20 points in the first half.

"I came out with a lot of intensity; the whole team did," Curtis said. "The last game, we didn't play with a lot of intensity at the start.

"We needed to change our ways, and we did."

The Rebels are off for a week before heading on the road for the first time, traveling to Orlando to face Central Florida (4-2) next Saturday night at 6.


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