Ole Miss Basketball Game Notes
Jan. 5, 2004
GAME #12: Ole Miss (8-3) vs. No. 22 Mississippi State (11-0)
STREAKING REBELS AND BULLDOGS MEET IN SEC OPENER: Ole Miss and Mississippi State open Southeastern Conference play Wednesday, and both teams enter the game on win streaks. While the Bulldogs have started the season with 11 straight wins, the Rebels are riding a six-game streak, their longest winning stretch since taking seven-in-a-row during the 2001-02 campaign. Ole Miss continued its six-game homestand with a 65-49 beating of East Carolina Saturday. Justin Reed led the team in both points and rebounds for the seventh time this season, tallying 27 points and eight boards.
BARNES IN SIXTH SEASON AS REBEL MENTOR: Rod Barnes is in the midst of his sixth season at the helm of the Ole Miss Rebel basketball program. The 2001 Naismith and CollegeInsider.com National Coach of the Year, Barnes has a 108-64 record (.628 winning percentage). The 100 wins in his first five seasons is the most by a Rebel coach in that span of time in Ole Miss history. In 2000-01, Barnes was the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, guided Ole Miss to a school-record 17 wins and the program's first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 berth. Another winning season and postseason tournament followed in 2001-02 - both were the sixth straight for the Ole Miss program.
Barnes was hired as the Rebel head coach on April 9, 1998. A 1988 graduate of Ole Miss, Barnes served as an assistant under Evans from 1993-98. During his time as an assistant coach, the Rebels compiled a record of 76-63 and won back-to-back Southeastern Conference Western Division titles and received consecutive NCAA Tournament berths in 1997 and 1998. Barnes played at Ole Miss from 1984-88 and was named All-SEC his senior season. He still ranks on the Ole Miss career charts in scoring (18th; 1,201 points), assists (2nd; 456) and steals (7th; 154).
SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI STATE: Mississippi State (11-0) has matched its most consecutive wins to open a season. The Bulldogs, who are ranked 22nd in the latest AP poll, entered last weekend's action as one of only 11 remaining undefeated teams in the nation. State continues to boast four double-digit scorers on the year, including two players who rank among the top 11 scorers in the SEC. Preseason All-SEC standouts Timmy Bowers and Lawrence Roberts top the Bulldogs offensively at each better than 16 per game. Bowers, a senior guard, is coming off a season-best 22-point performance in Saturday's 68-58 victory at Arkansas-Little Rock. Roberts, a junior forward transfer from Baylor, is second in the SEC in rebounding at 11.0 per game. In his sixth year at the helm, head coach Rick Stansbury returns seven players, including two starters, from last year's 21-10 squad that claimed the SEC West title and won the conference tournament.
OLE MISS-MISSISSIPPI STATE SERIES: Wednesday's game will the 228th meeting between the two schools, with the Bulldogs holding an all-time series lead of 126-101. However, Ole Miss holds a 74-38 lead in games played in Oxford, winning six of the last eight encounters in Tad Smith Coliseum. Last year, MSU took all three tightly contested meetings - both regular-season encounters and the SEC Tournament second-round matchup. State pulled out a thrilling 58-57 game in Oxford and survived in overtime, 68-64, in Starkville. The average margin of victory over the last six games is 4.3 points. The average margin of victory in the series since 1995-96 has been 7.2 points. Of those 18 meetings, 12 have been decided by single digits.
REBELS IN SEC OPENERS: The Rebels have an overall record of 25-45 (.357 winning percentage) in Southeastern Conference openers in their previous 70 years of play in the league. After five straight years on the road, the Rebels start SEC play in Oxford this season for the first time since 1997-98 and the first time under head coach Rod Barnes. Ole Miss was 1-4 in those games, and last year, the Rebels dropped a narrow 55-49 decision at South Carolina in their SEC opener in Columbia. In the last 10 years, Ole Miss has a 4-6 record in SEC openers with the victories coming in 1994-95 (Arkansas, 76-71), 1996-97 (Arkansas, 91-74), 1997-98 (South Carolina, 73-54) and 2000-01 (Vanderbilt, 81-68).
WHAT A TURNAROUND: After a 2-3 start, the Rebels have reversed their fortunes and ignited a six-game winning streak. Compared to its first five games, Ole Miss has improved over the last six in its field goal percentage by almost eight percent (41.3 to 49.0), its three-point percentage by more than six percent (30.4 to 36.8), its scoring defense by 10 points (64.2 to 54.2) and its rebounding margin by more than five boards (-5.6 to +0.8). The offensive balance has also gotten better as six players have averaged better than five points during the streak, as opposed to only four through the first five games. Ole Miss has been especially dominant over the last three games with a 21.7 average margin of victory and shooting nearly 15 percent better than the opposition.
OLE MISS IN SEC HOME OPENERS: The Rebels have an overall record of 34-36 (.486 winning percentage) in SEC home openers. Ole Miss has won 5 of its last 9 SEC home openers. Last season, the Rebels dropped a 66-64 decision to Tennessee in their SEC home opener. In 2001-02, Ole Miss posted a 69-65 victory over Auburn in the first home league game of the year. Head coach Rod Barnes is 2-3 in SEC home openers.
"TAD PAD" SWEET "TAD PAD": The "Tad Pad" has proven to be one of the toughest arenas in the nation for opposing teams to play. The Rebels boast a 7-2 home record this season and turned in a 10-6 mark in 2002-03. Ole Miss has won 104 of its last 117 games (.889 winning percentage) at home, including homecourt winning streaks of 15 and 29 games. In the past 10 seasons (1992-93 through 2003-04), Ole Miss has an overall home record of 129-26 (.832 winning pct.). The Rebels have an all-time record of 341-164 (.661 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season. In head coach Rod Barnes' era, the Rebels have a home record of 71-16 (.816 winning percentage), including a 27-13 homecourt record against SEC foes (.675 winning percentage).
HOT HARPER KEYS STREAK: After some tough games to start the season, Aaron Harper has cranked out the offense of late and led the Rebels during their current win streak. Harper tallied 17 points and five threes at Evansville, and knocked down 4-for-4 treys in the second-half game-winning rally. The senior forward also topped the team in rebounds with seven and assists with six against the Aces. He followed up by leading Ole Miss past Louisiana-Monroe with a team-high 19 points. Harper scorched Nicholls State for 19, hitting 3-of-5 threes and posting five rebounds and four steals. He next poured in a game-high 21 points against Alabama State. During Ole Miss' six straight wins, Harper is averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and shooting 47.2 percent from the arc (17-of-36 threes). He has scored in double-figures in 10 of 11 games this season, and is sixth in the SEC in threes per game (2.18) and three-point percentage (.353). Harper has also become one of the Rebels' top 20 career scorers. His 19 points vs. Nicholls moved him past Ken Turner (1967-69) and Rahim Lockhart (1998-2001) for 19th on the scoring list.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Over the last three games, the Rebels have displayed the defensive prowess that has become a trademark of Rod Barnes' squads. Nicholls State, Alabama State and East Carolina averaged 33.8 percent shooting, and all three were limited to less than 50 points. It makes four times this season and 23 times in Barnes' six years at the helm that Ole Miss has held their opponent under 50 points. The Rebels curently rank second in the SEC in scoring defense (58.7 per game).
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WISHES FOR COACH: Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes will be celebrating his 38th birthday Jan. 8. The Rebels have been rather successful when playing on or around Barnes' birthday. Ole Miss has a 5-3 record when playing on or within 2 days (Jan. 6-10) of his birthday. Here's wishing Coach Barnes a happy birthday Thursday.
REED NEARING ELITE CLUB: With just 12 more rebounds, Justin Reed will enter an elite Ole Miss category. The senior forward would become only the fifth Rebel to rank top 10 in both career points and rebounds. Reed tallied eight points against Nicholls State to crack the top 10 of the Ole Miss career scoring chart. With 659 rebounds in the Red and Blue, Reed is also nearing the top 10 in boards. He is currently 11th in Rebel career rebounding and 12 short of tying Jason Smith (1996-99) for 10th all-time.
PROTECTING THE BALL: The Rebels have been among college basketball's best this season in the turnover category. Ole Miss tops the SEC and ranks top 15 in the nation in fewest turnovers per game (11.5). The Rebels are also third in the conference in TO margin (+3.8). Leading the charge is freshman point guard Todd Abernethy, who is the SEC's leader in assist/turnover ratio (3.9/1). In addition, the Rebels have forced 16 or more turnovers in six of the 11 games, and induced 23 takeaways against Nicholls State. Nine different players collected at least one steal, including four by Aaron Harper, as Ole Miss snatched 15 against the Colonels. The Rebels also tallied 12 steals against Louisiana-Monroe, led by Cavadas Nunnery and Justin Johnson with five apiece. Harper heads the team and is tied for seventh in the SEC in steals per game (1.8).
AMONG SEC'S TOP TANDEMS: With Justin Reed and Aaron Harper back, the Rebels have an advantage enjoyed by few others. Ole Miss is one of only two teams in the Southeastern Conference to return its top two scorers from last year, with Arkansas being the other club. This season, the senior duo of Reed and Harper, who is currently averaging over 18 and 15, respectively, is one of only three sets of teammates in the SEC to both rank top 12 in the league in scoring. In the preseason, they were voted among the top tandems in college hoops by Basketball News. Reed and Harper have spent the majority of their basketball lives together, having teamed up at Provine High School in Jackson, Miss., before arriving in Oxford.
BIG SCORER: The biggest man in the Rebel lineup was also the team's biggest offensive weapon against Nicholls State Sunday. Starting in place of ill forward Justin Reed, 6-foot-7, 260-pound Tommie Eddie exploded for game highs and career bests in points (22) and rebounds (10). Those numbers nearly doubled the junior forward's totals (30 points and 14 boards) through the season's first eight games. After a slow start to his debut campaign as a Rebel, Eddie has energized Ole Miss during its current six-game win streak, averaging 10.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and shooting 63.2 percent.
HARPER APPROACHES RECORD: Aaron Harper, who joined the 1,000-point club and 200 three-pointer club a year ago, is set to become the Rebels' all-time leader in three-pointers made, as he sits 14 away. The 6-foot-7 swingman totaled 24 points against Centenary and knocked down a three-pointer to move into second on the Ole Miss career list for treys. Harper hit 65 threes in 2002-03, which is the fourth-most for a single season in Ole Miss history.
REED'S INCREDIBLE START: Justin Reed jumped out to one of the greatest season starts in school history, leading the Rebels in points and rebounds in each of the team's first five games and posting four 20-point efforts over that stretch. The senior forward's career-high 28 points vs. Centenary tied the most by an Ole Miss player since Marcus Hicks' 31 in 1999-2000. A native of Jackson, Miss., Reed also matched his career high for blocks with four against the Gents. Reed's career-high 19 rebounds against Southeastern Louisiana equaled the most by a Rebel since Walter Actwood's 20 in 1975. He also nailed a pair of game-clinching free throws against the Lions with 10 seconds left. Prior to the Florida State game, Reed had notched 20 or more points in five straight games, dating back to last season, and is the first Rebel to manage that feat since Keith Carter in 1998-99. Reed now boasts 14 career double-doubles and 16 20-point games.
REED PILES UP PRESEASON HONORS: Justin Reed is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of Rebel basketball, and the awards continued to pour in this preseason. The senior forward earned Preseason All-SEC first team status from Athlon Sports, Basketball News, Lindy's, Street & Smith's and Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook. Athlon's ranked him the No. 5 "inside-out player" in college basketball. Reed was also rated the 11th-best power forward in the nation by Lindy's and the 14th-best by The Sporting News. Reed has earned All-SEC honors each of his three collegiate seasons, and was a preseason Wooden Award candidate each of the last two seasons. He is the only player from the state of Mississippi to ever be nominated twice.
GOOD OMEN: The Ole Miss Rebels were picked to finish in sixth in the Southeastern Conference Western Division in a vote by media members at the annual conference media day Oct. 29 in Birmingham, Ala. The last time the Rebels were picked so low was prior to the 2000-01 season, when Ole Miss claimed the SEC West crown en route to a school-record 27 wins and a Sweet 16 appearance. LSU was picked to win the Western Division crown, while Kentucky was selected to win the Eastern Division championship and the SEC overall title.
BARNES TOPPLES CENTURY MARK: With the Rebels' victory over South Carolina in the 2003 Southeastern Conference Tournament first round, Rod Barnes recorded the 100th win of his career. His record currently stands at 108-64. The 108 victories are second most in Ole Miss history, trailing only B.L. "Country" Graham's (1950-62) 145 wins. Barnes is the only coach in the program's history to average 20 wins per season.
FUTURE REBELS: The future of Ole Miss hoops got even brighter mid-November as the Rebels added three new players for the 2004-05 season. Ole Miss received national letters of intent from Arkansas natives Jeremy Parnell, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward/center from Gosnell, and Brandon Patterson, a 6-foot-6, 180-pound swingman from Altheimer, and Jackson's Bobby Clark, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound guard.
KENDRICK IN THE CLUTCH: Kendrick Fox has come through for Ole Miss in crunch time this year and is enjoying his best season as a Rebel. With the Rebels trailing by one to Southeastern Louisiana, the junior forward put Ole Miss on top for good with his second trey of the afternoon with 28 seconds remaining. Fox finished with a career-high 10 points. He posted a new career best against Memphis, nailing three straight second-half three-pointers en route to 13 points to go with five boards. Then came Fox's night to shine. With Justin Reed sidelined with foul trouble at Evansville, Fox took over offensive responsibilities, tying Harper with a team-high 17 points. Fox connected on the final two shots of the game, and with the score tied with four seconds remaining, he knocked down a long, heroic three-pointer to hand Ole Miss the win. It was one of five treys for Fox, which was also a career first. He has also already exceeded his season highs for starts, points, rebounds and three-pointers.
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