January 31, 2008

Rebels come up big in win over Vandy

Sometimes, it's hard to keep things straight.

In the afterglow of his team's 74-58 win over No. 18 Vanderbilt, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy tried to pinpoint what made the difference in the game Wednesday night at Tad Smith Coliseum.

First, Kennedy credited the Rebels' defensive intensity. Then, he praised Kenny Williams. Lastly, he called Eniel Polynice the difference.

Turns out, he's right; No. 22 Ole Miss (16-3, 3-3 SEC) got big contributions from all over the map.

"It was a team effort, both inside and out," Kennedy said. "It was a quality win and we got contributions from a number of players."

With Williams, it was more than just the 10 points and 10 rebounds. He flexed his muscle inside and battled with a big Vanderbilt frontline.

And with the game still in the balance, Williams jumped into the passing lane for a steal and crowd-pleasing two-handed slam.

"He played with a great deal of energy," Kennedy said. "He had a double-double, the first one he's had in quite some time. I thought his steal at the end of the game took the wind out of their sails."

Polynice did his part too, taking care of things on both sides of the ball. In the first half, Polynice showed why he's so tough with the ball in has hands, going hard at the rim for 12 of his 18 points.

Polynice also took care of Vanderbilt's star guard Shan Foster, holding the All-American candidate to 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Vanderbilt (17-4, 2-4) shot 34.9 percent from the field on the game.

Junior Terrence Watson said Polynice's responded defensively every game.

"Shan Foster is a really good player, but I think Eniel's a really good player too," Watson said. "He guards pros every night in this league. It's a hard job, but he makes it happen."

Watson gave the Rebels good minutes in the second half, blocking a shot, grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds and scoring a hoop in just five minutes.

Ole Miss freshman guard Zach Graham also came up big, helping key a 12-5 run to start the second half with a five points and an assist.

"Zach did really good," Polynice said. "We needed a freshman other than Chris (Warren) to step up, and that's what he did. He helped us."

Kennedy did his part too, electing to look back at what's worked instead of trying to add new wrinkles to attack Vanderbilt.

"Sometimes as a coach, you try to figure out a few wrinkles where you can take advantage," Kennedy said. "We actually went back to doing what we do."

Using a lot of ball screens, Ole Miss freshman Chris Warren was able to penetrate off the dribble, creating for himself and his teammates. Warren finished with a game-high 20 points.

But maybe most interesting is where the points didn't come from. Senior Dwayne Curtis scored just three points while grabbing 10 rebounds.

But on Wednesday, that didn't matter. The Rebels got their scoring elsewhere.

"You never really know what's going to happen," Kennedy said.

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