January 30, 2008

Rebels look to stop skid against Vandy

Three weeks ago, this looked like a completely different game.

Two teams, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, would meet in Oxford in a showdown of two of the league's best, hottest teams.

But as January prepares to close, the Rebels and the Commodores meet at Tad Smith Coliseum Wednesday night as two teams sliding in the polls like Rudy Giuliani.

When the No. 22 Rebels host No. 18 Vanderbilt at 7 p.m., both teams will be looking to reverse their fortunes.

Ole Miss returns home after two-straight road losses, including a 20-point drubbing at Mississippi State. Vanderbilt's also coming off a one-sided loss, falling 86-64 at Florida.

"Both of us were taken to the woodshed a bit in our last game, us in Starkville, and they didn't have their best night in Gainesville," Ole Miss Andy Kennedy said. "I'm anxious to see who can get up off the mat."

Ole Miss (15-3, 2-3) would have the obvious advantage by playing in front of a home crowd. In Kennedy's two seasons with Ole Miss, the Rebels have lost just once while winning 25 times.

"We have a rule," freshman guard Chris Warren said. "We don't lose at the Tad Pad."

And despite their early season success, the Commodores (17-3, 2-3) have fallen on hard times early in their SEC schedule. Just like the Rebels, all three of Vanderbilt's losses have come on the road.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings assessed his team's current state in simple terms.

"We're not a very good team right now," Stallings said,

And while his team hasn't scored or rebounded the way they did during a 16-0 start, Vanderbilt's also been brutalized by a tough schedule. The Commodores have already traveled to Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky.

And now, Vanderbilt heads to Oxford.

"We've probably played in three of arguably the toughest road environments in the country in our first three league road games," Stallings said. "I'm sure if you took many teams and sent them to those venues, they would struggle.

"We certainly drew the short end of the stick on the schedule early in the season, but you have to play them where they show up on the schedule. It doesn't get any easier because (Ole Miss has) been an outstanding team at home and on the road."

Despite the road struggles, Vanderbilt certainly has enough firepower to present a challenge to anyone.

The Commodores have one the SEC's premiere perimeter threats in senior Shan Foster and one of the conference's best big men in freshman A.J. Ogilvy.

Foster is the SEC's second-leading scorer, averaging 19.5 points per game. Ogilvy, a native Australian, got off to a great start this season and is averaging 18.1 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Warren and senior Dwayne Curtis leads the Rebel attack, averaging 15.8 and 15.2 points per game, respectively.

Whatever happens Wednesday night, one team will take a big step back in the right direction and gain some much-needed momentum.

"It'll be interesting to see," Kennedy said. "We're both coming off humbling games.

"Someone will have to respond."

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!