REBELS STILL LOOKING FOR ELUSIVE ROAD WIN
By Chris Burrows
OXFORD After starting 0-5 in the SEC, basketball life has been much better in the past month for the Ole Miss Rebels. Rob Evans has seen his club win three of five SEC starts, with improvement in nearly every tangible area.
Except one. Winning on the road.
“A win on the road is the next step for us in the growing up process,” said Evans, whose 9-11, 3-7 entry visits Arkansas for a 7:05 p.m. tipoff in Bud Walton Arena. “It would be huge for us mentally.”
Of course, the Razorbacks need the win to keep pace with Mississippi State for the Western Division lead. Nolan Richardson’s club (14-8, 6-4) trails the Bulldogs by a half-game with six league games remaining.
The Rebels lost a 63-62 heartbreaker to the Razorbacks in Oxford on Jan. 10, but Evans said, “We’re a much better team than we were then. And I know Arkansas is a much better team. You can’t base this one on what happened a month ago. That’s ancient history.”
The improvement by the Rebels has been impressive, especially considering the club’s youth. Of the current eight-man rotation, six are freshmen or sophomores. Freshman guard Keith Carter is the club’s leading scorer at 13.8 points per game, while sophomore forwards Anthony Boone and Ansu Sesay lead the team in rebounding.
Boone, one of three Arkansas natives (Keith Carter, Jason Smith) in the starting lineup for the Rebels, is coming off a third double-double performance in the past seven games. In Saturday’s blowout win over Vandy, Boone ripped down 11 rebounds to go with 15 points.
“We’re playing with more confidence and having more fun than those early SEC games,” Boone said. “I believe we’re proving we’re a team to be respected, no matter where we play.”
The Razorbacks feature 6-11 Sunday Adebayo, who has six games with double-doubles. Mississippi native Jesse Pate leads the balanced Razorbacks in scoring at 13.9 points per game.