By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
AUBURN, Ala. – Ole Miss is finally gaining national respect, but that doesn’t keep the Rebels from feeling like outcasts anyway.
The Tennessee talk leading up to Thursday’s rematch was about stopping Marshall Henderson.
After Henderson scored 28 points to lead the Rebels to a 62-56 comeback win, their eighth in a row and fifth straight in the league, he suggested that it wasn’t so much about slowing him down as it was the embarrassment of losing to Ole Miss.
“That’s why we think Tennessee was talking so much, because they’re Tennessee, and we’re Ole Miss. We’ve been to the tournament what, eight times in 103 years? Who are we to think we have a target on our back?” Henderson asked.
The win was the Rebels’ first since entered The AP Top 25 at No. 23 earlier in the week.
After back-to-back home wins against Arkansas and Tennessee, Ole Miss (16-2, 5-0 SEC) is back on the road today to seek its best start ever to SEC play.
Tip-off at Auburn is 7 p.m.
The Tigers (8-10) have lost three straight in the league – most recently a 73-61 decision at Vanderbilt in which the Commodores pulled away in the second half – after winning their first two games.
Ole Miss is 0-2 at the new Auburn Arena. Doing so tonight would not only make SEC history for the Rebels but would advance them in the national conversation prior to Tuesday’s 8 p.m. ESPN home game against Kentucky.
The Tennessee game, shown on ESPN2, attracted some of ESPN’s better known basketball talent in former Indiana coach Bob Knight and Rece Davis.
Rebels not satisfied
The national conversation, however, remains a point of contention for Ole Miss players.
“Now since we’re winning, we’re getting like national people wanting to look at us. They should have been looking at us a long time ago,” sophomore forward Aaron Jones said. “We still feel disrespected. We feel like we’re still not ranked, so we’ll play like we’re not ranked.”
While talk has begun about a potential “special season” for Ole Miss, Jones insists he and his teammates are not looking ahead to the bigger picture.
The Rebels have not played in the NCAA tournament since 2002, the longest streak of inactivity in the SEC.
Right now, Ole Miss players are feeding off the perceived lack of respect.
“We don’t even think we have a target on our back still, except for the fact that people think they should not lose to Ole Miss,” Henderson said. “We like to say, ‘We’re Ole Miss. Ole Miss lives in adversity.’”