January 23, 2008

Rebels big men need to be involved

The Ole Miss men's basketball team knows he's there.

A 6-foot-8, 262-pound weapon, senior Dwayne Curtis goes to work at an incredibly accurate pace. Using reverse layups, excellent body control and good free-throw shooting, Curtis is on his way to an all-SEC season.

But by their own admission, the Rebels aren't using their big-time post presence enough.

When freshman guard Chris Warren spoke about the Rebels' 80-77 loss at Auburn Saturday, he initially pointed to Ole Miss' on-ball defense as the reason for its demise.

But, he forgot something else.

That's another problem I didn't mention. We have to get Dwayne more touches," Warren said. "He's (fifth) in the nation in field goal percentage. He has to get more touches."

Curtis is shooting 69.7 percent from the field this season, but against a smaller Auburn team, the Rebels' second leading scorer took just seven shots.

"We got away from it. This should've been his game," sophomore Eniel Polynice said. "We got caught up in the moment with the pressure and stuff. We took a lot of shots when we should've given it to the big men down low."

On the year, Curtis is averaging 8.6 shots per game.

Despite being bigger and stronger at Auburn, the No. 15 Rebels elected to play mostly from the perimeter, where they shot 11-of-31 from three-point range.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said his team, full of young guards, has to make Curtis an offensive priority.

"We have to do a better job of not settling," he said. "Our mentality is to take the first available shot, but the first available shot might not always be the best shot. That's part of the growth progress."

And by preaching an uptempo offensive style, Kennedy could be telling his team two different things.

"I'm always 'Let's go. Let's go. Let's attack. Let's attack,'" he said. "Sometimes, that might send mixed signals to young guard who think 'I've got to go make a play.'"

In reality, the Rebels should be counting on Curtis to make big plays. But when push comes to shove, Curtis has to do even more to get open against defenses tailored to stop him.

"We talk about it quite a bit," Kennedy said. "It's our responsibility as a team to try and get him the ball in a position where he can score. It's his responsibility to work hard off the ball."

But the Rebels don't have the luxury of Curtis demanding more looks on the block. Kennedy said that's not realistic.

"That's not him. It's not going to happen. It's not his nature," Kennedy said. "I'd like to grow some hair, but I don't think it's going to happen.

"He's much more assertive in his mannerisms and vocal within the team. He's not a give-me-the-ball kind of guy."

And when the Rebels head to Mississippi State Saturday, Warren said they can't afford to forget about one of their biggest weapons.

"They constantly say to us that the big men need to get more touches. It's probably on us. Getting him the ball can be pretty difficult sometimes," Warren said. "We watch film, and there's been many times where he's open and we're not getting it to him.

"We're going to look to get him the ball more."

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