Ole Miss Gets the Monkey Off Its Back

March 13, 1999

By NANCY ARMOUR
AP Sports Writer

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The Ole Miss players can finally relax, knowing they'll never again have to talk about how they're still winless in the NCAA tournament. It's such a momentous occasion Keith Carter even got a new haircut.

But if his players think they can coast from here, coach Rod Barnes would like a word with them.

"We've got a basketball game to play and we need to win the basketball game," he said Saturday. "Nothing to lose? If you play you've got something lose."

The Rebels beat Villanova on Friday night for their first NCAA win in four tries. Ole Miss came close last year, only to lose to Valparaiso on Bryce Drew's buzzer-beater 3-pointer.

Now that they've gotten their first victory, however, the Rebels must play top-seeded Michigan State on Sunday in the second round of the Midwest Regional. The Spartans have won 19 straight, including a 76-53 rout of Mount St. Mary's in the first round.

"Nobody's going to expect us to be in the game tomorrow, much less win," Carter said. "So we're just going to go out and play the best we can, and hope that some of the pressure's going to be on them.

"Now that we've got that one out of the way, we're just looking forward to taking this thing as far as we can," Carter added.

But his players had better be more than just happy to be here Sunday, Barnes said. Barnes, a former Ole Miss player, is as thrilled as anyone the Rebels finally won a tournament game.

There's another game to play, however, and he's not about to hand it to Michigan State.

"I think they (players) feel somewhat relieved," Barnes said. "But I don't because I know what can happen if we don't come out and be prepared tomorrow." ---

OVERCOMING HISTORY

Any time the Ole Miss band plays "Dixie" or a Rebel fan waves a Confederate flag, Rod Barnes knows there are people who will cringe.

The song and flag are painful reminders of the Deep South's history of racial inequity, and coaches at some schools have blamed the Rebel flag for hampering recruitment of black athletes. The Confederate battle flag was a rallying point for segregationists during the civil rights struggle.

But instead of dwelling on the Deep South's past, Barnes would prefer to look at its progress.

"Thirty years ago, an African-American wouldn't have even had the chance to go to the University of Mississippi. Now I'm the head coach at the University of Mississippi," said Barnes, who grew up in Mississippi. "So there are strides that are being taken, and we're going to continue to do that."


 

 

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