Rebels make nice run in SEC tourney

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Ole Miss drew the line, Kentucky rubbed it out. And the Rebels, too.

The Rebels had made their mark before running into the Wildcats, even to the point of gaining &uot;most favorite&uot; status before the SEC tournament at Nashville. But the usual almost impossible Kentucky hurdle was there and, again, impregnable. But the No. 14 Rebels (at the time) were competitive a few minutes against the ‘Cats.

Ole Miss had slammed heralded Tennessee 86-73 on Friday in SEC tournament action. With OM’s one-two punch of Rahim Lockhart and Aaron Harper drawing the string around a Tennessee team that revels in dumping favorites in SEC basketball, the Rebels carried it to the Vols early and late for Ole Miss’ 24th victory.

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While Ole Miss went on to lose to Kentucky in the SEC finals, Rebel head coach Rod Barnes told the press that &uot;our guys are winners,&uot; even after the Kentucky loss. And when you think about it, I guess a 25-7 season record is a &uot;winning&uot; one. &uot;Now we have a sense of urgency,&uot; Barnes would say later.

And that’s correct – the Johnny Rebs, as the No. 3 seed, will face 14th-seeded Iona tomorrow, and the opening round game will be televised from Kemper Arena in Kansas City. So let’s see if Ole Miss is as good as I happen to think it is. Not a champion, I’m saying, but a potential contender. Certainly good enough to win a game or two.

Meantime, USM faced Mississippi State last night in the prestigious National Invitational Tournament starter up in Starkville in State’s imposing Humprey Coliseum.

USM shared the regular-season Conference USA title with Cincinnati, while tournament kingpin Charlotte rode that success into the NCAA Tournament with Cincinnati. It’s a shame the Southerners weren’t chosen. So all eyes were turned to Starkville Wednesday night when the Bullies and Eagles clashed. I don’t see anything wrong with winning in the NIT, whoever it is. Which reminds me – Coach James Green of USM’s hugely successful men’s basketball program is about one of the most deserving choices I’ve ever known for C-USA Coach of the Year.

HURRIED HASH: Bernard Callender, former Natchez High athlete that I’ll always remember, is a candidate for the College Football Hall of Fame, and Natchez-area members of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame chapter can vote for him. Just want the local members to know that I’m pitching for Bernard. He’s No. 41. Just one thing, though: You’ll notice that he’s listed on the ballot as &uot;Alfred,&uot; which happens to be his first name and not the name under which he gained fame at NHS then Louisiana College. Make a note now – they have him listed as &uot;Alfred.&uot;

At Natchez High, Bernard was a multi-sport athlete, and was selected All-Big Eight in football and basketball under the late Coach A. I. Rexinger. Bernard, who went on to make All-American at end for Louisiana College, caught 53 passes in 1950, his All-America season. Callender now lives in San Marcus, Texas and comes home now and then. Just remember, voters, &uot;Alfred&uot; on the ballot is really &uot;Bernard.&uot;

Glenvall Estes is a longtime columnist for The Democrat