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Rebels in midst of crucial road stretch

Ole Miss’ men’s basketball team will be away from home again this weekend, and for the Rebels, that’s usually a good thing.

The Rebels are 9-4 in their last 13 true road games dating back to last season and will try to win another one against Southeast Missouri State on Saturday. It will be Ole Miss’ third straight game outside of Oxford, and the Rebels will return home only once afterward before making the short trip to Memphis next Friday.

Ole Miss (6-2) started its road trip with a win at Bradley and followed it up with a victory over UMass in what was a virtual home game for the Minutemen, who were playing approximately 20 miles from their campus. It’s already a more successful three-game road swing than the Rebels’ first when they dropped two of three in the Gildan Charleston Classic the week before Thanksgiving.

“It was rewarding to see (everything) come to fruition in the game against a quality opponent on the road and play well,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said of the Rebels’ win over UMass. “Now we’ve got to build off that.”

Still searching
Ole Miss lost out on a chance to eventually meet Virginia in the Charleston Classic when the Rebels lost their tournament opener to George Mason. The Rebels had a shot at their first top-100 RPI win, according to the NCAA’s latest RPI rankings, against Seton Hall in their tournament finale but fell to the Pirates, 75-63.

The Rebels still don’t have that kind of win and wouldn’t get one against the winless Redhawks (0-8) and their RPI of 261, but Ole Miss would rather win any game away from C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum than lose it regardless of the quality of opponent because of the weight road wins carry with NCAA Selection Committee members, who put a premium on teams’ ability to win in an opponent’s building when filling out the NCAA Tournament field every March.

“Road games change your numbers so quickly because they count so much more,” Kennedy said. “UMass is a good team that at the end of the day I think will be a quality win for us away from home, and we have other opportunities.

“If you win a home game, it counts as .60. If you win a neutral-site game, it’s 1 to 1. But if you win a road game, it counts as 1.4 wins regardless of what happens.”

The biggest thing for Kennedy is continuing to see his team trend upward now with the Rebels getting more comfortable with the shuffled lineup highlighted by Stefan Moody’s move to the point.

Ole Miss will be looking for its fourth straight win against SEMO, which is coached by former Mississippi State coach Rick Ray.

“Getting ready for league play in early January, you want to be able to put yourself in position so that the SEC has some relevance, and that’s what these games do for us,” Kennedy said.