Live Radio | Live StatsGAME 21: Ole Miss (13-7, 2-4) vs. Vanderbilt (14-6, 4-2)
January 27, 2007 Noon CT
Nashville, Tenn. Memorial Gymnasium (14,316)
Live TV: Lincoln Financial Sports (Tim Brando, play-by-play; Larry Conley, analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, analyst)
Satellite Radio: NA
OLE MISS RIDES MOMENTUM TO VANDY
Ole Miss takes to the road for the third time in its last four games, traveling to Vanderbilt for a Saturday bout. The Rebels snapped a three-game skid Wednesday with an 83-69 home win over Tennessee. Clarence Sanders scored 20 points, 18 in the second half, as Ole Miss rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit with a 20-2 run. Dwayne Curtis had 18 points and 9 rebounds, while Bam Doyne had 13 and Todd Abernethy 10. The 14-point win was the Rebels’ biggest in SEC play since a 70-55 triumph over Auburn on Feb. 2, 2005 32 league games ago.
SCOUTING THE COMMODORES
Vanderbilt comes in as one of the nation’s hottest clubs having knocked off four top-25 teams in its last five games, including the last two on the road. The Commodores earned a 72-67 victory at No. 25 Kentucky last weekend and followed up with 64-53 win at No. 21 LSU Wednesday. Vanderbilt is killing teams with the 3-pointer, averaging a league-high 9.40 per game and 11.17 since the start of conference play. The Dores have three players Dan Cage, Derrick Byars and Shan Foster ranking among the SEC leaders in 3-point percentage and 3s per game. Byars and Foster, a pair of swingmen, direct the VU attack each averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds. Cage, a senior guard, is scoring 11.6 points per game, while Ross Neltner, a junior transfer from LSU, is adding 10.3 points and 5.9 boards from the frontcourt. Junior point guard Alex Gordon rounds out the starting five with 8.2 points and 4.0 assists per outing.
OLE MISS-VANDERBILT SERIES
Saturday’s game will be the 106th meeting between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt on the hardwood. The Commodores hold a 68-38 lead in the series, which began in 1925. Vanderbilt has taken five straight in the series, including last year’s 77-62 encounter in Oxford (see page 6). The Commodores hold a commanding 45-7 in games played in Nashville and held court in the last two encounters there. The last Ole Miss victory at Memorial Gym was 81-68 on Jan. 6, 2001, in the team’s first win there since the 1984-85 season. Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy picked up a 92-83 victory at Vanderbilt last year in his lone season as Cincinnati mentor.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, the Ole Miss-Vanderbilt series has been all about location in recent years. In fact, the home team has prevailed in 17 of the last 20 meetings. From 1989 through 2000, the home team held court in 14 straight games.
Ole Miss has ignited huge second-half comebacks in each of the last two games. Against both Florida Saturday and Arkansas Wednesday, the Rebels reeled off second-half runs in which they outscored the opposition by 18 points. In both instances, Clarence Sanders has led the revival, averaging 16.5 points after halftime in the last two contests. The junior guard hit five consecutive shots during a 20-2 second-half explosion against the Volunteers Wednesday that turned a 10-point halftime deficit to a 14-point win. Sanders scored 18 of his team-high 20 after the break. The UT game was the fifth this year when Ole Miss has trailed at halftime and came back for the win.
After falling down by 25 points against No. 1 Florida, Ole Miss used a full-court press to begin a 29-11 run on the national champs that narrowed the gap to 7 points. After intermission, Ole Miss had 9 steals and scored 15 points off 12 Gator turnovers. 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.
Three Rebels are returning to their homestate of Tennessee this weekend. 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.
After averaging 8.8 free throw attempts per game over the previous seven games, Ole Miss returned to the stripe Wednesday with 27 tries. The prior stretch of games saw the Rebels at the line for only 2 shots at LSU and 4 at Saint Louis.
The Rebels currently rank fourth in the SEC in free throw percentage at 70.3. 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 83.8, Bam Doyne at 80.6 and Clarence Sanders at 79.4.
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.
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.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Ole Miss is the SEC’s best when it comes to turnovers, ranking first in turnover margin (+3.95) and third in assist/turnover ratio (1.14). The Rebels have been in single digits in turnovers in eight games, including twice in league play. Starting senior guard Todd Abernethy is the SEC leader in assist/turnover ratio at 2.97. On the takeaway side, Ole Miss has posted double-digit steals in three of the last four games, including 11 against Tennessee Wednesday with a career-high 3 from Brian Smith. The Rebels established a season high for steals at Florida 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 (14.10 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 total rebounds and ranks third in the SEC in league play (9.5). Kenny Williams has also helped lead the charge, ranking seventh in the SEC for the season on the offensive boards (2.65) and 14th in overall rebounding (5.7).
Andy Kennedy’s style of “pressure basketball” has paid some dividends for the Rebels on the offensive side. Ole Miss is averaging 73.8 points per game, a 8.6 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.
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 18 of the last 19 games and ranks seventh in the SEC at 15.6 points per game. He is also fourth in 3s per game (2.50) and 12th in the league in 3-point percentage (36.5). With huge second halves in the last two games, Sanders struck for 19 at No. 1 Florida and 20 against Tennessee Wednesday, marking his eighth career 20-point outing. 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. 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 .416 field goal percentage 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, particularly in league play. He is averaging in double-figure points for the first time in his career at 10.7 ppg and turned in two 20-point games, including at Mississippi State. In addition, Abernethy leads the SEC in assist/turnover ratio (2.97) and third in assists (5.00 per game). He equaled his career-best assist total at South Alabama with 9 handouts.
With 12 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, and just missed another double double Wednesday with 18 points and 9 rebounds against Tennessee. 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 fourth in scoring (16.0), 20th in rebounding (5.3), sixth in free throw accuracy (80.6) and 13th in minutes played (31.70). 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 six 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 135 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 seven of the last eight games and earned his first career start at LSU. With Kenny Williams and Jermey Parnell both fouling out at Florida, 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 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 has hit his last four shots and is 7-for-9 from the field and 5-for-6 from 3-point range over the last five 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. In addition, he was 2-for-2 for 5 points against Tennessee Wednesday ... 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 four outings, and just missed against Tennessee Wednesday with 9 points along with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. 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 seventh in the SEC on the offensive boards (2.65) and 14th in overall rebounding (5.7) ... 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 11th TV appearance of the year at Vanderbilt, 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 on Tuesday. The Vandy contest is the second 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.
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.
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.