Centenary-Mississippi Preview

BY foxsports • December 21, 2009

Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy is pleased with his team's poise so far this season. It's the occasional lapses in focus he could do without.

The 20th-ranked Rebels shouldn't have to concentrate too much to defeat visiting Centenary on Saturday.

Strong starts have been a trademark in Kennedy's four seasons at Mississippi, but earning their recent wins has proved far from easy for the Rebels (9-1).

They trailed visiting Southern Miss by six with a minute remaining Dec. 5, but Chris Warren's two 3-pointers and Eniel Polynice's dunk with two seconds left gave them an 81-79 win. A week later, the Rebels trailed McNeese State by 15 in the second half before rallying for an 83-67 home victory.

Ole Miss endured another roller-coaster performance Wednesday night against Texas-El Paso in nearby Southaven, Miss.

The Rebels squandered a 10-point second-half lead, and then rallied from 12 down in the final 5:31 of regulation before pulling out a 91-81 victory over the Miners as Warren scored 11 of his career-high 32 points in the extra period.

"One thing that I can say with all assurance is our team never panics,'' Kennedy said. "I told our team we play excellent basketball for periods of time and then we go from excellent to horrible, then back to excellent. I'd like to get in that in the average to good (range). I'd like to stay out of horrible."

Warren has had few, if any, stretches of horrible in helping Mississippi rally in those three victories, averaging 24.0 points while shooting 46.9 percent (15 for 32) from 3-point range.

Mississippi is trying to win six straight for the first time since its school-record 13-0 start in 2007-08.

The Gentlemen (4-5) returned only five players from last season's squad following the school's decision to move from Division I to Division III in 2011-12. The most notable absence is Chase Adams, the Summit League defensive player of the year and the team's second-leading scorer from last season who transferred to Pittsburgh.

Sophomore guard David Perez, among the nine underclassmen on Centenary's 12-man roster, has averaged a team-best 21.4 points in his place and hasn't scored fewer than 15 in a game this season.

Perez and freshman guard Daman Starring each had five 3-pointers and 19 points Dec. 12 against visiting Louisiana Tech, but the Gents suffered their third straight defeat, 102-96 in double overtime.

Centenary is playing its first Top 25 team since a 97-52 loss at No. 15 Texas on Dec. 22, 2004. The Gents have played two big-conference opponents this season, losing to Marquette and Oklahoma by a combined 47 points.

The schools have split 12 all-time meetings, but Ole Miss has won three straight since 1966-67, including two home victories this decade.

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