Live Radio | Live StatsGAME 20: Ole Miss (12-7, 1-4) vs. Tennessee (14-5, 2-2)
January 24, 2007 7 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,700)
Live TV: None
Live Radio: Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 181
REBELS RETURN HOME FOR SEC CHAMPS
Ole Miss returns home to match up with defending SEC Champion Tennessee. The Rebels are coming off a week in which they battled a pair of Final Four teams on the road. On Saturday, Ole Miss narrowed a 25-point second-half deficit to 7 at top-ranked Florida before falling 79-70. Clarence Sanders scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second half. Eniel Polynice dropped in all 8 of his points during the late surge, but rimmed out a late 3-point attempt that would have pulled Ole Miss within 4 points. Todd Abernethy scored 14 and averages a team-high 14.6 ppg in SEC play.
SCOUTING THE VOLUNTEERS
Tennessee snapped a three-game skid with Saturday’s 64-61 victory at South Carolina. The win was costly for the defending SEC regular-season champions, as All-America candidate Chris Lofton sprained his right ankle early in the second half after scoring only 4 points. He remains out indefinitely. The junior guard is leading the SEC and ranks top-10 in the nation with 21.5 points per game. One of the top shooters in the country, he averages 3.7 3-pointers per game and is connecting on 46.1 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Junior guard JaJuan Smith is second on the club at 14.5 points per game, and joins teammate Dane Bradshaw among the SEC’s top three in steals. A senior swingman, Bradshaw is No. 1 in the league in assist/turnover ratio (2.97) and is fourth in assists per game (4.84). Tennessee is leading the conference and ranks seventh in the nation with 83.2 points per game. The Vols are also tops in the SEC in steals (10.00 pg), turnover margin (+4.32) and offensive rebounds (14.37 pg).
OLE MISS-TENNESSEE SERIES
The Volunteers hold a 63-37 lead in the series, which began in 1924. Tennessee has a narrow 4-3 advantage over the last seven meetings and picked up a 86-72 victory a year ago in Knoxville, despite Clarence Sanders’ 7 3-pointers and career-high 29 points. The Vols enjoy a 24-20 all-time edge in Oxford, although the Rebels are 3-2 in the last five games at the Tad Pad and prevailed 60-58 in 2004-05.
AUBURN GAME TIME SET
Tipoff time for the Rebels’ regular-season finale against Auburn in Oxford on March 3 has been set for 4 p.m. CT. The game will mark Senior Day for Ole Miss, as Todd Abernethy, Bam Doyne and Clarence Sanders will be honored in pregame ceremonies.
MEET THE BASEBALL REBELS
The nationally-ranked Ole Miss baseball team will hold its annual “Meet The Rebels” event prior to Wednesday’s hoops game. Players and coaches will be available on the concourse level of Tad Smith Coliseum beginning at 6 p.m. to sign autographs and meet fans.
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.
The Rebels boast three Tennessee natives on the roster. Sophomore guard Patrick Spach and freshman forward Greg Hardy both hail from Memphis and were high school teammates at Briarcrest Christian. Sophomore forward Xavier Hansbro is a native of Trezevant, near Jackson.
WHAT A COMEBACK
After falling down by 25 points against No. 1 Florida, Ole Miss ignited a shocking run that would silence the 12,000-plus Gator fans. Using a full-court press, the Rebels reeled off a 29-11 run on the national champs and narrowed the gap to 7 points. After intermission, Ole Miss had 9 steals and scored 15 points off 12 Gator turnovers. Clarence Sanders attacked for 15 points in the second half, but perhaps the greatest lift came from the bench. Eniel Polynice collected 3 steals and dropped in 8 points, while Brian Smith was 2-for-2 from 3-point range. After seeing the 7-point deficit balloon again to 13 with 5:44 left, the Rebels stormed back again with three straight baskets to pull back to 7 points. In both instances in which the margin was 7, Ole Miss had a possession to draw even closer.
The last time Ole Miss opened SEC play 1-5 was the 1999-2000 season, when the Rebels dropped its first five league games, three to top-20 teams, before knocking off No. 4 Auburn 79-77 in overtime.
NOTHING FOR FREE
Free throw attempts have been a rarity for the Rebels over the last seven games, averaging 8.8 tries per game over that stretch. Conversely, opponents are averaging 21.5 during that span. Ole Miss had only 2 shots from the charity stripe at LSU and 4 at Saint Louis.
The Rebels currently rank fourth in the SEC in free throw percentage at 70.5. That figure is over 7 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 84.8, Bam Doyne at 80.8 and Clarence Sanders at 78.1.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Ole Miss is one of the SEC’s best when it comes to turnovers, tying for first in fewest giveaways (12.0) and ranking second in turnover margin (+3.89) and third in assist/turnover ratio (1.15). The Rebels have been in single digits in turnovers in eight games, including twice in league play. Starting senior guard Todd Abernethy is second in the SEC in assist/ turnover ratio at 2.94. On the takeaway side, Ole Miss established a season high for steals at Florida Saturday with 12 against the No. 1 Gators, including 3 from Eniel Polynice. The Rebels also notched 10 steals against Arkansas, led by Bam Doyne's career-best tying 4, and forced the Hogs into 21 turnovers.
HITTING THE BOARDS
The Rebels are second in the SEC in offensive rebounds (14.16 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 9.6 rebounds in his 11 games back and ranks third in the SEC in league play. Kenny Williams has also helped lead the charge, ranking sixth in the SEC for the season on the offensive boards (2.68) and 15th in overall rebounding (5.7). Bam Doyne is 20th at 5.3 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 73.3 points per game, a 8.1 raise from a year ago. 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.
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 five SEC contests, he is leading the team with 14.6 points and 4.6 assists per game. For the season, he is averaging in double-figure points for the first time in his career at 10.8 ppg and turned in two 20-point games, including at Mississippi State. In addition, Abernethy ranks second in the SEC in assist/turnover ratio (2.94) and second in assists (5.06 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 17 of the last 18 games and ranks eighth in the SEC at 15.3 points per game. He is also fifth in 3s per game (2.42) 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.
With only 11 games under his belt, Dwayne Curtis is looking like his old self with seven double-doubles, including in four of the five SEC games. He has twice reached the 20-point, 10-rebound plateau this year, including his 20 and 12 performance against Arkansas. 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.
DOYNE IT ALL
Bam Doyne has been among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking fifth in scoring (16.1), 20th in rebounding (5.3), fourth in free throw accuracy (80.8) and 13th in minutes played (31.63). 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 fourth-year Rebel 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 134 treys. He also stands seventh all-time in assists, and at his current pace, would move into the top four by season’s end ... Abernethy 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 seven games and earned his first career start at LSU. With Kenny Williams and Jermey Parnell both fouling out at Florida Saturday, Hardy saw 12 minutes of action and posted 3 points, 4 rebounds and a steal, giving him 6 takeaways in the last four games. He posted a season-high 5 rebounds with 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 posted a pair of double-digit scoring performances this year ... For the fourth time this season, Polynice helped energize a big Rebel run Saturday in the second-half comeback at Florida. During Ole Miss’ 29-11 outburst on the Gators, the Sarasota, Fla., native scored 8 points and collected 3 steals, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in helping bring a 25-point deficit down to 7 ... 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 in the victory over Central Arkansas in the HCF Classic. With the Rebels clinging to a 2-point advantage midway through the second half, Polynice drilled a pair of 3-pointers and scored 8 points in 2:18 to push the lead up to 10.
Brian Smith: The junior guard is 5-for-7 from the field and 4-for-5 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, and was 2-for-2 from behind the arc during the Rebels’ 29-11 second-half comeback at Florida ... 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 two of the last three outings. 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 and grabbed 6 boards with 2 blocks ... Williams is 15th in the SEC in rebounding (5.7) and sixth on the offensive boards (2.68) ... 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.
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 9-1 mark this year, Ole Miss has won 141 of its last 174 games (.810 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 375-180 (.676 winning percentage) at C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.
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.