n The Tigers are 5-10 in their last 15 games.

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

CLEMSON, S.C. - The opponent is always quality in the postseason.

But there are lots of reasons for optimism as Ole Miss faces Clemson in an NIT second-round game tonight.

The Tigers are 5-10 in their last 15 games. They attracted just 3,150 fans to 10,900-seat Littlejohn Coliseum for a 64-57 first-round win over East Tennessee State. That was with students in school; they're out on spring break now.

One disadvantage looms large for Ole Miss going into round two.

The Rebels are still playing on the road.

South Region No. 4 seed Ole Miss and No. 1 seed Clemson tip off at 6 p.m., and the game will be televised by ESPN.

"On the road we hang around, the home team makes a push, we don't respond. I think that's the difference," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.

The Rebels are 21-11 overall, the fourth-winningest team in school history after Wednesday's 73-59 victory against Appalachian State.

Ole Miss, however, is just 2-10 in an opponent's gym.

Oddly, the Rebels' best road efforts were earlier in the season rather than later.

They won 82-72 at South Alabama in December, then blew the doors off Auburn 82-59 in early February.

Along the way the Rebels pushed LSU late in Baton Rouge and had a chance at Vanderbilt in the final minute.

But with the SEC Western Division race on the line, they couldn't guard Patrick Beverley at Arkansas and were lethargic at South Carolina and Alabama.

"I thought we just ran into a buzz saw at Arkansas," Kennedy said. "I didn't think we played very well at South Carolina or at Alabama for sure."

Clemson (22-10) went 14-4. The four losses were against ACC foes North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Duke.

"Coach wants us to go out and play free, to not have stress and to attack," Ole Miss guard Brian Smith said. "On the road you want to attack first. You don't want to be on your heels."

"We just want to make sure we bring the road approach," forward Kenny Williams said. "On the road you feel like you have to go against the team, the fans, and you have to get your mentality straight for even the refs."

The Rebels will have to get their mentality right for a team that will press like Tennessee but will be as big and athletic as Auburn.

The Tigers are led by guard K.C. Rivers with 13.3 points a game. Forward James Mays (6-9, 225) and Vernon Hamilton have combined for 124 steals.

Rivers had 17 points and 14 rebounds against East Tennessee State.

"People press you for different reasons," Kennedy said. "They're pressing to turn you over and make you play faster. We've got to be able to withstand the initial heat of their pressure."

Ole Miss had 16 turnovers against Appalachian State.

Clemson has won two of three meetings against Ole Miss, the last coming in 1982 when the Rebels won at Clemson 53-49 in an NIT opening-round game.

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