Somewhere Andy Kennedy is reading the season previews that picked his Rebels to finish last in the SEC West, and he’s laughing. Now at 14-1 (1-1 SEC), 18th ranked Ole Miss has shocked everyone but themselves.
What’s not funny is how the Rebs have not been able to finish games. Against LSU last Saturday, sophomore Eniel Polynice and freshman sensation Chris Warren each posted 15 points and helped Ole Miss build a 22-point second half lead, only to watch the Tigers claw back and silence the almost record crowd at the Tad Pad.
Last Wednesday, it was Ole Miss playing the comeback role, as they erased a 12-point Volunteers lead, and led 83-79 with 2:22 left before falling to Tennessee in the final seconds, giving them their lone loss.
The question as two-time defending national champion Florida comes to Oxford is, can the Rebels build and maintain a lead?
There’s no doubt that Ole Miss has the talent. Senior Dwayne Curtis leads the SEC in field goal percentage, and has already been tabbed twice as the SEC Player of the Week.
Freshman Chris Warren answered the question of who would fill Todd Abernathy’s shoes, as he leads the team in scoring, and is second in the conference in assists with 5.13 a game. Add in the fact that eight players average at least eight points a game, as well as eight averaging double-figure in minutes, and it’s really not a surprise that Ole Miss has been successful so far.
The Rebels are not the only team amazing people. Florida is currently 15-2 (2-0 SEC), and is on a four-game winning streak since losing to Ohio State. Think Chris Warren is turning heads, how about the Gator’s Nick Calathes?
Calathes is the defending SEC Freshman of the Week and leads the Gators in scoring and the conference in assists. Florida may not have any starters from last year’s championship team, but Billy Donovan’s squad is still finding ways to win.
Wednesday night’s match-up will also be the first opportunity for the Rebels’ David Huertas to take on his former team.
Huertas was apart of the 2006 national championship squad, where he played in 35 games and made his lone start against none other than Ole Miss. After sitting out a year, Huertas will hope to silence his former teammates, who he said he’s been trash talking with the past couple days.
“They said they’re ready to come in here and beat us,” Huertas said. “I told them they’re not.”
It won’t be easy for the Gators, as Ole Miss is 24-1 at the Tad Pad in the two years of the Kennedy administration. With another sell-out crowd expected for the televised game, the cozy coliseum that only holds 8,700 will be loud and could possibly be a factor in the game.
Wednesday night, the stage is set for yet another classic SEC match-up. For the Rebels, it’s another opportunity to prove themselves and give their coach something to smile about.