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GAME 17: Ole Miss (11-5, 0-2) vs. Arkansas (12-4, 1-1)
January 13, 2007 4 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Coliseum (8,700)
Live TV: FSN South (Rich Waltz, play-by-play; Eddie Fogler, analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 107
REBELS RETURN HOME FOR RAZORBACKS
Ole Miss returns home in search of its first SEC victory of the year, taking on Arkansas Saturday. The Rebels suffered a 77-67 setback at Mississippi State Wednesday after shooting a chilly 32.9 percent. Todd Abernethy posted his third career 20-point game and second against the Bulldogs with an even 20 along with 7 assists and 4 steals. Clarence Sanders scored 17, but was only 6-of-25 from the floor. The Rebels are off to an 0-2 league start for the fourth time in the last five years. However in two of those three 0-2 seasons, Ole Miss picked up its first win in game three of SEC play.
SCOUTING THE RAZORBACKS
Stan Heath’s Razorbacks opened SEC play against No. 8 Alabama and No. 3 Florida and earned a split. Arkansas dominated the Tide 88-61 in Fayetteville, and battled the national champion Gators to a 79-72 result Tuesday in Gainesville. The Hogs are being led freshman guard Patrick Beverlry and his 13.9 scoring average. Jackson native Charles Thomas is grabbing a team-high 5.8 rebounds and joins fellow junior forward Sonny Weems in adding 12.2 points. Mississippi State transfer Gary Ervin has settled in as the starting point guard and the SEC assist leader at 5.4 per game. The junior is posting 10.0 assists through the first two conference games. While Ervin is scoring 9.6 per game, reserve forward Darian Townes is averaging 8.2 points and has teamed with starting center Steven Hill to make the Razorbacks the SEC’s top shot-blocking team at 7.0 per game.
OLE MISS-ARKANSAS SERIES
Saturday's game will be the 59th meeting between the two schools, with the Razorbacks holding an all-time series lead of 38-20. The series began in 1937. Since Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference in the 1991-92 season, the series is tied at 15-15. Ole Miss has won 12 of the last 17 meetings against the Razorbacks. The teams split the season series a year ago with each winning on its homecourt (see page 6). Ole Miss holds an 12-4 series lead in games played in Oxford, and has won nine of the last 10 bouts in Tad Smith Coliseum, including a 73-70 triumph a year ago.
PEP RALLY SET FOR MSU GAME
The Student Spirit Committee & Red Riot will hold a pep rally for the Rebels prior to their Jan. 30 home meeting with Mississippi State. Sponsored by Stanford Financial, the rally will kick off at 5:15 p.m. outside Tad Smith Coliseum and will feature the band, cheerleaders and Rebelettes. The first 500 Ole Miss students to arrive at the event with their ID will receive a free hot dog and bottled water. For more information, please call me at 901-299-8264. An ESPN “Super Tuesday” game, the Ole Miss-MSU battle has a 6 p.m. tip time.
Ole Miss certainly holds a strong connection with the nearby western state of Arkansas. The Rebels have sported 15 Arkansas natives on their roster since 1998-99, including a pair of current players Bam Doyne (Little Rock) and Jermey Parnell (Gosnell). Other notable Rebels from Arkansas include Jason Smith (Wheatley), Keith Carter (Perryville), Jason Flannigan (Little Rock) and Jason Harrison (Little Rock).
Saturday’s game will be a Mississippi homecoming of sorts for a few of the visiting Razorbacks. Junior forward Charles Thomas is a Jackson native, while sophomore forward Cyrus McGowan hails from Meridian. In addition, junior guard Gary Ervin spent two seasons at MSU before moving on to Fayetteville.
Ole Miss was letting the 3-pointers fly in Wednesday’s game at Mississippi State. In fact, the Rebels’ 32 attempts from behind the arc were the most since shooting a school-record 35 in the 2002 NCAA Tournament loss to UCLA at the Pittsburgh Regional. In addition, Clarence Sanders established a single-game school record with his 16 3-point tries.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Fourth-year Rebel Todd Abernethy is quietly moving up the Ole Miss career lists. The Carmel, Ind., native needs one more 3-pointer to tie for fifth on the all-time chart for treys made with Joezon Darby’s (1996-98) total of 131. Abernethy’s current .393 3-point percentage is tied for fourth on the Ole Miss career list. He also stands seventh all-time in assists, and at his current pace, would move into the top four by season’s end.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Ole Miss is one of the SEC’s best when it comes to turnovers, ranking second in fewest giveaways (11.9) and third in both turnover margin (+3.7) and assist/turnover ratio (1.19). The Rebels have been in single-digit in turnovers in eight games, including both of the first two league contests. Starting senior guard Todd Abernethy is the SEC leader in assist/turnover ratio at 3.12.
The Rebels currently rank third in the SEC in free throw percentage at 71.1. 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 Todd Abernethy at 83.9, Bam Doyne at 81.3 and Clarence Sanders at 80.0.
HITTING THE BOARDS
Ole Miss has been a fierce rebounding team of late, outdoing the opposition in five of the last seven 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 (14.50 per game), and pulled down 21 off the offensive glass at Mississippi State. Ole Miss’ improvement on the boards has coincided with the return of Dwayne Curtis, who is grabbing 9.7 rebounds in his eight games back. Kenny Williams has also helped lead the charge, ranking fourth in the SEC on the offensive boards (2.94) and 12th in overall rebounding (6.0). Bam Doyne is 16th at 5.8 rebounds per game.
Andy Kennedy’s style of “pressure basketball” has paid some dividends for the Rebels on the offensive side. Ole Miss is averaging 74.6 points per game, a 9.4 raise from a year ago, and connecting on 37.1 percent of its 3-pointers, which is a 4.3 improvement. 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.
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. 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.
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 scoring in double-figures for the first time in his career at 10.5 ppg and turned in two 20-point games, including Mississippi State Wednesday. With his team-high 17 points against Kentucky, he is averaging 18.5 points through two SEC games, which is fifth in the league. For the season, Abernethy is the SEC leader in assist/turnover ratio (3.12) and ranks third in assists (5.2 per game). He is averaging 6.5 assists over the last six games and equaled his career-best assist total at South Alabama with 9 handouts.
With only eight games under his belt, Dwayne Curtis is looking like his old self, notching five double-doubles and narrowly missing another. Facing off with Kentucky center Randolph Morris, Curtis posted 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Wildcats, and he came back with 10 and 10 at Mississippi State Wednesday. Curtis had his best game of the year against Alabama A&M, posting season 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. 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 14 of the last 15 games and ranks seventh in the SEC at 15.6 points per game. He is also third in 3s per game (2.56) and ninth in the league in 3-point percentage (38.3). 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 .428 field goal percentage this season, despite a tough outing at Mississippi State Wednesday.
DOYNE IT ALL
Bam Doyne is among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking third in scoring (17.3), 16th in rebounding (5.8), fourth in free throw accuracy (81.3) and ninth in minutes played (31.94). The senior guard has topped the team or tied for the team-lead in scoring in six games, including 22 in the 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.
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: Hampton returned to the starting lineup for only the second time this season at Mississippi State Wednesday. He played 6 minutes and connected on 1-of-2 free throws ... 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: Since suiting up for his first game with the Rebel basketball team against Alabama A&M, the two-sport athlete has seen action in the last four games and posted highs of 5 rebounds, 2 points and 2 steals at Mississippi State Wednesday. 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 has hit 6 of his last 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: The junior guard played 18 minutes at Mississippi State and was 2-for-2 from the field in scoring 5 points ... With starting point guard Todd Abernethy leaving with injury in the game’s opening moments, 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 12th in the SEC in rebounding (6.0) and fourth on the offensive boards (2.9) ... Williams was turned in two double-doubles, including 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 8-1 mark this year, Ole Miss has won 140 of its last 173 games (.809 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 374-180 (.675 winning percentage) at C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Ole Miss is making its ninth TV appearance of the year against Arkansas, 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 Arkansas 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.