OXFORD, Miss. (AP)—It was going to take a lot more than flu-like symptoms to slow down Rodney Carney.
Memphis’ sixth man fought through dizziness and nausea to score 19 points and lead the fifth-ranked Tigers to their fifth straight victory, a 72-49 rout of Mississippi on Saturday.
Carney, a senior captain and the preseason player of the year in Conference USA, vomited into a trash can near the baseline before the game.
“Once I got going, the sickness kind of subsided,” Carney said.
He showed no visible signs of illness during the game, effortlessly running the floor and turning breakaway passes into highlight-reel dunks.
“As soon as they shot it—he didn’t leave early—he just took off and looked, and (point guard Andre Allen) kept throwing it to him,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “That’s why he was dunking balls.”
The Tigers (8-1) made it look easy. They never trailed, led by as many as 24 points and shot nearly 44 percent.
Calipari started three freshmen and two sophomores, but the Tigers received the bulk of their production from their sick sixth man whose flashy performance sent home happy a huge group of Memphis fans who made the 90-mile drive to Oxford.
“All three years, I’ve been a starter, and whatever (Calipari) thinks he needs to do for us to win,” Carney said. “If it’s coming off the bench and giving a spark, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not mad about it at all. If he starts me, if he puts me on the bench, I’m going to be ready to play.”
Shawne Williams added 13 points for the Tigers, while Darius Washington Jr., hampered by a lingering thigh injury, played just 8 minutes and finished with five points—more than 10 below his average.
The Tigers turned this one into a rout with a dominating finish to the first half.
Ole Miss pulled to 23-22 on a 3-pointer by Todd Abernethy with just under 6 minutes left until halftime. Memphis countered with a Carney-keyed 16-4 run over the final 5:18 to push its lead into double figures for good.
Carney played tight defense and scored six points during that stretch, and capped it by converting a three-point play after he was fouled on a dunk to make it 39-26 at halftime. Ole Miss didn’t get closer than 11 points in the second half.
“I know you saw some high-flying dunks, but the thing that grabs me is, he said `Hey, (Ole Miss guard Clarence) Sanders is hurting us. Let me guard him,”’ Calipari said. “That’s what we need, and that’s the kind of stuff that’s going to get us to the next level of where we’re trying to go.”
Sanders led the Rebels (6-3) with 13 points. Leading scorer Dwayne Curtis was held to six points, more than six below his average, and the 290-pound transfer from Auburn was largely ineffective against the quicker Tigers.
“We’re still trying to understand that each possession is a big possession,” Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said. “I was proud that we weren’t afraid and we didn’t back up, but we missed opportunities that really hurt us early, and against a team like that, you can’t miss opportunities.”
Memphis outrebounded Ole Miss 50-33 and held the Rebels to 29 percent shooting.
“We’re so light, they’re so big, 250 (pounds). We’re 225,” Williams said. “We had to show them we weren’t no little boys.”
The Rebels haven’t beaten a ranked non-Southeastern Conference opponent since upsetting then-No. 22 Memphis four years ago.
The Tigers lead the series 25-11. Ole Miss snapped Memphis’ 24-game home winning streak last season.