Big Three have big tests this week

By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Jan. 15, 2001
As the Big Three prepare to begin the spring semester this week, their basketball teams also have big tests to pass.
The Ole Miss Rebels are smarting from Saturday's last minute collapse to the Georgia Bulldogs in front of a home crowd of nearly 8,200 people and a nationwide ESPN audience.
Despite the setback, Rod Barnes' group is 14-2, including a 2-1 mark in Southeastern Conference play. The Rebels, who had to finish up against the Dawgs without center Rahim Lockhart because of foul trouble, now hope to gain a bit of a foothold in the SEC West race by doing something arch rival Mississippi State could not get a win in Tuscaloosa.
The 16th-ranked Crimson Tide spanked the Bulldogs 72-59 Saturday night, dropping State to 9-4,1-2 in league play.
The Tide (13-2, 2-1) is rising high right now and appears to be doing so with a dose of defense and sophomore Rod Grizzard.
Bama held MSU's Tang Hamilton to just three points in the second half, while Grizzard lit up State for 27 points, including 17 after halftime.
The Rebels will have to find a way to contain Grizzard, and Lockhart will have to stay in the game.
For a Rebel squad that didn't win a road game after December in the previous campaign, Wednesday's game should go a long way in providing a measuring stick for the current West Division pecking order.
As if that exam weren't tough enough, the Rebels celebrate the George Bush inauguration Saturday by hosting Tubby Smith's Kentucky Wildcats.
That contest at Tad Smith Coliseum will be broadcast on CBS and will tip off at noon.
Things don't get any easier for the Bulldogs. The Tulane Green Wave makes its way to Starkville for a 7 p.m. tip Wednesday. The Greenies are coming off a blowout loss to the South Florida Bulls on Saturday. But Tulane did get by Louisville in overtime last week in the New Orleans Arena.
The Bulldogs wrap up the week by traveling to Knoxville to take on the powerful Tennessee Volunteers in a game which be aired by Jefferson Pilot Sports. The fourth-ranked Vols (16-1, 3-0) held down South Carolina 79-71 Saturday.
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles have won two straight after the Tampa, Fla. setback Jan. 6.
USM (12-3, 2-1 in Conference USA) begins a three-game homestand at Reed Green Coliseum this week.
Coach James Green's troops are still having to operate without leading scorer David Wall but haven't missed a beat. This week the Eagles host Sun Belt Conference power Louisiana-Lafayette. USM plays one of its biggest conference games of the season next Sunday when Denny Crum's Louisville Cardinals travel to the Hub City.
The 6 p.m. game can be seen on ESPN2.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at