SEC OPENER: #15/16 Ole Miss (13-0) at #8/9 Tennessee (12-1)
January 9, 2008 8 p.m. ET
Knoxville, Tenn. Thompson-Boling Arena (21,758)
Live TV: Raycom Sports (Tom Hammond, play-by-play; Larry Conley, analyst). Watch Online
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online
XM Radio: Channel 200
NO. 15 REBELS VISIT NO. 8 VOLS TO BEGIN SEC PLAY
The undefeated 15th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels and one-loss 8th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers get SEC play started in a big way with a Wednesday night showdown in Knoxville, Tenn.
Ole Miss has already set school records for best start in a season and longest winning streak. The Rebels will look to knock off their second top-25 ranked foe of the year after beating then-No. 15 Clemson on Dec. 22 in Puerto Rico.
Tennessee, the preseason favorite to capture the SEC title, has just one blemish on its record, a Nov. 24 loss to then-No. 15 Texas in New Jersey.
SCOUTING THE VOLUNTEERS
The preseason favorite by every major media outlet to claim the 2008 conference crown, 8th-ranked Tennessee had a very successful non-conference season with 12 wins and a single loss vs. then-No. 15 Texas at the StubHub Legends Classic in Newark, N.J. In their last two games, the Vols won 82-75 at then-No. 24 Xavier and 82-72 over Gonzaga in Seattle, Wash. Last year’s SEC Player of the Year and second team All-American Chris Lofton leads the Vols with 14.5 ppg, followed closely by fellow senior JaJuan Smith at 14.4 ppg. Arizona transfer J.P. Prince (14.0 ppg in 4 games) and Iowa transfer Tyler Smith (12.9 ppg) also average in double figures. As a team, Tennessee leads the SEC with 87.4 points per contest, with a fierce defensive pressure creating an average of 22.3 turnovers off an SEC-best 12.2 steals per game.
OLE MISS-TENNESSEE SERIES
Ole Miss overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to claim an 83-69 win over the Vols last year in Oxford. Clarence Sanders scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, while Dwayne Curtis added 18 points and nine boards (see full box score on page 7). Despite the victory, Tennessee owns a 63-38 lead in the all-time series, which began in 1924. The two teams are 4-4 over the last eight meetings. The Vols enjoy a 39-18 all-time edge in Knoxville and have won eight straight. Ole Miss earned its last victory there in 1991.
SCHOOL-RECORD 13-0 START FOR REBELS
At 13-0, Ole Miss has set a new mark for the best start in school history, surpassing the 1936-37 and 2000-01 teams that reeled off 11 straight victories to open their seasons.
SCHOOL-RECORD WIN STREAK, TOO
With the 86-50 win over Alabama A&M on Wednesday, Ole Miss also broke the school record for most consecutive wins. The previous record of 12 straight wins put up by the 1926 Rebel squad had stood for over 80 years.
Ole Miss is one of just six remaining unbeaten teams in the country. The others are nationally ranked No. 1 North Carolina (15-0), No. 2 Memphis (13-0), No. 3 Kansas (14-0), No. 4 Washington State (13-0) and No. 12 Vanderbilt (15-0).
REBELS BEGIN SEC WEST TITLE DEFENSE
With the thrilling victory over Auburn in the 2007 regular season finale, Ole Miss earned the program’s fourth SEC Western Division championship and first since 2001. Ole Miss was picked by the media to finish last in the division again this year, just like last year and 2001. Ole Miss captured consecutive division crowns in 1997 and 1998. The Rebels’ four SEC West titles in the last 11 years is the most of any division rival over that span.
Ole Miss has just one Tennessee native on its roster in junior guard Patrick Spach, who hails from Memphis. One of the Rebels’ four early signees for next season, Terrico White, is also a Memphis native.
REBELS IN SEC OPENERS
The Rebels have an overall record of 26-48 in Southeastern Conference openers in their previous 74 years of play in the league. In the last 14 years, Ole Miss has a 5-9 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). The 2006 Rebel victory marked their first in Tuscaloosa in eight years. Last year’s team lost a hard-fought contest 68-58 to Kentucky for the season’s lone Rebel defeat at home.
REBELS IN SEC ROAD OPENERS
The Rebels are beginning SEC play on the road for the eighth time in the last 10 years, and will open the conference schedule at Tennessee for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign. Ole Miss has an all-time record of 9-64 in Southeastern Conference road openers. The Rebels posted victories in four of their last 10 SEC road openers. In 1996-97, Ole Miss won its first conference road game of the year with a 91-74 victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville, and in 1997-98, the Rebels defeated Alabama 74-63 in Tuscaloosa. Ole Miss also picked up a win in 2000-01, at Vanderbilt 81-68, and in 2005-06, at Alabama 71-61.
OLE MISS RANKED AFTER 7-YEAR DROUGHT
Ole Miss is ranked for the third straight week, jumping up from No. 18 in last week’s polls to No. 15 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll and No. 16 in the Associated Press poll this week. Ole Miss is one of three SEC teams ranked this week, including No. 8/9 Tennessee and No. 12/13 Vanderbilt. Ole Miss had been receiving votes for three weeks prior to their first ranking.
The Rebels were last ranked in the final polls of 2000-01, when they appeared as high as No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today rankings following their NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance.
REBELS VS. RANKED FOES
Ole Miss is 2-5 against ranked foes under second-year head coach Andy Kennedy. Ole Miss downed No. 15 Clemson 85-82 in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Dec. 22 in its lone game of the year against a top 25 foe. In fact, the Rebels are the only SEC squad this season to have beaten a team ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at the time of the game. Last year’s 75-69 home win over No. 18 Alabama snapped a 12-game losing streak vs. ranked teams.
REBELS VS. THE NATION’S TOP 10
With a matchup against No. 8/9 Tennessee, the Rebels will be facing their first top 10 opponent since meeting No. 6 Florida in last year’s second round of the SEC Tournament. The last Ole Miss win over a top 10 foe was an 84-56 thrashing of No. 6 Alabama on March 3, 2002 in Oxford. The last Rebel victory over a top 10 opponent on the road came in Lexington on Feb. 14, 1998, when the No. 18 Rebels upended the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats 73-64.
KENNEDY RADIO SHOW BEGINS THURSDAY
With the start of SEC play also comes the start of Ole Miss’ live call-in radio show “Reb Talk with Andy Kennedy” hosted by award-winning Ole Miss radio announcer David Kellum. Kicking off this week, the show will air Thursday’s from 7-8 p.m. live from the Library Sports Bar and Grill in Oxford.
REBELS NEAR TOP OF NATION IN SCORING
After 13 games, Ole Miss ranks third in the SEC and eighth nationally in scoring with 86.2 points per game. The Rebels also rank third in the SEC and 25th nationally with a +16.8 scoring margin. The Rebels have scored 80+ points in nine of their first 13 contests, but only three of their last seven.
Ole Miss topped 100 points for the second time this year with a 102-76 victory over Troy on Nov. 27. It is the first time Ole Miss has topped the century mark twice in a season since the 1998-99 campaign. The 108 points in the Nov. 16 win over Lamar were the most in a game since Ole Miss beat Prairie View A&M 111-50 on Dec. 29, 1998.
VOLS SCORE EVEN MORE
The Rebels will be pit against a team with just as much offensive firepower, as Tennessee ranks first in the league and fourth in the nation with 87.4 ppg. They have put up 80+ points in 10-of-13 games, including each of the last four.
BANGING THE BOARDS
With a pair of senior big men leading the way, Ole Miss has established itself as one of the top rebounding teams in the nation. The Rebels rank first in the SEC and seventh nationally with 42.8 rebounds per contest, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +7.9, which ranks 19th nationally.
On the individual level, senior center Dwayne Curtis is averaging a team-high 8.2 boards per game, good for third in the conference. The Chicago native ranks second in the SEC with 3.69 offensive boards per game and five double-doubles. He has notched 21 double-doubles in his Rebel career.
Kenny Williams grabs 8.0 boards per contest, good for fifth in the league. The senior forward from Miami has posted 3 double-doubles this season.
At No. 13 in the latest CBSSportsline.com simulated RPI (ratings percentage index) rankings, Ole Miss is doing pretty well for a team that was predicted to finish as low as No. 143 in the nation by one preseason publication. The Rebels range from 13th to 23rd in various simulated RPI polls this week.
BREAKING INTO BRACKETOLOGY
Ole Miss has broken into the NCAA Tournament Bracketology projections by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi this week with a No. 6 seed in the South region. It is the Rebels’ first appearance on Lunardi’s list this season.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Ole Miss’ game at Tennessee televised by Raycom Sports (formerly Lincoln Financial) will be the third TV appearance this year after seeing a school-record 22 games televised a year ago. Ole Miss is slated to play at least 14 games on TV this year, which will mark the 10th straight season that the Rebels played 10 or more TV games.
LEADING THE SEC
In addition to being one of just two SEC squads with a perfect record (Vanderbilt), Ole Miss also ranks at or near the top of the conference in several statistical categories. The Rebels own the league’s top mark in rebounding (42.8/game), rebounding margin (+7.9) and offensive rebounds (15.92/game), while ranking second in turnover margin (+4.15) and defensive rebounds (26.85/game). Individually, Dwayne Curtis ranks second in the league (and fourth nationally) with a .684 field-goal percentage and second in offensive rebounds with 3.69 per contest, while also grabbing the third-most rebounds per game at 8.2. Chris Warren ranks second with 5.69 assists per game.
HE CAN'T MISS (MUCH)
In addition to providing senior leadership for the undefeated Rebels, senior center Dwayne Curtis has produced an outstanding senior season thus far. Curtis ranks second on the team with 15.2 ppg and ranks third in the SEC with 8.2 rebounds per game. The Chicago native ranks second in the league and fourth in the nation in field-goal percentage, hitting shots at a 68.4 percent clip. Curtis has shot 80 percent or better from the field in six games, including 4-of-5 vs. MVSU, 3-of-3 vs. South Alabama, 8-of-9 vs. Lamar, 8-of-10 vs. New Mexico, 10-of-12 vs. Winthrop and 5-of-6 vs. Alabama A&M.
Curtis has posted double-figure points in all but one game (8 vs. Lousiana-Monroe) and grabbed 10 or more rebounds in five contests.
FABULOUS FRESHMAN FLOOR GENERAL
Freshman point guard Chris Warren has been a tremendous addition to the Rebels this season after the departure of All-SEC floor general Todd Abernethy. The rookie leads Ole Miss in scoring, assists, three-pointers and minutes played. He ranks second in the SEC and 33rd in the nation in assists (5.69/game) and 12th in the league in scoring (15.2 ppg). He also ranks third in the SEC with 2.85 three’s per game and ninth with a 37.8 three-point percentage and a 1.95 assist-turnover ratio.
The Orlando native is the only Rebel to have put up double figure points in every game this season, and he has dished out 5 or more assists in 9-of-13 contests. He is averaging 17.5 ppg over the last four contests after efforts of 19, 19, 17 and 15. He has already earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors twice and was named the MVP of the San Juan Shootout.
SHARING THE LOAD
Ole Miss has displayed a variety of ways from up and down its roster to amass 86.2 points per game through 13 contests. Six different Rebels currently average eight or more points, and nine Rebels average in double figure minutes, while only Chris Warren ranks in the top 30 in the SEC in minutes at 27th with 28.31/game. The Rebels have seen five different players lead the team in scoring among the 13 wins.
WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE
When running an up-tempo style of offense, much of the success is determined by how many turnovers the defense can create and how few turnovers the offense commits. Ole Miss has done an outstanding job in both facets through 13 games, as the Rebels rank third in the SEC with 17.5 turnovers forced, fifth with 13.4 turnovers committed and second with a +4.15 turnover ratio. Ole Miss also boasts the league’s third-best assist-turnover ratio at 1.37 (238 A, 174 TO).
Overall, Ole Miss has forced 20 or more turnovers four times and committed 10 or less on three occasions. The Rebels have lost the turnover battle just twice this season, 16-15 in a win over South Alabama and 21-20 in a win over New Mexico. The Rebels had a feast with Louisiana-Monroe, creating 31 Warhawk turnovers and giving up the ball just eight times.
POLYNICE FILLING IT UP
Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice has put up big numbers in several columns of the stat sheet this season. He ranks 29th in the SEC with 12.1 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (22nd at 5.3/game) assists (8th at 4.2/game) and steals (6th at 2.1/game).
Polynice had an outstanding game recently against Southern Miss with a near triple-double of 14 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and a career-high nine assists. He also shattered several career highs with his stellar performance in the Nov. 13 win over South Alabama, including career bests of 28 points and seven 3-pointers.
GASKINS MAKES SPLASH AS ROOKIE
One of several freshmen and newcomers contributing for the Rebels this year, guard Trevor Gaskins has made a big impact in the early season. The Alpharetta, Ga., native ranks fourth in the SEC with a .456 3-point field goal percentage and 12th in the league with 2.0 three’s made per game.
Gaskins got off to a furious start to his Ole Miss career in the season opener. He finished one 3-pointer shy of the school record with seven treys on 10 attempts, but did collect the freshman record previously held by Josh Hayes, who stroked six three’s against Troy State on Dec. 18, 2000 and Joe Harvell, who had six vs. Kentucky on Jan. 27, 1990. The Ole Miss record of eight was set by Keith Carter against Prairie View A&M on Dec. 29, 1998.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Zach Graham: An “explosive scorer” according to Kennedy, the rookie from Suwanee, Ga., has proved that true by averaging 6.4 points in 12.0 minutes per game. Posted double figure points in back-to-back games vs. Lamar (12) and Louisiana-Monroe (13). Poured in all nine of his points at UCF in the first half. Scored eight points with four free-throws vs. USM. Posted six points and a season-high six boards vs. Alabama A&M.
David Huertas: The Puerto Rican seems to have found a rhythm after a tough start as he has posted double figure points in each of his last five games. He most recently tied a career high when he poured in a game-high 17 points in Wednesday’s win over Alabama A&M. Nailed a career-high five 3-pointers vs. the Bulldogs. Scored 14 points and grabbed 5 rebounds vs. La Salle and Clemson. Had 12 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals against Southern Miss. The long-range threat made back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half to close a 7-point deficit to just one in the win over Winthrop. He also scored 17 points vs. ULM.
Jermey Parnell: Started the first three games of the season and came off the bench for the next nine before starting against Alabama A&M. Posted a career-high three blocked shots in a season-high 22 minutes played against La Salle. Season-high 12 points on 6-of-7 from the field vs. Troy.
Brian Smith: Senior point guard is averaging 10.4 minutes per game in a reserve role behind Chris Warren. Tied a career high with three steals vs. Alabama A&M. Made two big three-pointers to help extend a Rebel lead in the win over Southern Miss. Season-high 17 minutes and three assists vs. South Alabama.
Terrence Watson: A very long, athletic forward, Watson has 10 blocks in limited action in 11 games. The JC transfer earned the starting nod and logged a season-high 19 minutes vs. Lamar. Swatted four shots against Louisiana-Monroe.
Malcolm White: Sensational freshman leaper saw most action with 14 minutes vs. Troy and put up 6 points and 6 rebounds. Had two huge dunks in that game and has scored 10 of his 22 points this season on dunks. Registered four points and four rebounds vs. Alabama A&M. Chipped in four points and three rebounds vs. La Salle.
WARREN GRABS 2ND SEC FRESHMAN HONOR
For the second time this season, Rebel point guard Chris Warren was named the SEC Freshman of the Week, as announced by the league office on Dec. 24. The 5-foot-10 guard received San Juan Shootout MVP distinction after scoring 41 of his 49 points in the second half of the three Rebel wins in Puerto Rico. He poured in 19 points against both La Salle and Clemson, while adding nine assists and just two turnovers against the Explorers. In Saturday's 85-82 win over previously unbeaten No. 15 Clemson, Warren tallied eight of the Rebels' 10 points in the final four minutes to claim the tournament championship.
CURTIS TABBED NATIONAL PLAYER OF WEEK
After garnering SEC Player of the Week accolades on Dec. 17, senior center Dwayne Curtis was honored as National Player of the Week on Dec. 24 by CollegeHoops.net. Curtis poured in 19 points and had nine rebounds in the final against No. 15 Clemson, and he put up 21 points and seven boards against DePaul and 14 and five against La Salle. Curtis shot 61 percent from the field and 88 percent from the free-throw line in the three games.
REBELS CLAIM SAN JUAN SHOOTOUT TITLE
With wins over DePaul, La Salle and No. 15 Clemson, Ole Miss claimed the 2007 San Juan Shootout title. The championship game vs. the previously unbeaten Tigers saw Ole Miss earn a victory over its first ranked foe of the season and move to 11-0. Freshman point guard Chris Warren was named the Tournament MVP with 19 points in each of the last two games. Senior center Dwayne Curtis also earned a spot on the All-Tournament team after averaging a team-high 18.0 points over three games.
CURTIS NAMED SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
After scoring 22 points with 11 rebounds and helping Ole Miss to a 76-71 win over Winthrop, senior center Dwayne Curtis was tabbed as the SEC Player of the Week on Dec. 17. Curtis posted his fourth double-double in the last six games and collected season highs in points and rebounds vs. the Eagles. He finished three points shy of his career high and made good on 10-of-12 from the floor. It was the second weekly honor for a Rebel this season and the second career honor for Curtis, who was the SEC POW on Jan. 7, 2006 after leading Ole Miss to a win at Alabama with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
WARREN TABBED SEC FRESHMAN OF WEEK
Point guard Chris Warren earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors on Dec. 3 after averaging team highs of 19.5 points and 7.5 assists in two contests. The speedy rookie set career highs with 23 points and 10 assists for his first career double-double in the 102-76 win over Troy. He hit 5-of-9 from behind the arc and directed a 25-0 run at the beginning of the second half to put the game out of reach. He also contributed 16 points, five assists and three steals, with just two turnovers, in a game-high 35 minutes of action in the 85-77 victory over UNM.
OLEMISSSPORTS.COM STREAMS LIVE GAMES
Rebel fans can catch the Ole Miss basketball teams in action on OleMissSports.com this season, as the Rebels’ official website will air live webcasts of four men’s games and six women’s games.
In addition, OleMissSports.com premium subscribers can view replays of all men’s and women’s home games on-demand. Replays will be available at 8 a.m. CST the following day per Southeastern Conference regulations.
Remaining on the live schedule of men’s games is the Presbyterian College contest on Jan. 11.
OLE MISS VISITS CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
As part of their trip to the Mississippi state capital, the Ole Miss players, coaches and staff visited the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center while in Jackson for the Winthrop game. The Rebels played games and handed out posters and basketballs while visiting with kids at the hospital before their open practice and autograph session later that day.
CURTIS TABBED PRESEASON ALL-SEC
Senior center Dwayne Curtis has established himself as one of the top post men in the Southeastern Conference and has been named to the preseason All-SEC second team by the media and league coaches. He was also rated the SEC’s “Most Underrated” by The Sporting News. The Chicago, Ill., native averaged 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds for last year’s SEC Western Division champions. At 6-foot-8 and 262 pounds, Curtis has been the Rebels’ top rebounder in each of his two years in Oxford. In his sophomore year he put up team highs of 13.6 points and 7.6 boards per game in garnering All-SEC honorable mention status from the Associated Press.
SANDERS TAKEN IN NBA D-LEAGUE DRAFT
After breaking out as an All-SEC player for last year’s SEC West Champion Ole Miss Rebels, Clarence Sanders has a chance to take his game to the professional ranks after he was drafted by the Anaheim Arsenal in the seventh round of the NBA Development League Draft on Nov. 1.
A native of Phenix City, Ala., Sanders led Ole Miss and ranked fifth in the Southeastern Conference with 16.1 points per game last season en route to All-SEC second team honors from the league coaches.
Known for his ability to stroke one from behind the arc at any moment, Sanders set a school record with 96 three-pointers last season, as well as leading the SEC with 56 treys in league play.
Sanders is the third Rebel to play in the NBA D-League, which was formerly known as the NBDL. Rahim Lockhart was an All-NBDL performer in 2001-02, while Ansu Sesay was the NBDL’s Player of the Year that season.
MORE REBELS IN THE PROS
Ole Miss’ two other senior leaders from a year ago have also moved on to the professional ranks in recent months. All-SEC guard Todd Abernethy is a member of the Matrixx Magix in Holland, while Bam Doyne ranks second on his Falco KC-Szombathely team with 20.3 points per game after seven contests in the Hungary League.
Other Rebels currently playing professionally overseas include Derrick Allen (Germany), Keith Carter (Italy), Aaron Harper (Ukraine), Londrick Nolen (Uruguay), Ansu Sesay (Italy), Jason Smith (Romania) and LaTaryl Williams (England).