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GAME 22: Ole Miss (13-8, 2-5) vs. Mississippi State (11-8, 2-4)
January 30, 2007 6 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,700)
Live TV: ESPN (Brad Nessler, play-by-play; Jimmy Dykes, color analyst; Heather Cox, sideline analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, analyst; Richard Cross, analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 181
REBELS RETURN HOME FOR RIVAL DOGS
With a 10-1 mark in Oxford, Ole Miss returns to the Tad Pad to host rival Mississippi State in an ESPN “Super Tuesday” encounter. For the third straight game, the Rebels ignited a big second-half rally Saturday, but fell short at Vanderbilt 85-80. Down by 15 at the break, the Rebels stormed out of the lockerroom on a 32-16 run to take the lead midway through the half. Bam Doyne posted 15 of his 22 points in the second half and was among six Rebels that finished in double-figures. Ole Miss also reeled off second-half runs of 29-11 at No. 1 Florida and 20-2 in the win over Tennessee.
PEP RALLY SET FOR TUESDAY
The Student Spirit Committee will hold a pep rally prior to Tuesday's home encounter with rival Mississippi State. The event will kick off with a student tailgate at 4 p.m. outside Tad Smith Coliseum, where the first 500 Ole Miss students to arrive at the event with their ID will receive a free hot dog and bottled water courtesy of Stanford Financial. Also, the student exhibiting the most school spirit will win $100. At 5:15 p.m., the pep rally will fire up the crowd with the band, cheerleaders and Rebelettes. Also, in the event of cold weather, outdoor heaters will be on hand to keep fans hot for the game. For more information, please call 901-299-8264.
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS
The Bulldogs are looking to snap a two-game losing skid, having dropped a pair of 3-point results to Florida (70-67) and South Carolina (66-63) at home last week. As a team, the Bulldogs lead the SEC in field goal percentage defense (.376), 3-point defense (.285) and blocked shots (7.00). Sophomore forward Jamont Gordon ranks among the SEC’s top-10 leaders in scoring (15.2 ppg; 10th), rebounding (7.4 rpg; 8th) and assists (4.7 apg; 6th), while freshman guard Barry Stewart rates as MSU’s second-leading scorer and the No. 2 freshman scorer in the SEC at 11.8 points per outing. Junior forward Charles Rhodes is posting 11.4 points and 6.2 boards.
OLE MISS-STATE SERIES
Tuesday’s game will the 235th meeting between the two schools, with the Bulldogs holding an all-time series lead of 132-102 in the SEC’s most-played rivalry. State prevailed 77-67 in the first meeting of the year on Jan. 10 in Starkville. The teams split the season series a year ago with each winning on its homecourt (see page 6). The Rebels hold a 75-40 series advantage in games played in Oxford and have taken seven of the last 11 at Tad Smith Coliseum. Last year’s 75-65 Ole Miss triumph in Oxford saw Todd Abernethy score 22 points, including 9 in the final minutes.
BULLDOG COACHING TIES
Ole Miss assistant coach Owen Miller will be countering a familiar program on Tuesday. The first-year Rebel assistant served the same position at Mississippi State from 1994-95 until 1996-97. In his first coaching experience, Miller helped Richard Williams’ Bulldogs to an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 1995 and a Final Four trip the following year. MSU won the SEC West crown twice in his tenure and captured the league tournament title in 1996.
Ole Miss has ignited huge second-half comebacks in each of the last three games. At Vanderbilt Saturday, the Rebels stormed out of the half on a 32-16 run that turned a 15-point deficit into a 1-point advantage with 10:34 left. Ole Miss would retake the lead again later before falling 85-80. Bam Doyne directed the surge with 15 of his 22 after halftime.
Against both Florida and Tennessee, the Rebels reeled off second-half runs in which they outscored the opposition by 18 points. Clarence Sanders hit five consecutive shots during a 20-2 second-half explosion against the Volunteers that shifted a 10-point halftime deficit into a 14-point win. 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.
As the Rebels have erased big deficits late in the last three games, Clarence Sanders has been one of the emotional leaders in the rallying efforts. The junior guard is averaging 14.7 points after halftime in the last three contests. Sanders scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second stanza at Florida, as Ole Miss reeled off a 29-11 against the nation’s No. 1. He followed with 18 second-half points against Tennessee to help the Rebels go from 10 down at the break to a 83-69 victory. Sanders also dropped in 11 after the break at Vanderbilt and hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cap a 32-16 run and provide Ole Miss the lead.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Ole Miss is among the SEC’s best when it comes to turnovers, ranking second in turnover margin (+3.86) and third in assist/turnover ratio (1.16). 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 3.09. On the takeaway side, Ole Miss has posted double-digit steals in three of the last five games, including 11 against Tennessee 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.
Ole Miss was letting the 3-pointers fly in the first meeting with 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.
Andy Kennedy’s style of “pressure basketball” has paid some dividends for the Rebels on the offensive side. Ole Miss is averaging 74.1 points per game, a 8.9 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.
HITTING THE BOARDS
The Rebels are second in the SEC in offensive rebounds (13.95 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 9.2 total rebounds and ranks fourth in the SEC in league play (8.9). Kenny Williams has also helped lead the charge, ranking seventh in the SEC for the season on the offensive boards (2.67) and 14th in overall rebounding (5.7).
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.
DOYNE IT ALL
Bam Doyne has been among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking fourth in scoring (16.2), 20th in rebounding (5.3), sixth in free throw accuracy (79.5) and 13th in minutes played (31.95). The senior guard has topped the team or tied for the team-lead in scoring in seven games, including 22 in Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt. He recorded 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in addition to notching his first 20-point game in SEC play and seventh 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 turned in 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 seven games, including a career-high tying 4 against Arkansas.
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 has scored in double-figures in 19 of the last 20 games and ranks eighth in the SEC at 15.3 points per game. He is also fifth in 3s per game (2.52) and 13th in the league in 3-point percentage (36.1). With huge second halves, Sanders struck for team-highs of 17 points at No. 1 Florida and 20 against Tennessee, marking his eighth career 20-point outing. At one point this year, he hit 11 straight shots, posting a perfect second half against UIC and connecting on his first five attempts against Alabama A&M. In the win over UIC, Sanders connected on 4-of-6 treys in leading the Rebels with 20, and he netted 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 .413 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. 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 in the first meeting at Mississippi State. In addition, Abernethy leads the SEC in assist/turnover ratio (3.09) and third in assists (5.10 per game). He equaled his career-best assist total at South Alabama with 9 handouts and last time, posted 7 at Vanderbilt.
With 12 games under his belt, Dwayne Curtis is looking like his old self with seven double-doubles, including four in SEC play. 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 against Tennessee with 18 points and 9 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.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Todd Abernethy: The fourth-year Rebel is quietly sliding up the Ole Miss career lists. The Carmel, Ind., native has moved into fifth on the all-time chart for 3-pointers made by passing Joezon Darby (1996-98) with 136 treys. He also needs only 19 more assists to climb into the top-five in that category as well ... 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 nine 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 earned his first career start Saturday at Vanderbilt and responded with his third double-digit scoring performance of the year. He finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals ... 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 earned his second career start at Vanderbilt Saturday. He played 19 minutes and collected 3 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists ... Smith has hit 8 of his last 12 shots and 6-for-9 from 3-point range over the last six 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. With Abernethy still out, the 5-foot-11 Smith 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 three of the last five outings, including at Vanderbilt Saturday where he amassed 10 points, on 4-for-4 shooting, with 6 rebounds. He struck for 10 points, on 5-of-7 field goals, with 7 rebounds against Arkansas, and was also 5-for-7 for 10 points at LSU with 6 boards and 2 blocks. Williams was also effective against Tennessee with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks ... Williams is seventh in the SEC on the offensive boards (2.67) 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.
After averaging 8.8 free throw attempts per game over the previous seven games, Ole Miss has returned to the stripe over the last two games with 27 tries against Tennessee and 19 at Vanderbilt. 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 fifth in the SEC in free throw percentage at 69.3. That figure is almost 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 Bam Doyne at 79.5, Clarence Sanders at 79.4 and Todd Abernethy at 77.5.
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 10-1 mark this year, Ole Miss has won 142 of its last 175 games (.811 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 376-180 (.676 winning percentage) at C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Ole Miss is making its 12th TV appearance of the year against Mississippi State, as the game is an ESPN “Super Tuesday” showdown. 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. Five games are being played on Fox Sports Net this year and four on LFS. 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.
Senior guard Todd Abernethy has garnered a house full of awards in his three years in Oxford. On the hardwood, the Carmel, Ind., native started every game at point guard in his debut campaign and was named to the 2004 SEC All-Freshman Team. As a sophomore, Abernethy moved into a reserve role and thrived, picking up 2005 SEC Sixth Man of the Year accolades. It was his only year off the bench, as he returned to the starting lineup in 2005-06. Off the court, Abernethy maintains a 3.44 GPA in Banking and Finance and has been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll all three seasons. Last year, he was selected to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 6 first team, as voted on by CoSIDA. He was also honored on the 2006 SEC Good Works Team.
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.