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GAME 19: Ole Miss (12-6, 1-3) at #1/1 Florida (16-2, 3-0)
January 20, 2007 Noon CT
Gainesville, Fla. Stephen C. O’Connell Center (12,000)
Live TV: Lincoln Financial Sports (Dave Baker, play-by-play; Larry Conley, analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS181 (Florida broadcast)
REBELS FACE NATION’S NO. 1 ON ROAD
Ole Miss stays on the road to battle its second straight Final Four team in the top-ranked, national champion Florida Gators. The Rebels look to rebound from a 62-55 loss Wednesday at No. 16 LSU. Ole Miss pulled within one late in the second half but could get no closer in dropping its ninth straight SEC road decision. Dwayne Curtis posted his fourth straight double-double with 11 point and 12 boards, while Clarence Sanders scored a team-high 12. Kenny Williams added 10 points and 6 boards off the bench, and is averaging 10.0 points and 6.5 rebounds over the last two games.
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.
SCOUTING THE GATORS
Florida’s 84-50 victory at South Carolina last Saturday pushed the current Gator win streak to nine games and thrust them into the top spot in both top-25 polls heading into the midweek open date. Billy Donovan’s squad returned all five starters from last year’s national champion team, including four preseason All-SEC honorees. Those five starters are all averaging double-figures this season, led by junior guard Taurean Green’s 13.6 scoring clip. Junior forwards Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah and Al Horford are each posting 12 points per game, while senior guard Lee Humphrey is adding 10.4 and connecting on 45.2 percent of his 3-pointers (47-of-104). Noah and Horford are each averaging 8.3 rebounds in helping make the Gators the SEC’s top team on the boards with a 9.2 margin per game. Florida also tops the conference in margin of victory (+25.9), 3-point percentage (.426), assists (18.33) and assist/turnover ratio (1.35) among other categories. Horford is the individual leader in field goal percentage (.641), as the Gators are the best in the nation as a team (.539).
OLE MISS-FLORIDA SERIES
Saturday’s game will be the 96th meeting between the two schools. Florida holds a 54-41 lead in the series, which began in 1940. The Gators hold a narrow 7-5 lead in the last 12 games and have won the last four, including last year’s 69-58 result in Oxford (see page 6). Florida enjoys a 32-11 edge in Gainesville but is only 3-2 the last five encounters at the O’Connell Center. The Gators earned an overwhelming 90-53 win there in 2004-05. Ole Miss’ last road win in the series was a 79-68 victory in 1998-99.
Florida lost only two letterwinners from its 2006 national champion team and among them is current Rebel David Huertas. The Puerto Rico native inked with Ole Miss in July and is sitting out this season by NCAA transfer rules. The 6-foot-5 sophomore had one of the finest games of his UF freshman campaign in Oxford, starting and notching 9 points and 4 boards against his current club.
LAST TIME ...
The last time the Rebels faced the No. 1 team in the nation was the 1993-94 season when they twice encountered top-ranked Arkansas. Ole Miss fell to the eventual national champion 87-61 in Fayetteville and 90-73 in Memphis’ Pyramid ... The last time the Rebels knocked off a top-five foe was a 74-69 triumph over fifth-ranked Florida in the 2001 SEC Tournament. Ole Miss has dropped its last four games with top-five opponents, including last year’s 72-49 home loss to No. 5 Memphis ... The last time the Rebels defeated a top-25 adversary was a 79-68 home win over No. 23 South Carolina in 2003-04. Ole Miss has lost 11 straight to ranked competition.
A pair of first-year Rebels hail from the state of Florida. Freshman guard Eniel Polynice is a Sarasota native, while junior forward Kenny Williams is from Miami and played two seasons at St. Petersburg Junior College. Also, Rebel signee Chris Warren calls Orlando home, and Kevin Cantinol plays his high school hoops in Clearwater.
In addition, Clarence Sanders spent two years in the Sunshine State, playing for Okaloosa-Walton Community College in Niceville, Fla. In his two years with the Raiders, Sanders faced off multiple times with Panhandle Conference adversary Pensacola Junior College and now-Florida senior guard Brett Swanson.
A pair of Rebels are quite familiar with Gator guard Lee Humphrey having played alongside him in summer trips. In June, Todd Abernethy and Humphrey were teammates in a Sports Reach trip to Brazil, turning in a 5-0 record on the court, speaking at local schools and universities and sharing in worship services. In May 2005, Jermey Parnell teamed with Humphrey in a Sports Reach trip to China.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Ole Miss is one of the SEC’s best when it comes to turnovers, ranking second in fewest giveaways (12.0) and third in both turnover margin (+3.72) and assist/turnover ratio (1.16). The Rebels have been in single digits in turnovers in eight games, including two of the first four league contests. Starting senior guard Todd Abernethy is the SEC leader in assist/turnover ratio at 2.93. On the takeaway side, Ole Miss equaled its season high for steals with 10 against Arkansas last Saturday, led by Bam Doyne's career-best tying 4, and forced the Hogs into 21 turnovers.
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 82.0 and Clarence Sanders at 78.1.
HITTING THE BOARDS
The Rebels have risen to second in the SEC in offensive rebounds (14.22 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 10.2 rebounds in his 10 games back and would rank second in the league on the glass had he played in enough games. Kenny Williams has also helped lead the charge, ranking fourth in the SEC on the offensive boards (2.83) and 13th in overall rebounding (6.1). Bam Doyne is 17th at 5.4 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 73.5 points per game, a 8.3 raise from a year ago, and connecting on 36.8 percent of its 3-pointers, which is a 4.0 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.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Fourth-year Rebel Todd Abernethy is quietly sliding up the Ole Miss career lists. The Carmel, Ind., native has moved alone into fifth on the all-time chart for 3-pointers made by passing Joezon Darby (1996-98) with 132 treys. Abernethy’s current .387 3-point percentage is sixth 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.
With only 10 games under his belt, Dwayne Curtis is looking like his old self with seven double-doubles, including in all four SEC games. He has twice reached the 20-point, 10-rebound plateau this year, including his 20 and 12 performance against Arkansas last Saturday. Curtis also shined with season highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds against Alabama A&M. 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. Curtis tallied 11 points and 12 boards against LSU and All-American Glen Davis. 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.
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, particularly in league play. Through four SEC contests, he is leading the team with 14.8 points and 5.0 assists per game. For the season, he is averaging in double-figure points for the first time in his career at 10.6 ppg and turned in two 20-point games, including at Mississippi State. In addition, Abernethy is the SEC leader in assist/turnover ratio (2.93) and ranks second in assists (5.18 per game). He equaled his career-best assist total at South Alabama with 9 handouts.
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 16 of the last 17 games and ranks eighth in the SEC at 15.2 points per game. He is also fourth in 3s per game (2.50) and 11th in the league in 3-point percentage (38.5). 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 a .357 shooting clip a year ago, Sanders boasts a .421 field goal percentage this season.
DOYNE IT ALL
Bam Doyne has been among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking fifth in scoring (16.4), 17th in rebounding (5.4), second in free throw accuracy (82.0) and 10th in minutes played (31.89). 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. In addition, he has tallied multiple steals in five games, including a career-high tying 4 against Arkansas.
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. 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 six games and earned his first career start at LSU. He saw 15 minutes on the floor against the Tigers and collected 2 steals, giving him 5 in the last three games. Hardy posted season highs of 5 rebounds, 2 points and 2 steals at Mississippi State ... 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 four games as reserve, Parnell returned to the starting lineup against Arkansas. It was his 12th start of the year ... 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: The freshman guard has seen 15 minutes of action in each of the last two games, more than he had earned in the previous seven games. Against Arkansas, he equaled his career high for assists with 3 ... Polynice has posted a pair of double-digit scoring performances this year. 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 is 3-for-4 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range over the last three games. Smith played 18 minutes at Mississippi State and was 2-for-2 from the field in scoring 5 points. He also came off the bench to hit a key trey with 8:11 left against Arkansas ... 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 has scored in double figures in consecutive outings, averaging 10.0 points and 6.5 rebounds over the last two games. He struck for 10 points, on 5-of-7 shooting, with 7 rebounds off the bench against Arkansas. Williams was also 5-for-7 for 10 points at LSU Wednesday and grabbed 6 boards with 2 blocks ... Williams is 13th in the SEC in rebounding (6.1) and fourth on the offensive boards (2.83) ... Williams has turned in two double-doubles, including a 13-point, career-high 13-rebound effort against Alabama A&M. Williams had his best game as a Rebel against Nicholls with his first double-double, posting career highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds. He also hit for 15 points and 6 boards against New Orleans and 13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals against Tennessee Tech.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Ole Miss is making its 10th TV appearance of the year against Florida, as the game is available on Lincoln Financial Sports. 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 Florida contest is the first of four on LFS, while five games will be played on Fox Sports Net. 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.