SEC OPENER: Ole Miss (9-5) at Florida (13-2)
Saturday 01.10.09 | 6 p.m. ET
Gainesville, Fla. | Stephen C. O’Connell Center (12,000)
Live TV: FSN South (Rich Waltz, play-by-play; Daymeon Fishback, analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Keith Carter, analyst). Listen Online through RebelVision
Live Video: ESPN360.com (Free on-campus viewing at all U.S. colleges and universities)
XM Radio: Channel 199
REBELS KICK OFF SEC PLAY AT FLORIDA
Ole Miss begins Southeastern Conference play on Saturday as Andy Kennedy’s squad travels to Gainesville to take on the streaking Florida Gators. The Rebels beat Nicholls 53-41 this past Saturday to conclude non-league play with a 9-5 record after finishing 14-0 in regular-season games against non-league foes a year ago. Ole Miss is 26-49 all-time in SEC openers. Saturday’s game marks the ninth time in the last 11 years for the Rebels to begin league play on the road. Former Gator David Huertas tops Ole Miss and ranks third in the SEC with a 20.1 scoring average. Florida comes in with a 13-2 record and seven straight wins. The Gators are paced by point guard Nick Calathes, who averages 17.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. Ole Miss earned an 89-87 victory over Florida in last year’s meeting in Oxford.
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 GATORS
Florida enters SEC play with a 13-2 record and riding a seven-game winning streak. The Gators have only lost to Syracuse and Florida State. Billy Donovan has led UF to a 9-0 record at home this year and 11 straight home wins dating back to last season. The Gators have dominated opponents in non-conference play, scoring 79.6 points and allowing just 63.9 per game. Their 49.9 field-goal percentage ranks second among SEC teams, while they lead the league draining 7.6 three’s per contest. Sophomore point guard Nick Calathes leads the way with 17.0 points and 6.7 assists per game. Alex Tyus adds 12.9 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds per game, while Dan Werner scores 10.2 points per outing.
OLE MISS-FLORIDA SERIES
Saturday’s game will be the 99th meeting between the two schools. Florida holds a 56-42 lead in the series, which began in 1940, and enjoys a 33-11 edge in Gainesville, including a 79-70 Gator victory in the teams’ most recent meeting at the O’Connell Center. Ole Miss snapped the Gators’ six-game win streak in the series with an 89-87 Rebel win last season in Oxford. Ole Miss’ last road win in the series was a 79-68 victory in 1998-99.
Rebel junior guard David Huertas will be visiting his former team in Gainesville for the first time since transferring from Florida after the 2005-06 national championship season. The Puerto Rico native inked with Ole Miss in July 2006 and had to sit on the bench for the two UM-UF games during the 2006-07 season due to the NCAA transfer rules. Last year, he scored 7 points with 3 rebounds in Oxford in his first contest as a Rebel against Florida. Huertas and UF senior Walter Hodge are the only players remaining in college basketball who played on the 2006 national championship team.
Ole Miss has several team members who call the Sunshine State home. Junior forward DeAundre Cranston hails from Orlando and spent the past two years at Daytona Beach Community College. A pair of Caribbean natives played high school ball in Florida, including junior Puerto Rican David Huertas (Arlington Country Day HS - Jacksonville; University of Florida) and redshirt-freshman Kevin Cantinol (Calvary Christian HS - Clearwater) from the island of Martinique in the French West Indies. In addition, injured guards Eniel Polynice (Sarasota) and Chris Warren (Orlando) are from Florida.
PUERTO RICO CONNECTION
Ole Miss junior David Huertas (Humacao) and Florida senior Walter Hodge (Guaynabo) both hail from the island of Puerto Rico. The two played basketball together throughout their childhood and were roommates during their freshman season at the University of Florida.
Ole Miss and Florida have two common foes from the non-league season. Ole Miss beat UCF 78-46 on Nov. 26, while the Gators downed the Knights 89-61 on Dec. 20. The Rebels cruised to an 86-63 victory over Florida A&M on Dec. 22, while Florida beat the Rattlers 73-58 on Dec. 2.
IN THE POLLS
Ole Miss is not ranked in either national poll this week. Florida is receiving votes in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls.
REBELS IN SEC OPENERS
The Rebels have an overall record of 26-49 in Southeastern Conference openers in their previous 75 years of play in the league. The Rebels have an 0-2 record in league openers under head coach Andy Kennedy. Ole Miss dropped a tight 85-83 decision at No. 8 Tennessee a year ago and lost a hard-fought contest 68-58 to Kentucky for the lone Rebel defeat at home in 2006-07. The last SEC opening win came in 2005-06 when the Rebels beat Alabama 71-61 in Tuscaloosa.
REBELS IN SEC ROAD OPENERS
The Rebels are beginning SEC play on the road for the ninth time in the last 11 years, the most league road openers during that span. Florida and LSU have the next-most with seven apiece, while Kentucky has the fewest road openers with three over the last 11 seasons. Ole Miss will open the conference schedule at Florida for the first time since the 1990-91 campaign. Ole Miss has an all-time record of 9-65 in Southeastern Conference road openers, but has posted victories in four of its last 11 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.
REBEL “D” SHUTS DOWN NICHOLLS
Ole Miss produced one of its best defensive efforts in recent years in the 53-41 win over Nicholls this past Saturday. The 41 points allowed was the lowest point total allowed by a Rebel team in three seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy and the fewest given up since a 71-38 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 28, 2002. The Rebels also held the Colonels to 30.6 percent shooting from the field and 19.2 percent from beyond the arc. The 30.6 field-goal percentage is tied for the second-lowest allowed by a Rebel team in Kennedy’s three years (25.5 - Miss. Valley St. on Nov. 10, 2006).
The previous low point total by a Rebel opponent in Kennedy’s tenure was 46 by UCF in a 78-46 Rebel win on Nov. 26 earlier this season.
FREE-THROW SHOOTING EXPLOITS
Ole Miss ranks second among Southeastern Conference teams and 14th in the nation with a 76.7 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) vs. Florida A&M. Chris Warren ranks fifth in the SEC with his 85.5 percent free-throw shooting (59-of-69), while David Huertas ranks sixth at 81.1 (73-of-90). Zach Graham has only missed one free throw in 22 attempts (95.5 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).
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 and averaged 30.0 minutes at the point in the last three games. Senior non-scholarship Patrick Spach and White have also seen some minutes as the primary ballhandler in the last three contests.
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 14 games. Junior guard David Huertas is the only Rebel to have started every contest.
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 five games. DeAundre Cranston grabbed nine boards against Louisville and had 12 in the win over UCF on Nov. 26.
LIFE WITHOUT CHRIS WARREN
Ole Miss has responded to the loss of its preseason all-league point guard with two wins in the three games since his season ended with a torn ACL. With the loss of Chris Warren’s 19.6 points per game and league-high 34.4 minutes per game, the Rebels were looking for that production to come from somewhere. Four Rebels scored in double figures in a win over Florida A&M, 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. In the win over Nicholls, Huertas and Holloway both cracked double-figure points. Freshman Will Bogan has filled in as the starting point guard and logged an average of 30.0 minutes in his first three career starts.
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 last Monday. His double-double against the Rattlers was the first by a Rebel this season. He is the first Rebel to receive a weekly honor from the league office this season.
HUERTAS TAKES GAME TO A NEW LEVEL
David Huertas has been a scoring machine in the Rebels’ first 14 games, averaging a team-high 20.1 points, good for third in the SEC and 27th in the nation. The junior guard has scored 20 or more points in 9 of the 14 contests. 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 (42.3). 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 1/8)
Category SEC/NCAA Rank Statistic
Points 3rd/27th 20.1/game
FG Percentage 12th 47.5
FT Percentage 6th 81.1
3-pt FG Percentage 3rd 42.3
3-pt FGs Made 2nd 2.9/game
Minutes Played 6th 32.1/game
HUERTAS CONSISTENT FROM DOWNTOWN
Junior guard David Huertas is entering rare territory with his current streak of 22 consecutive games with at least one 3-point field goal. Entering Saturday’s game at Florida, the Puerto Rico native’s streak is the third-longest in Ole Miss history. He needs four more games with a conversion from beyond the arc to tie for one of the top 20 streaks in SEC history. Listed below are the top three such streaks in school records:
CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH A 3-POINTER
1. 41 Aaron Harper (2000-01 to 2002-03)
2. 23 Joe Harvell (1990-91 to 1992-93)
3. 22 David Huertas (2007-08 to present)
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 41 from long range and is now in ninth place in the Rebel records with 116.
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. 116 David Huertas (49 games, 2008-present)
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. He also ranked among the top SEC players in several other categories at the time of his injury, as listed below:
Warren’s SEC Ranks (AS OF 12/19)
Category SEC/NCAA Rank Statistic
Points 4th/50th 19.6/game
Assists T-9th 4.0/game
FT Percentage 4th/45th 85.5
Steals 2nd/38th 2.5/game
3-pt FGs Made T-8th 2.3/game
Assist-Turnover Ratio 8th 1.6
Minutes Played 1st 34.4/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 14 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.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Will Bogan: Has made first three career starts, averaging 30.0 minutes per start ... 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 21-of-22 free throws through the first 14 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 ... Leads team and ranks fifth in SEC with 2.9 offensive boards per game ... Posted team’s first double-double of season with 15 points and 16 rebounds vs. Florida A&M ... 10 points, 5 boards vs. Nicholls ... 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 (1.5/game) ... 9 points on 4-5 FGs vs. Nicholls ... Career-high 4 blocks vs. Southern Miss ... Had breakout night vs. Florida A&M, scoring career-high 18 points (8-11 FGs) with 9 rebounds and 3 blocks ... 12 points, 9 boards vs. Alabama State ... Has started 11 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.