GAME 14: Ole Miss (8-5) vs. Nicholls (6-5)
Saturday 01.03.09 | 2 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. | C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (Jeremy Kennedy, play-by-play; Keith Carter, analyst). Listen Online through RebelVision
REBELS HOST LAST TUNEUP BEFORE LEAGUE PLAY
Ole Miss returns to Tad Smith Coliseum on Saturday to face Nicholls in the Rebels’ final tuneup leading into Southeastern Conference play. David Huertas scored 23 points against Southern Miss on Tuesday, but the Rebels dropped a 78-59 decision to the Golden Eagles in a neutral-site contest in Biloxi, Miss. It was the first loss to USM since 1994. Huertas, a junior guard, continues to lead the young and injury-riddled Rebel squad as he averages 20.6 points per game, third-most in the SEC. Freshman Will Bogan has averaged 32.5 minutes per outing over the last two games in his new role as the team’s point guard following the season-ending knee injury to Chris Warren. Ole Miss owns a 7-0 all-time record against Nicholls and has won each of the last four meetings since 2003 by at least 20 points.
INJURIES PILING UP IN UNPRECEDENTED FASHION
To call the 2008-09 Ole Miss basketball season “injury-plagued” would be an understatement. Before conference play has even begun, the Rebels are down three key members of the backcourt to season-ending knee injuries. In an 11-day stretch during the first two weeks of play, the Rebels lost sophomore Trevor Gaskins (torn ACL in left knee) and junior Eniel Polynice (extensive cartilage damage and loose fragments in left knee). And then on Dec. 18, sophomore point guard Chris Warren suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on the Rebels’ last offensive possession of the 77-68 loss to No. 9 Louisville.
Gaskins and Polynice have both begun rehab following their surgeries, while Warren will undergo his procedure soon. All three are expected to be ready before the start of next season.
The team is applying for, and expects to be granted, medical hardship waivers for Gaskins and Polynice, which would give each an extra year of eligibility, while it is still uncertain if Warren will be eligible for the medical redshirt based on the number of games he has already played.
All three were primed to be key components of a Rebel backcourt touted by at least one preseason publication (Blue Ribbon Yearbook) as the best in the SEC. Warren goes out as the league’s fourth-leading scorer at 19.6 ppg and also ranking in the top 10 in assists, steals, free-throw percentage, three-pointers and assist-turnover ratio, while claiming the SEC’s top spot with 34.4 minutes played per game. Polynice averaged 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 34 games last year and was known as the team’s best defender, while Gaskins was a member of the SEC All-Freshman team with Warren.
SCOUTING THE COLONELS
Nicholls enters Saturday’s game with a 6-5 overall record. Ole Miss represents the third straight SEC opponent for the Colonels, who dropped a 68-56 decision to LSU on Dec. 17 before losing 74-68 to Mississippi State on Dec. 22. Nicholls is out-scoring opponents 69.5-61.9 on the season. Ryan Bathie leads three Colonels averaging double figures with 14.5 points per game. Anatoly Bose averages 13.0 ppg and a team-high 6.1 rpg, while Fred Hunter chips in 12.8 ppg. J.P. Piper owns a 39-87 record in his fifth season as the Colonels’ head coach.
OLE MISS-NICHOLLS SERIES
The Rebels have won all seven of the previous meetings with the Colonels. The teams last squared off on Nov. 24, 2006, when Ole Miss earned a 100-80 victory as seniors Todd Abernethy, Bam Doyne and Clarence Sanders each broke the 20-point mark with 23, 20 and 20, respectively, in Andy Kennedy’s first season at the Rebel helm. Ole Miss has beaten Nicholls by an average of 27.8 points over the last four meetings since 2003.
Ole Miss boasts a 37-10 record against teams outside the SEC since Andy Kennedy took over in 2006-07. Last year, the Rebels finished the regular season with a perfect 14-0 record against non-league foes, becoming the second Rebel squad to accomplish that feat (1948-49).
DEFENDING HOME COURT
Winning at home has been a trademark of Andy Kennedy’s squads since he took the reins in 2006-07. The 80-78 loss to West Virginia snapped a 25-game home win streak over non-league foes and a nine-game overall home win streak, but Ole Miss has come back to win the next two. Ole Miss is now 38-4 in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum over the last three seasons.
HOLLOWAY EARNS SEC FRESHMAN HONOR
After posting a monster game with career highs of 15 points and 16 rebounds against Florida A&M, forward Murphy Holloway was named the SEC Freshman of the Week by the league office on Monday. His double-double against the Rattlers was the first by a Rebel this season. The Irmo, S.C., native averages 7.8 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game on the year. He is the first Rebel to receive a weekly honor from the league office this season.
WARREN’S SEASON OVER
Sophomore point guard Chris Warren, a preseason All-SEC first team selection by league coaches, will miss the remainder of the season after an MRI revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament (as well as a minor MCL sprain, medial meniscus tear and lateral bone contusion) to his left knee. The injury occurred on a layup attempt on the Rebels’ last offensive possession of the 77-68 loss to No. 9 Louisville in Cincinnati on Dec. 18.
Through 11 games, the Orlando native was following up a sensational rookie campaign in which he broke the school’s three-point record and set the freshman scoring record by showing further improvement in several areas and ranking fourth in the SEC with 19.6 points per game.
Ole Miss had already been forced to make backcourt adjustments after sophomore Trevor Gaskins and junior Eniel Polynice went down with season-ending injuries in the first two weeks of the season, but all-star point guard Chris Warren’s injury means even more changes have been needed. Only four scholarship guards remain on the roster - junior David Huertas, sophomore Zach Graham and freshmen Will Bogan and Terrico White. Bogan has earned his first career starts in the last two games and played 32 and 33 minutes at the point. Senior non-scholarship Patrick Spach has see some minutes in a back-up role behind Bogan.
FREE-THROW SHOOTING EXPLOITS
Ole Miss ranks second among Southeastern Conference teams and eighth in the nation with a 77.7 free-throw percentage. The Rebels set a school record with a 22-for-22 performance at the line against South Alabama and shot 93.8 percent (15-of-16) from the stripe against Morgan State and 93.3 percent (14-15) last Monday vs. Florida A&M. Chris Warren ranks fourth in the SEC with his 85.5 percent free-throw shooting (59-of-69), while David Huertas ranks sixth at 81.4 (70-of-86). Zach Graham has only missed one free throw in 20 attempts (95.0 percent), while Terrance Henry is hitting at an 82.1 percent clip (23-of-28).
It is a marked improvement from a year ago, when the Rebels made just 65.1 percent of their attempts. In fact, Ole Miss has already had more games in which it shot 80 percent or better from the charity stripe this year (5) than all of last season (3).
FIRST GAME WITHOUT WARREN A SUCCESS
Ole Miss responded to the loss of its all-star point guard with an impressive 86-63 win over Florida A&M last Monday. With the loss of Chris Warren’s 19.6 points per game, the Rebels were looking for those points to come from somewhere, and four Rebels scored in double figures against the Rattlers, led by freshman guard Terrico White and sophomore forward Malcolm White with 18 points apiece. Junior guard David Huertas had 15 points, and freshman forward Murphy Holloway posted the first double-double by an Ole Miss player this season with career highs of 15 points and 16 rebounds. Freshman Will Bogan filled in at the point and logged 32 minutes in his first career start. He scored 6 points, dished out 3 assists and turned the ball over just twice. Led by the frontcourt, Ole Miss out-rebounded FAMU 47-22.
Last year, All-SEC center Dwayne Curtis ranked second in the SEC with 9.6 rebounds per game and topped the nation in offensive boards. After losing Curtis and two other frontcourt seniors to graduation, the Rebels have been looking for a player or two to help replace some of the lost production this season. Freshman forward Murphy Holloway leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game and had a monster game on the glass vs. Florida A&M as he posted the Rebels’ first double-double of the year with 15 points and 16 boards. Sophomore forward Malcolm White has also shown promise, grabbing nine rebounds in two of the last four games. DeAundre Cranston grabbed nine boards against Louisville and had 12 in the win over UCF on Nov. 26.
STARTING LINEUP = REVOLVING DOOR
Injuries and matchup issues have contributed to Andy Kennedy’s Ole Miss starting lineups showing many different looks from game-to-game this season. All 11 available scholarship players have earned at least one starting nod, and Kennedy has employed eight unique lineup combinations through 13 games. Junior guard David Huertas is the only Rebel to have started every contest.
REBELS SHOW RESOLVE VERSUS LOUISVILLE
Amidst strange off-court circumstances surrounding the Ole Miss team on Dec. 18, the Rebel squad proved resilient on the court despite a 77-68 loss to the 9th-ranked Louisville Cardinals in the SEC/BIG EAST Invitational. Down by as many as 18 points in the first half, Ole Miss fought back to tie the score at 67 on a Chris Warren 3-pointer with 5:29 remaining. David Huertas scored 17 of his team-high 20 points in the second half, while Warren also contributed to the comeback with 18 points before leaving the game in the final 30 seconds with what was later found to be a torn ACL. The Rebels forced Louisville into 16 turnovers with 11 steals, while only committing seven turnovers. Ole Miss also grabbed 43 rebounds, the second-most in a game this season.
HUERTAS TAKES GAME TO A NEW LEVEL
David Huertas has had a hot shooting touch in the Rebels’ first 13 games, averaging a team-high 20.6 points, good for 2nd in the SEC and 23rd in the nation. The junior guard has scored 20 or more points in 9 of the 13 contests, including 23 in the most recent outing vs. Southern Miss. He had 20 agianst No. 9 Louisville and set or tied career highs with 8 free-throws, 2 blocks and 4 steals against the Cardinals. He ranks second in the SEC in 3’s per game (2.9) and third in 3-point percentage (40.9). Against South Alabama, he poured in a season-high 27 points and tied his career high with 7 three’s, which is also tied for the second-highest single-game total in school history. Huertas’ production was kick-started by his finish last year, when he was instrumental in the Rebels’ run to the NIT Semifinals, averaging 16.1 points, 5.0 rebs and 4.0 three’s over the final 8 games. He ranks among the SEC leaders in several categories this year, as listed below:
Huertas’ SEC Ranks (AS OF 1/1)
Category SEC/NCAA Rank Statistic
Points 2nd/23rd 20.6/game
FG Percentage 14th 47.1
FT Percentage 6th 81.4
3-pt FG Percentage 3rd 40.9
3-pt FGs Made T-2nd 2.9/game
Minutes Played 3rd 32.4/game
20-POINT SCORING GAMES
David Huertas and Chris Warren have made scoring 20 or more points commonplace in the early going this season. Huertas has cracked the 20-point mark 9 times in the first 13 games, while Warren had done so five times prior to his season-ending injury. In fact, three times this year the two guards have both notched 20 or more in the same game, including wins over Marshall (Warren 28, Huertas 21) and Morgan State (Warren 25, Huertas 22) and a 2-point loss to West Virginia (Huertas 23, Warren 20). For their career, Warren now has 14 20+ point outings, while Huertas has racked up 10.
RECORDS THAT WERE MEANT TO BE BROKEN
In just their second season playing for the Red and Blue, Chris Warren and David Huertas have both moved up Ole Miss’ career three-point charts at a break-neck pace. With 25 treys this year, Warren eclipsed Clarence Sanders for seventh place on the all-time list with 128. Huertas has knocked down 38 from long range and is now in ninth place in the Rebel records with 113.
OLE MISS CAREER THREE-POINT FIELD GOALS
1. 278 Aaron Harper (123 games, 2001-04)
2. 249 Keith Carter (117 games, 1996-1999)
3. 214 Joe Harvell (114 games, 1990-93)
4. 163 Jason Harrison (132 games, 1999-02)
5. 158 Todd Abernethy (122 games, 2004-07)
6. 131 Joezon Darby (81 games, 1996-98)
7. 128 Chris Warren (46 games, 2008-present)
8. 127 Clarence Sanders (60 games, 2006-07)
9. 113 David Huertas (48 games, 2008-present)
HUERTAS & WARREN SHOULDERING THE LOAD
Leading up to Chris Warren’s season-ending knee injury, junior guard David Huertas and Warren made up a potent duo playing the majority of minutes and scoring most of the points for the Rebels. Through 11 games, each was averaging over 32 minutes per game (Warren-34.4, Huertas-32.5), while the duo combined for 40.5 points per contest, 52.9 percent of the team’s 77.5 average. In fact, Huertas and Warren were the Rebels’ top two scorers in 10 of the first 11 games. At the time of Warren’s injury, Huertas ranked second in the SEC with 20.9 points per game, while Warren was fourth at 19.6. Entering the previous week, Ole Miss was one of two teams in the nation with a pair of players averaging 20+ points (VMI’s Chavis and Travis Holmes - 21.0 and 20.1 ppg).
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Will Bogan: Has made first two career starts, averaging 32.5 ppg against FAMU and Southern Miss ... Served as Chris Warren’s back-up at point guard through first 11 games ... Set season high with 8 points against Marshall.
Kevin Cantinol: Redshirt-freshman forward set career highs with 8 points (4-4 FGs), 4 rebounds and 23 minutes played in the 78-65 win at New Orleans ... Earned his first career start at New Mexico.
DeAundre Cranston: JUCO transfer had 9 rebounds against No. 9 Louisville ... Set a season high with 12 rebounds along with 8 points vs. UCF ... Started his first game as a Rebel vs. Marshall ... Had 9 points and 5 rebounds vs. South Alabama ... Despite a wide, 6-9 frame, has the ability to connect from long range.
Zach Graham: Has hit 19-of-20 free throws through the first 13 games ... 8 points with season-high 7 rebounds in start vs. No. 9 Louisville ... Scored 12 points at New Mexico ... Contributed 9 points and 5 boards vs. UCF ... Just hours after learning that junior guard Eniel Polynice would miss the remainder of the season, Graham stepped into Polynice’s spot in the starting lineup vs. South Alabama and responded with a career-high 16 points, including 3-for-4 from the field, 2-of-3 from downtown and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw stripe.
Terrance Henry: 6-foot-9 forward is hitting free throws at an 82.1 percent clip (23-of-28) ... Tied season high with 9 points at New Mexico, also blocked 3 shots ... Had 9 points vs. Morgan State ... Season-high 8 rebounds vs. UCF ... Earned a spot in the starting lineup for the first three games of his collegiate career ... Tallied 8 points and 7 rebounds vs. Utah ... Had 8 points and 6 boards against South Alabama.
Murphy Holloway: Leads team with a 5.9 rebounding average ... Posted team’s first double-double of season with 15 points and 16 rebounds vs. Florida A&M ... Leads team and ranks fifth in SEC with 3.0 offensive boards per game ... 7 rebounds vs. No. 9 Louisville ... Set career high with 15 points vs. Alabama State, including 5-5 FTs ... Earned first career start and scored 11 points with 5 rebounds vs. West Virginia ... Scored 11 points with 6 boards vs. Utah ... Picked up 4 steals vs. Marshall.
Malcolm White: Tops the team and ranks ninth in the SEC in blocked shots with 21 (1.6/game) ... Had breakout night vs. Florida A&M, scoring career-high 18 points (8-11 FGs) with a career high-tying 9 rebounds and 3 blocks ... 12 points, 9 boards vs. Alabama State ... Has started 10 games as a sophomore after playing in 26 contests with no starts his rookie season.
Terrico White: Breakout performance vs. Florida A&M with career-high 18 points to go with 4 assists and 2 steals ... Scored 13 points on 5-of-7 field goals and 3-of-4 three’s in start vs. West Virginia ... 7 points with season-high 6 rebounds vs. Morgan State ... Earned his first starting nod in the 82-78 win over Marshall ... Season-high 5 assists vs. South Alabama ... First Memphis signee for Kennedy’s program.
OLE MISS ALL-CENTURY TEAM VOTING
As part of the celebration of the First 100 Years of Ole Miss Basketball, the athletics department will be naming an All-Century Team and are asking fans to help determine the honorees by voting online at OleMissSports.com. Click the All-Century Team link at the top right of the page.
The list of nominees includes any Rebel that earned All-SEC honors or scored 1,000 or more points in his career. Voting ends Jan. 31 at midnight. Fans must limit their selections to 10 and are asked to submit online only one ballot per person. The top 10 fan vote-getters will be guaranteed a spot on the All-Century team. The athletics department will determine any remaining members of the squad after consultation with the M-Club Alumni Chapter.
The celebration will culminate with the unveiling of the All-Century Team at the Feb. 21 game against Georgia at Tad Smith Coliseum.