SEC HOME OPENER: Ole Miss (9-6, 0-1) vs. Arkansas (12-2, 0-1)
Wednesday 01.14.09 | 7 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. | C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Keith Carter, analyst). Listen Online through RebelVision
XM Radio: Channel 201
REBELS WELCOME HOGS FOR SEC HOME OPENER
Ole Miss returns to Oxford to host its Southeastern Conference home opener against Arkansas on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT. Both teams are looking for their first league win after the Rebels dropped a 78-68 road decision at Florida and Arkansas lost 70-56 to Mississippi State at home in the opening weekend of league play. David Huertas led Ole Miss with 16 points and nine rebounds in his first game back in Gainesville since transferring from Florida after the 2006 national championship season. Zach Graham added 14 points and Murphy Holloway chipped in 11 as the Rebels cut a 21-point first-half deficit down to six with 2:07 remaining in the game. The Rebels also out-rebounded the Gators 46-22. Arkansas lost for just the second time this year, but has recent wins over top-10 teams Oklahoma and Texas.
INJURIES PILING UP IN UNPRECEDENTED FASHION
To call the 2008-09 Ole Miss basketball season “injury-plagued” would be an understatement. Before conference play began, the Rebels were already 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 is undergoing his procedure this week. 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 doubtful that 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 RAZORBACKS
Arkansas had established itself as one of the hottest teams in the nation prior to its SEC opening defeat to Mississippi State, 70-56, in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks had won their previous 10 games in a row, highlighted by victories over No. 4 Oklahoma (96-88) and No. 7 Texas (67-61). John Pelphrey’s young squad (2 seniors, 3 juniors, 1 sophomore, 7 freshmen) averages 79.6 ppg while giving up 68.4 ppg. The Hogs rank third in the SEC with a +7.9 rebounding margin. Junior Michael Washington is the only player in the SEC averaging a double-double with 17.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Also averaging double figure points are freshman Courtney Fortson (14.4 ppg), junior Stefan Welsh (13.6 ppg) and freshman Rotnei Clarke (12.3 ppg). Pelphrey owns a 35-14 record in his second season at Arkansas.
OLE MISS-ARKANSAS SERIES
Wednesday’s game will be the 63rd meeting between the two schools, with the Razorbacks holding an all-time series lead of 40-22. The series began in 1937. Since Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference in the 1991-92 season, the series is tied 17-17, and Ole Miss has won 14 of the last 21 meetings against the Razorbacks. The teams split the season series each of the last three years with each winning on its homecourt. Ole Miss earned an 81-72 victory in last year’s meeting in Oxford behind 23 points and 11 rebounds from Dwayne Curtis and 19 points from David Huertas. Ole Miss holds a 14-4 series lead in games played in Oxford and has won 12 of the last 13 bouts in Tad Smith Coliseum.
ROB EVANS RETURNS TO TAD PAD
Arkansas assistant coach and former Ole Miss head coach Rob Evans will make his second trip back to Oxford in a basketball capacity on Wednesday. Evans manned the Rebel bench from 1992-93 to 1997-98, amassing an 86-81 record and guiding Ole Miss to NCAA Tournament berths in 1997 and 98 and SEC West titles both of those years, as well. He was the 97 SEC Coach of the Year (Associated Press) and was tabbed National Coach of the Year by College Hoops Insider. He has faced the Rebels on the court twice since his departure from Oxford in 1998, in both Arkansas-Ole Miss games last year. He did not square off against the Rebels during his eight-year tenure as the head coach at Arizona State.
REBEL-HOG PLAYER CONNECTION
Ole Miss sophomore forward Malcolm White and Arkansas junior forward Michael Washington both attended Genesis One Christian School in Mendenhall, Miss., following their high school careers. Washington was at Gensis One in 2005-06, while White prepped there in 2006-07.
IN THE POLLS
Ole Miss is not ranked in either national poll this week. Arkansas is receiving votes in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls.
OLE MISS IN SEC HOME OPENERS
The Rebels have an overall record of 36-39 in their first SEC home game of the year. Ole Miss beat LSU 74-71 in last year’s league home opener and has prevailed in two of the last three.
IMPROVING ON THE GLASS
Ole Miss struggled in its rebounding game throughout most of non-conference play after the Rebels ranked 12th in the nation a year ago when led by a senior-laden frontcourt. However, the SEC opener at Florida was a different story, as Ole Miss dominated the boards for a 46-22 edge. The Rebels racked up 18 offensive rebounds to just four for the Gators, and Ole Miss scored 22 second-chance points to just five for UF. The rebounding margin of 24 was the second-largest by a Rebel squad this season (25 vs. Florida A&M on 12/22).
Freshman forward Murphy Holloway leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game and is averaging 7.8 over the last six contests. He 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, junior forward DeAundre Cranston and junior guard David Huertas have each had games with at least nine boards.
FREE-THROW SHOOTING EXPLOITS
Ole Miss ranks second among Southeastern Conference teams and 17th in the nation with a 75.2 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. David Huertas ranks fifth in the SEC at 79.0 percent (79-of-100), while Zach Graham has only missed one free throw in 24 attempts (95.8 percent) and Terrance Henry is hitting at a 79.3 percent clip (23-of-29).
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).
REBEL “D” SHUTS DOWN NICHOLLS
Ole Miss produced one of its best defensive efforts in recent years in the 53-41 win over Nicholls last 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.
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 28.3 minutes at the point in the last four games. White and senior non-scholarship Patrick Spach have also seen some minutes as the primary ballhandler in the last four contests.
LIFE WITHOUT CHRIS WARREN
Ole Miss has responded to the loss of its preseason all-league point guard with two wins in the four 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. In the four games without Warren, freshman forward Murphy Holloway has stepped up with 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest, while sophomore forward Malcolm White has averaged 10.0 points and freshman guard Terrico White 9.5 during that span. Sophomore guard Zach Graham and freshman guard Will Bogan have both seen a dramatic increase in playing time, with Bogan starting at point guard each of the last four games.
DEFENDING HOME COURT
Winning at home has been a trademark of Andy Kennedy’s squads since he took the reins in 2006-07. The 80-78 loss to West Virginia snapped a 25-game home win streak over non-league foes and a nine-game overall home win streak, but Ole Miss has come back to win each of the next three. Ole Miss is now 39-4 in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum over the last three seasons.
HUERTAS TAKES GAME TO A NEW LEVEL
David Huertas has been a scoring machine in the Rebels’ first 15 games, averaging a team-high 19.9 points, good for second in the SEC and 28th in the nation. The junior guard has scored 20 or more points in 9 of the 15 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 (41.3). 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 1/12)
Category SEC/NCAA Rank Statistic
Points 2nd/28th 19.9/game
Rebounding T-26th 4.8/game
FT Percentage 5th 79.0
3-pt FG Percentage 3rd 41.3
3-pt FGs Made 2nd 2.9/game
Minutes Played 3rd 32.4/game
HUERTAS CONSISTENT FROM DOWNTOWN
Junior guard David Huertas is entering rare territory with his current streak of 23 consecutive games with at least one 3-point field goal. Entering Wednesday’s game against Arkansas, the Puerto Rico native’s streak is tied for the second-longest in Ole Miss history. He needs three 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 David Huertas (2007-08 to present)
23 Joe Harvell (1990-91 to 1992-93)
HOLLOWAY EARNS SEC FRESHMAN HONOR
After posting career highs of 15 points and 16 boards vs. Florida A&M, forward Murphy Holloway was named the SEC Freshman of the Week by the league office on Dec. 29. 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.
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 15 games. Junior guard David Huertas is the only Rebel to have started every contest.
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 43 from long range and is now in ninth place in the Rebel records with 118.
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. 118 David Huertas (50 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 15 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 four career starts, averaging 28.3 minutes per start ... Served as Chris Warren’s back-up at point guard through first 11 games ... Tied season high with 8 points at Florida ... Scored 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 23-of-24 free throws through the first 15 games ... Notched 14 points with 5 rebounds at Florida ... 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 79.3 percent clip (23-of-29) ... 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 sixth in SEC with 2.9 offensive boards per game ... Scored 11 points (5-7 FGs) with 7 boards at Florida ... 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 10th in the SEC in blocked shots with 21 (1.4/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.