GAME 15: #15/16 Ole Miss (13-1) vs. LSU (7-8)
January 12, 2008 5 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, color analyst). Listen Online
XM Radio: Channel 201 (Ole Miss feed); Channel 200 (LSU feed)
SEC HOME OPENER VS. LSU
After suffering its first loss of the season with an 85-83 defeat at No. 8 Tennessee, No. 15 Ole Miss looks to bounce back with its SEC home opener against the LSU Tigers, who dropped a 61-39 decision at home to Mississippi State in their league opener. Wednesday’s loss halted the Rebels’ school-record start and winning streak at 13 straight. Ole Miss was up by four with just over two minutes remaining, but Tennessee made two baskets to tie it at 83 and the Rebels missed the front end of a one-and-one, setting up Tyler Smith’s game-winning bucket with four seconds left. Chris Warren led the Rebels with a career-high 24 points, Eniel Polynice added 20 and Dwayne Curtis posted his sixth double-double with 15 points and a season-high 13 rebounds.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS
LSU lost its SEC opener by a 61-39 decision at home to Mississippi State, dropping the Tigers to 7-8 on the year. John Brady’s squad has struggled with consistency in a season riddled by injuries, most especially to top returning scorer Tasmin Mitchell, who may miss the rest of the year after surgery on a stress fracture in his foot. The Tigers have dressed either eight or nine players in the last two games. LSU suffered its second home loss to drop to 6-2 in Baton Rouge, while the team is just 1-6 away from home (0-4 on the road, 1-2 neutral). The Tigers average 68.5 points per contest, while allowing 66.6 per game. They have not cracked 70 points in six games and have twice scored under 50 during that span. Marcus Thornton tops the team with 17.1 ppg, while freshman Anthony Randolph chips in 13.6 ppg and a team-high 7.9 rebounds.
OLE MISS-LSU SERIES
The series with the Tigers, which began in 1909, is the second-longest in Ole Miss basketball history. LSU leads the all-time series 113-79, although the Rebels hold a 13-11 edge in the last 24 meetings. Ole Miss won two-of-three encounters last season. After falling 62-55 in Baton Rouge, Clarence Sanders nailed a shot at the buzzer for a 71-70 win in Oxford. Ole Miss drilled the Tigers 80-60 in the second round of the SEC Tournament with a game-high 26 points from Bam Doyne. The Rebels hold a 49-32 lead in games played in Oxford and have taken 10 of the last 14 meetings at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Second-year Ole Miss mentor Andy Kennedy also faced the Bayou Bengals as Cincinnati head coach in 2005-06, earning a 75-72 at the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.
SCHOOL-RECORD 13-0 START SNAPPED
Wednesday’s 85-83 loss at No. 8 Tennessee snapped Ole Miss’ school-record start at 13-0. That mark surpassed the 1936-37 and 2000-01 teams that reeled off 11 straight wins to open their seasons. Ole Miss has started 13-1 twice before, in 1925-26 and 2000-01. The 25-’26 squad began 16-1 and the 00-’01 team 14-1 before each suffered its second loss.
SCHOOL-RECORD WIN STREAK ENDS
The Tennessee loss also snapped the school-record win streak of 13. The Rebels’ 86-50 win over Alabama A&M broke the school record for most consecutive wins, topping the previous record of 12 straight wins put up by the 1926 Rebel squad, 82 years ealier.
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.
The Rebel roster features two Louisiana natives in sophomore guard Rodney Jones, who hails from Alexandria, and freshman forward Malcolm White, a native of Greensburg. Two of the Rebels’ four early signees also call Louiaiana home - Terrance Henry and Brandon Wilson are teammates at Carroll High School in Monroe, coached by former Rebel player Chris Oney. In addition, Ole Miss assistant coach and former player Michael White spent his prep days at Jesuit High School in New Orleans, under coach Chris Jennings. During Michael's youth in Louisiana, his father Kevin White served as Athletic Director at Tulane. He is currently in that same position at Notre Dame.
OLE MISS IN SEC HOME OPENERS
The Rebels have an overall record of 35-39 in their first SEC home game of the year. Last season’s 68-58 home opener loss to Kentucky was the lone Rebel defeat of the year in Tad Smith Coliseum, as Ole Miss set a school record with 16 home victories.
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 NEARLY KNOCK OFF NO. 8 VOLS
Ole Miss led by four points with 2:22 left in its SEC opener at No. 8 Tennessee, but the Vols scored the games final six points, including Tyler Smith’s game-winning layup with 4.2 seconds left, to hand the Rebels their first loss of the season. An Ole Miss win would have been the first over a top-10 team since 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
Ole Miss is a perfect 13-0 against non-conference opponents this season, with just one non-league matchup remaining, vs. Presbyterian on Feb. 11. The only Rebel squad to ever go undefeated in its regular-season non-conference schedule is the 1948-49 team that was 4-0 outside of league play en route to an 8-13 overall record.
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.
AWARD-WINNING TV SHOW STARTS FRIDAY
"Ole Miss Basketball with Andy Kennedy", which received a Telly Award for its outstanding broadcast last season, returns this Friday with the first of eight shows during the SEC schedule. The 30-minute weekly program will air Friday’s at 3 p.m. CT on CSS and the OleMissSports.com premium website. Hosted by the "Voice of the Rebels" David Kellum, the show includes analysis and strategy from Kennedy, as well as highlights of the previous week's action and a preview of the upcoming opponents. The show is produced by Ole Miss Sports Productions, and J. Stern serves as Executive Producer and Raphael Henry as Producer. Shane Sanford is the Director.
REBELS NEAR TOP OF NATION IN SCORING
After 14 games, Ole Miss ranks third in the SEC and seventh nationally in scoring with 86.0 points per game. The Rebels also rank third in the SEC with a +15.5 scoring margin. The Rebels have scored 80+ points in 10 of their first 14 contests, including each of their last two.
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.
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 42.9 rebounds per contest, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +7.7. Ole Miss has not been out-rebounded yet this season.
On the individual level, senior center Dwayne Curtis is averaging a team-high 8.6 boards per game, good for third in the conference. The Chicago native ranks first in the SEC with 4.0 offensive boards per game and second in the league with six double-doubles. He has notched 22 double-doubles in his Rebel career.
Kenny Williams grabs 8.1 boards per contest, good for fifth in the league. The senior forward from Miami has posted 3 double-doubles this season.
At No. 12 in the latest CBS Sportsline.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 12th to 20th 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 vs. LSU televised by FSN South will be the fourth TV appearance this year and the second of five straight 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
Ole Miss ranks at or near the top of the conference in several statistical categories. The Rebels own the league’s top mark in rebounding (42.9/game), rebounding margin (+7.7) and offensive rebounds (16.21/game), while ranking second in turnover margin (+3.79) and defensive rebounds (26.64/game). Individually, Dwayne Curtis tops the conference in offensive rebounds with 4.0 per game and ranks second in the league with a .664 field-goal percentage, while also grabbing the third-most rebounds per game at 8.6. Chris Warren ranks third with 5.36 assists per game and 2.93 3-pointers per game.
HE CAN'T MISS (MUCH)
In addition to providing senior leadership for the one-loss Rebels, senior center Dwayne Curtis has produced an outstanding senior season thus far. Curtis ranks second on the team with 15.1 ppg and ranks third in the SEC with 8.6 rebounds per game. The Chicago native ranks second in the league in field-goal percentage, hitting shots at a 66.4 percent clip. He entered the week ranked fourth in the nation in that category. 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 six 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 third in the SEC and 33rd in the nation in assists (5.36/game) and 11th in the league in scoring (15.9 ppg). He also ranks third in the SEC with 2.93 three’s per game, eighth with a 37.3 three-point percentage and 11th with a 1.74 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-14 contests. He is averaging 18.8 ppg over the last five contests, including a season-high 24-point outburst at No. 8 Tennessee on Wednesday. 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 86.0 points per game through 14 contests. Six different Rebels currently average eight or more points, and nine Rebels average in double-figure minutes. The Rebels have seen five different players lead the team in scoring among the 14 contests.
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 14 games, as the Rebels rank third in the SEC with 16.9 turnovers forced, fourth with 13.1 turnovers committed and second with a +3.79 turnover ratio. Ole Miss also boasts the league’s third-best assist-turnover ratio at 1.38 (253 A, 184 TO).
Overall, Ole Miss has forced 20 or more turnovers four times and committed 10 or less on four occasions. The Rebels have lost the turnover battle just three times this season, 16-15 in a win over South Alabama, 21-20 in a win over New Mexico and 10-9 in the loss at No. 8 Tennessee. 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 26th in the SEC with 12.6 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (21st at 5.5/game) assists (8th at 4.2/game) and steals (6th at 1.9/game).
Polynice most recently poured in 20 points, grabbed eight boards and dished out four assists at No. 8 Tennessee. He had an outstanding game 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 14th in the league with 1.86 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 6.1 points in 11.9 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 five of the last six games. He tied a career high when he poured in a game-high 17 points against 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 the last two. In just seven minutes of action at No. 8 Tennessee, made three big blocks to tie a career high. Also posted three blocked shots in a season-high 22 minutes against La Salle. Season-high 12 points on 6-of-7 from the field vs. Troy.
Brian Smith: Senior point guard is averaging 10.0 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.
PACKING THE PAD
Over the last decade, the "Tad Pad" proved to be one of the toughest arenas in the nation for opposing teams to play, and second-year head coach Andy Kennedy has only added to that success. Ole Miss owns a 23-1 record at Tad Smith Coliseum since Kennedy took the reins last season. Last year’s 16-1 mark established an arena record for single-season wins. Kennedy’s club inspired a huge homecourt advantage during SEC play, averaging 8,241 fans and drawing a record crowd of 9,452 for the victory over No. 18 Alabama. Ole Miss has won 154 of its last 187 games (.824 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 389-180 (.684 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.
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.