Live Radio | Live StatsSEC OPENER: Ole Miss (11-3) vs. Kentucky (11-3)
January 6, 2007 7:30 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,700)
Live TV: FSN South (Dave Neal, play-by-play; Barry Booker, analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, analyst; Richard Cross, analyst)
SIRIUS: Channel 119
OLE MISS TIPS OFF SEC PLAY WITH UK
Ole Miss opens Southeastern Conference play Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats. The Rebels are beginning SEC play at home for only the third time in the last 12 years and are doing so against UK for the first time since the 1983-84 season. Ole Miss is off to an 11-3 start for the second straight season. The Rebels had their four-game win streak end last Saturday in a 59-56 loss at Saint Louis. Ole Miss led by as much as 16 in the game, but despite 22 points and 9 rebounds from Bam Doyne, could not hold off the Billikens’ second-half charge.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Kentucky is riding a six-game win streak and coming off a 77-70 home win over Houston Thursday. The Wildcats enter league play at 11-3 with the three losses coming away from Lexington against nationally-ranked clubs North Carolina, Memphis and UCLA. Tubby Smith’s Wildcats have a trio of returning juniors leading the team. Center Randolph Morris ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring (16.9 ppg) and seventh in rebounding (8.1 rpg). Guard Ramel Bradley is dropping in 13.3 points, while backcourt mate Joe Crawford is adding 12.4.
OLE MISS-KENTUCKY SERIES
Saturday’s game will be the 105th meeting between the two schools. The Wildcats hold a 93-11 lead in the series, which began in 1925. Beginning with the 2001 SEC Tournament finals win in Nashville, Kentucky has taken seven straight in the series. In last season’s meetings, UK took an 80-40 win in Lexington in which Rebel leading scorer and rebounder Dwayne Curtis did not play, and later picked up a 71-57 victory in the first round of the SEC Tournament.
Kentucky holds a 26-8 series advantage in games played in Oxford but holds a narrow 3-2 edge in the last five encounters in Tad Smith Coliseum. Ole Miss last defeated Kentucky 65-55 in Oxford in 2000-01.
IMPRESSIVE PRE-LEAGUE SEASON
Ole Miss ended the non-conference portion of its schedule with an 11-3 mark, with all three losses coming on the road to No. 19 UConn 77-59, No. 16 Memphis 82-70 and Saint Louis 59-56 Saturday. Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an impressive 133-44 record (.751 winning percentage) versus non-conference opponents. Ole Miss has been particularly dominant against out of conference clubs at home. Last year’s loss to No. 5 Memphis was only the Rebels’ fifth non-SEC home loss since 1995, and Ole Miss was a flawless 8-0 this season.
REBELS IN SEC OPENERS
The Rebels have an overall record of 26-47 in Southeastern Conference openers in their previous 73 years of play in the league. In the last 13 years, Ole Miss has a 5-8 record in SEC openers with the victories coming in 1994-95 (Arkansas, 76-71), 1996-97 (at Arkansas, 91-74), 1997-98 (South Carolina, 73-54), 2000-01 (at Vanderbilt, 81-68) and 2005-06 (at Alabama, 71-61). Last year's Rebel victory marked their first in Tuscaloosa in eight years.
OLE MISS IN SEC HOME OPENERS
The Rebels have an overall record of 35-38 in their first SEC home game of the year. Ole Miss ended a streak of three straight league home-opening losses with last year's 68-63 win over South Carolina. The Rebels are 5-5 in their last 10 SEC home openers.
Saturday’s game is a special one for Ole Miss junior guard Brian Smith, as he will be opposing his famous father. The youngest son of UK coach Tubby Smith, Brian is the first of the three sons to not play for his dad. G.G. Smith was a 1998 All-SEC pick and four-year guard at Georgia 1996-99, while Saul started at the point on three SEC Champion Kentucky squads and played for the Wildcats 1998-2001.
Andy Kennedy’s style of “pressure basketball” has paid some dividends for the 11-3 Rebels, particular on the offensive side. Ole Miss is averaging 76.4 points per game, a 11.2 raise from a year ago, and connecting on 38.4 percent of its 3-pointers, which is a 5.6 improvement and ranks fifth in the SEC. The Rebels’ 100-80 victory over Nicholls marked only the second time since 2001 for the team to reach the century mark in points. Ole Miss’ current scoring clip is the highest since averaging 77.0 per game in 1998-99.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Ole Miss is one of the SEC’s best when it comes to turnovers, ranking second in fewest giveaways (12.4), third in turnover margin (+3.29) and fourth in assist/turnover ratio (1.18). The Rebels have been in single-digit in turnovers in six games. Starting senior guard Todd Abernethy is easily the SEC leader in assist/turnover ratio at 3.40.
HITTING THE BOARDS
Ole Miss has been a fierce rebounding team of late, outdoing the opposition in five straight games. Among those outings is a 39-26 edge at South Alabama and a lopsided 57-30 advantage against Alabama A&M. The Rebels have risen to third in the SEC in offensive rebounds (14.29 per game). That improvement has coincided with the return of Dwayne Curtis, who is grabbing 9.7 boards per game in his six games back. Kenny Williams has also helped lead the charge, averaging 7.8 rebounds over the last nine games. He ranks third in the SEC on the offensive boards (3.2) and is tied with teammate Bam Doyne for 11th in overall rebounding (6.4).
The Rebels currently rank third in the SEC in free throw percentage at 71.5. That figure is over 8 points better than last year’s 63.0 percentage and would be the highest since firing at a 72.6 clip in 2002-03. The Ole Miss seniors are leading the charge with Bam Doyne at 83.3, Todd Abernethy at 85.2 and Clarence Sanders at 82.1.
The Rebels’ loss at Saint Louis last Saturday went against the team’s trends for the season. Up 34-21 at the break, Ole Miss lost a halftime lead for the first time all year (7-1) and was also defeated despite outrebounding a foe (7-1) with a 37-33 edge over the Billikens on the boards. It also marked season lows in points (56) and free throw attempts (4) for the Rebels.
DOYNE IT ALL
Bam Doyne is among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking third in scoring (18.1), 11th in rebounding (6.4), 13th in field goal percentage (44.6), second in free throw accuracy (83.3) and eighth in minutes played (32.07). The senior guard has topped the team or tied for the team-lead in scoring in six games, including 22 in last Saturday’s Saint Louis game. The SLU performance marked his ninth 20-point game in the Red and Blue and sixth of the year, which includes a career-high 28 in the win at South Alabama and a pair of 25-point outings against Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe. Doyne has also notched his first two career double-doubles this season with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Nicholls and 20 points and a career-best 12 boards against Fairfield. Doyne has led or tied the team-lead in rebounds six times, including 9 boards at Saint Louis.
With only six games under his belt, Dwayne Curtis is looking like his old self, notching three double-doubles and narrowly missing another. He had his best game yet against Alabama A&M, posting season highs and team highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds. In his second game back, the preseason All-SEC honoree reached a double-double less than 15 minutes into the UL-Monroe contest and finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. He nearly repeated that feat at South Alabama with 16 points and 9 boards, and against UIC, he registered 13 points and 12 rebounds. Curtis suffered a stress fracture of the third metatarsal in his left foot in the third day of preseason practice and missed the first eight games of the year.
In his first season in the Red and Blue, Curtis earned AP All-SEC honorable mention status and NABC All-District second team honors. He ranked among the league leaders in nine categories and topped Ole Miss in scoring (13.6), rebounding (7.6), steals (1.6), blocks (0.6) and field goal percentage (.568, which ranked second in the SEC). Curtis scored in double-figures in 21 games with six 20-point outings and seven double-doubles.
After a streaky first season in the Red and Blue, Clarence Sanders has been a steady point provider for the Rebels this year and red hot of late, averaging 18.0 points and hitting 53.3 percent of his treys (16-of-30) over the last four games. The senior guard hit 11 straight shots at one point, posting a perfect second half against UIC and connecting on his first five attempts against Alabama A&M. Sanders has scored in double-figures in 12 of the last 13 games and ranks seventh in the SEC at 15.7 points per game. He is also fourth in 3s per game (2.50) and sixth in the league in 3-point percentage (42.7). In the win over UIC, the senior guard connected on 4-of-6 treys in leading the Rebels with 20, and he hit his first four 3s in scoring 23 against Alabama A&M, marking his seventh career 20-point outing. Sanders drilled 4-of-7 treys in pouring in 22 points against Louisiana-Lafayette, and he struck for a team-high 21 against Fairfield and 20 against Nicholls. After posting a .357 shooting clip a year ago, Sanders boasts a 46.3 field goal percentage this season, which is ninth-best in the conference.
RAISING HIS GAME
Senior guard Todd Abernethy has raised his scoring average and assist total in each of his seasons as a Rebel, and this year, those figures are jumping again. He is averaging 9.3 points and turned in the best offensive game of his career against Nicholls with 23 points, missing only two shots all night. Abernethy is the SEC leader in assist/turnover ratio (3.40) and ranks third in the SEC in assists (5.23 per game). He is averaging 7.3 assists over the last four games and equaled his career-best assist total at South Alabama with 9 handouts.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Todd Abernethy: The senior guard missed the first game of his career against Louisiana-Lafayette. He was injured three minutes into the season opener after his head collided with an opposing player’s shoulder on a screen. He suffered a slight concussion and had five stitches over his right eye. After sitting out the ULL game, the three-time Team Captain returned to the Ole Miss starting lineup with 13 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds against Fairfield.
Trey Hampton: After missing two games with sickness, the sophomore forward returned to the court against New Orleans and added 5 points and 4 boards ... Hampton enjoyed his best game of the year against Central Arkansas. With Kenny Williams slowed by a sprained ankle, Hampton earned his first start of 2006-07 and posted season highs in minutes (25), points (8), rebounds (5) and assists (2). He was also 2-of-4 from behind the arc.
Xavier Hansbro: After making no starts as a rookie, the sophomore forward received the starting nod in the season’s first two games. In his first career start in the opening win over Mississippi Valley State, the Trezevant, Tenn., native responded with his second double-digit scoring outing as a Rebel, dropping in 11 points along with 6 rebounds. Coincidentally, Hansbro’s only other double-figure game was in last year’s season opener, when he hit 4-of-6 3-pointers for 12 points against Southern Utah.
Greg Hardy: The two-sport athlete suited up for his first game with the Rebel basketball team against Alabama A&M and posted 1 steal in 3 minutes of action. He also saw 3 minutes at Saint Louis. A freshman from Memphis who is also a member of the Ole Miss football team, Hardy began practicing with the team on Nov. 27, following the Rebels’ Egg Bowl victory over Mississippi State in the season finale on the gridiron. As a rookie on the football team, Hardy played in all 12 games on the defensive line, tying for the team-lead in sacks (3.0) and ranking fifth in total tackles (49). His four fumble recoveries also tied for third in the SEC, and against MSU, he saw his first action at wide receiver and hauled in a 23-yard touchdown.
Andy Ogide: After playing in only three of the first 12 games, the freshman forward received the starting nod for the first time in his career in the win over Alabama A&M. Ogide saw 11 minutes of action and posted 3 points and 5 rebounds. He had his best game against Louisiana-Monroe with 7 points on 3-for-3 shooting.
Jermey Parnell: After only five double-figures scoring games in his first two seasons, the junior forward has already scored 10 or more points six times this year. In the win over Tennessee Tech, Parnell tallied 14 points and 8 rebounds, and he followed up with 13 points and 4 boards against Nicholls. Against New Orleans, the Gosnell, Ark., native established a career high in scoring with 16 points, going 5-for-5 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw stripe.
Eniel Polynice: He has posted a pair of double-digit scoring performances, and over the last seven games, has hit 6-of-12 3-pointers. The freshman guard had his best game as a Rebel against New Orleans, knocking down 4-of-4 3-pointers in totaling 15 points, 3 assists and 3 steals. Polynice dropped in 12 of his points in the second half in helping Ole Miss rally from 7 down early in the stanza. He followed up with 10 points in a career-high 29 minutes at Memphis. Down 12-3 early, Polynice came off the bench to score three of the next four Ole Miss baskets to help ignite a 21-11 Rebel run ... Polynice also sparked Ole Miss to victory against Central Arkansas in the HCF Classic. With Ole Miss clinging two a two-point advantage midway through the second half, Polynice scored 8 points in 2:18 to push the lead up to 10. The Sarasota, Fla., native drilled a pair of 3-pointers in recording that career-high point total.
Brian Smith: With starting point guard Todd Abernethy leaving with injury in the game’s opening moments, junior guard Smith stepped in admirably in the season opener, helping lead the Rebels to the 72-49 victory over Mississippi Valley State. Smith played 21 minutes and recorded career highs of 10 points and 4 rebounds. He connected on 4-of-7 field goals, including 2-of-4 treys. The 5-foot-11 guard earned his first career start against Louisiana-Lafayette and saw 17 minutes of action.
Kenny Williams: The junior forward is averaging 7.8 rebounds over the last nine games, pushing among the SEC’s best on the boards. Williams is tied with teammate Bam Doyne for 11th in the SEC in rebounding (6.4) and ranks third on the offensive boards (3.2) ... Williams recently turned in his second double-double at Ole Miss with a 13-point, career-high 13-rebound effort against Alabama A&M. Williams hit for 15 points and 6 boards against New Orleans and had his best game as a Rebel against Nicholls with his first double-double, posting career highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Those numbers bested his strong totals in the previous game against Tennessee Tech when he struck for 13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals. Williams also stood out in the win over Louisiana-Lafayette, posting 12 points and 8 boards.
TOUGH AT THE TAD PAD
Over the last decade, the “Tad Pad” proved to be one of the toughest arenas in the nation for opposing teams to play. With an 8-0 mark this year, Ole Miss has won 140 of its last 172 games (.814 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. Included during this run are homecourt winning streaks of 29 and 15 games. The Rebels have an all-time record of 374-179 (.676 winning percentage) at C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Ole Miss is making its eighth TV appearance of the year against Kentucky, as the game is available on FSN South. The Rebels are scheduled to make at least 18 television appearances in 2006-07, marking the ninth straight season that Ole Miss has played on TV 10 or more times. Ole Miss and Mississippi State renew their bitter rivalry in Oxford with an ESPN “Super Tuesday” showdown. The UK contest is one of five on Fox Sports Net, while four games will be played on Lincoln Financial Sports. In non-conference play, the Rebels were in front of the cameras four times on SportsSouth, three on CSS and an ESPNU appearance at Connecticut. In addition, four early-season games were streamed live over the internet on OleMissSport.com’s premium site, OleMissSports.tv.
REBELS ENTER KENNEDY ADMINISTRATION
On March 24, 2006, Andy Kennedy was introduced as the 20th head men's basketball coach in the history of the University of Mississippi. A Louisville, Miss., native, Kennedy spent the 2005-06 season as the interim head coach at the University of Cincinnati.
With less than three months to prepare and shorthanded on staff and scholarship players, Kennedy had to lead a shaken Bearcat program that was preparing for its debut season in the BIG EAST. Despite the obstacles, he directed Cincinnati to a 21-13 record, defeating 12 foes ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI and playing a schedule rated fifth-toughest in the nation. Kennedy's Bearcats narrowly missed an NCAA Tournament bid and had their season end in the NIT quarterfinals.
Kennedy proved himself both as an astute strategist and a top-notch recruiter in more than a decade of coaching in the college ranks. Athlon named him one of the nation's top 10 assistant coaches, and Rivals.com listed him among the top 20 college basketball recruiters. In addition to Cincinnati, Kennedy was also an assistant at his alma mater UAB and South Alabama.