Ole Miss Head Coach Rod Barnes Weekly Press Conference

Jan. 27, 2003

(Opening Comments)
We're excited about this week, and this is an important week for our basketball team. First, we play our in-state rival Mississippi State and then go on the road to Vanderbilt. It's an important week because we have the opportunity to fight for the top spot in the Western Division. It's a big game at home and a big game on the road.

I like where our team is at this point. We've got a lot of room for improvement. This is a big week for our inside guys because we will see Mario Austin, Marcus Campbell, Branden Vincent and Michal Ignerski Wednesday night, and then we have to go and play against Vanderbilt's big men Saturday. It's an important week for us because we're going up against two teams that are bigger than we are.

For the most part, I'm pleased with where we are. We need to get better on the defensive end. We are scoring at a rate that we need to score, but hopefully we can get more consistent in our scoring where we don't have to go on big runs to win games.

We're somewhat healthy, but we have four players that are struggling with flu-like symptoms. We're hoping to have everybody for Wednesday's game.

(On Aaron Harper named SEC Player of the Week)
I'm excited about Aaron Harper and our basketball team. When you get individual honors, they are results of very good team basketball. In last week's two games, Aaron played well. We got the basketball to him. He ran good routes, and he shot the ball well. I'm happy for Aaron, and I also think it speaks well for our basketball team.

(Talk about Mississippi State's balance)
They're a good basketball team. When you have a good point guard like Derrick Zimmerman and a good post player in Mario Austin, it makes everyone else better. Timmy Bowers is scoring a lot of points, and it's a result of Zimmerman getting him the ball. You can't leave him open because he can really shoot the ball.

Mario Austin is whom most defenses are keying on. You can't guard him one-on-one in most situations. As a result, Timmy Bowers is getting several open looks and he's scoring a lot of points because of Austin's inside play and the play of Zimmerman at the point.

(On how to defend Mario Austin)
If he doesn't have the ball, he can't score. But, that is difficult to do. We're got to try to limit his touches, but they have a veteran point guard and good players on the perimeter. We're not going to stop him from getting the ball, but we have to limit his touches. He's going to get a certain number of points and rebounds and you can write that down in the book. That's going to happen. You just don't want him to have an unbelievable night. If we can keep him around his average and cut down some of what the others have been averaging, then you give yourself a better chance to win.

(On David Sanders' recent play)
When we started conference play the way we did, David concentrated on scoring because he thought we needed that. He put a lot of pressure on himself to score. The last three games he has played solid basketball. Now, he has done back to defending well. We challenged him to take care of the ball. He had four or five turnovers against Tennessee, and the last three games, he has none or one turnover (Sanders has 0 turnovers in the last three games). That tells me he is more focused about what he is doing with the basketball. As a result, he is getting assists, is more patient on offense and is also scoring more. I thought David had an unbelievable practice leading up to the Arkansas game. The game before against Alabama, he almost had a triple-double (15 points, 8 boards, 8 assists). He is getting back to the David Sanders we have come to know. He is one of the players who is under the weather, so we're hoping he gets healthy before Wednesday's game because we're going to need him.

(Who does David Sanders defend Wednesday, Zimmerman or Bowers?)
We haven't decided yet. We could place him on Timmy Bowers and not allow him to touch the ball or get as many attempts as he has in the past. It could be Derrick Zimmerman, who runs their team. I just came from watching tape on them, and we'll probably go through today's practice and make a decision on that tonight. Then, we'll work that way in practice on Tuesday. It can go either way. We believe David can take people out of their game, and we just have to figure out who we want him to guard.

(Who on the team has flu-like symptoms?)
David Sanders, Kendall Granderson and Jonathan Loe all are under the weather, and Justin Reed is coughing. Those are the guys that are sick.

(On the difficulty guarding Aaron Harper)
He is difficult to guard. He went into the LSU game shooting 50 percent from the three, and you saw what happened against Alabama, and they put several guys on him. Arkansas came out and took the three away from him, but he put the ball on the floor and made passes. He is now able to put the ball on the floor and make baskets. I don't know if he is unguardable, but he is difficult to guard. I visited with him this morning, and he told me that he could get better with some more work. With that type of attitude, he'll become unstoppable if he keeps working hard.

And let me clarify unstoppable. What I consider unstoppable is a Mario Austin or a Jarvis Hayes. Those guys are going to get a certain amount of points regardless of what you do. Mario Austin is going to score in our game Wednesday no matter if we play zone or triple-team him. The only way he doesn't score is if they don't play him or if he gets hurt and goes out of the game. You just try to limit the amount of touches he gets. Aaron Harper is playing right now like he is unstoppable. If he continues to play this way, he's going to score regardless of who they put on him or what defense they play.

 

 

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