GAME 19: #22/24 Ole Miss (15-3, 2-3) vs. #18/19 Vanderbilt (17-3, 2-3)
January 30, 2008 7 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,700)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online
XM Radio: Channel 200
REBELS RETURN TO OXFORD, FACE VANDY
After two straight losses to SEC West foes on the road, No. 22 Ole Miss returns to the friendly confines of Tad Smith Coliseum for a top-25 battle against the 18th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores. The Rebels are 9-0 this year at home and 25-1 in Oxford since Andy Kennedy took the helm last season. Mississippi State held the Rebels to a season-low 68 points in Saturday’s loss, while the Bulldogs also scored the most points against the Rebels this season with 88. Dwayne Curtis still managed to post his ninth double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. It was the senior’s fifth double-double in the last six games. Curtis enters Wednesday’s tilt 17 points shy of 1,000 for his Rebel career. Ole Miss holds a 27-21 advantage over the Dores all-time in Oxford.
SCOUTING THE COMMODORES
After getting off to a school-record 16-0 start, Vanderbilt has had a tough time on the road in conference play, losing each of its three away contests to drop three of the last four overall. Vanderbilt has beaten South Carolina and LSU in Nashville, but lost at Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida. The 17-3 Dores still rank among the nation’s leaders with 83.9 points per game, but average 73.8 points in league tilts. The sensational one-two punch of senior Shan Foster (19.5 ppg) and freshman A.J. Ogilvy (18.1 ppg) has carried Vanderbilt throughout the season. Foster has earned three SEC Player of the Week honors this season, while Ogilvy is a three-time SEC Freshman of the Week. In the most recent NCAA stats, VU ranks among the nation’s top 25 teams in 3-point pct. (4th), assists (5th), and 3-pointers per game (22nd).
OLE MISS-VANDERBILT SERIES
Wednesday’s game will be the 108th meeting between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt on the hardwood. The Commodores hold a 69-38 lead in the series, which began in 1925. Vanderbilt has taken six straight in the series, including last year’s 85-80 encounter in Nashville (see page 7). Ole Miss enjoys a 27-21 advantage in games played in Oxford. The Dores had dropped eight straight at Tad Smith Coliseum before a 77-65 victory in 2004 and a 77-62 win in 2006. Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy is 1-1 against Vandy in his career, picking up a 92-83 victory at Vanderbilt during the 2005-06 campaign, his lone season as Cincinnati mentor.
The Ole Miss-Vanderbilt series has been all about location in recent years. In fact, the home team has prevailed in 18 of the last 21 meetings. From 1989 through 2000, the home team held court in 14 straight games.
Ole Miss has just one Tennessee native on its roster in junior guard Patrick Spach, who hails from Memphis. One of the Rebels’ four early signees for next season, Terrico White, is also a Memphis native.
BEST START SINCE 2000-01
At 15-3, Ole Miss is off to its best start since the 2000-01 squad also piled up 15 wins in its first 18 games before dropping to 15-4. A win over Vanderbilt would equal the school-record start of 16-3 through 19 games, set by the 1936-37 Rebels. The 1925-26 team (which averaged 40.6 points per game) started 16-1 before losing its final game of the year to North Carolina in the Southern Conference Tournament to finish at 16-2 in the 18-game schedule.
CURTIS CLOSING IN ON 1,000 POINTS
Senior center Dwayne Curtis has been a steady producer under the basket during his three-year Rebel career. The Chicago native enters the Vanderbilt game with 983 points at Ole Miss, 17 points shy of becoming the 30th member of the Rebels’ 1,000-Point Club. Curtis is currently averaging a career-high 15.2 ppg after contributing 13.6 and 12.2 points his sophomore and junior years. If you include his freshman season at Auburn (55 points in 19 games), Curtis has scored 1,038 points in his collegiate career.
REBELS DEFENDING SEC WEST TITLE
Ole Miss sits in a tie for third place in the SEC West with a 2-3 record early into its division title defense. With the thrilling victory over Auburn in the 2007 regular season finale, Ole Miss earned the program’s fourth SEC Western Division championship and first since 2001. Ole Miss was picked by the media to finish last in the division again this year, just like last year and 2001. Ole Miss captured consecutive division crowns in 1997 and 1998. The Rebels’ four SEC West titles in the last 11 years is the most of any division rival over that span.
THE LAST TIME...
It was almost seven years ago - March 3, 2001 - the last time a pair of top-25 men’s teams squared off at Tad Smith Coliseum. No. 14 Ole Miss throttled No. 20 Alabama 105-71 in that game, as Jason Holmes poured in a career-high 26 points on Senior Day. Three weeks later, the Rebels made their first and only appearance in the NCAA “Sweet Sixteen.”
OLE MISS-VANDERBILT COMMON FOES
The Rebels and Commodores have played five common opponents this year in DePaul, South Alabama, Tennessee, LSU and Florida. Ole Miss owns a 4-1 record against those foes, while Vandy sports a 3-2 mark.
At No. 14 in the latest CBS Sportsline.com simulated RPI (ratings percentage index) rankings, Ole Miss is doing pretty well for a team that was predicted to finish as low as No. 143 in the nation by one preseason publication. The Rebels range from 14th to 16th in various simulated RPI polls this week.
OLE MISS RANKED AFTER 7-YEAR DROUGHT
Ole Miss is ranked for the sixth straight week, this week at No. 22 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll and No. 24 in the Associated Press poll. Ole Miss is one of five SEC teams ranked this week, including No. 7/8 Tennessee, No. 18/19 Vanderbilt, No. 19/20 Florida and No. 25 Mississippi State. Ole Miss had been receiving votes for three weeks prior to their first ranking.
This week’s rankings mark the first time ever that Ole Miss and Mississippi State have been among the nation’s top 25 at the same time.
Prior to this season, the Rebels were last ranked in the final polls of 2000-01, when they appeared as high as No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today rankings following their NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance.
LEADING THE SEC
Ole Miss ranks at or near the top of the conference in several statistical categories. The Rebels own the league’s top mark in rebounds (42.3/game), rebounding margin (+6.6) and offensive rebounds (16.2/game), while ranking second in scoring offense (84.0 ppg) and defensive rebounds (26.1/game). They also sit in third in turnover margin, 3-pointers made and assist/turnover ratio. Individually, Dwayne Curtis tops the conference with a .684 field-goal percentage and 4.2 offensive rebounds per game, while posting the second-most rebounds per game at 8.7. Chris Warren ranks second with 5.17 assists per game and third with 2.9 three-pointers per contest.
REBELS NEAR TOP OF NATION IN SCORING
Despite a sesaon-low 68 points at Mississippi State Saturday, Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC and seventh nationally in scoring with 84.0 points per game. The Rebels have scored 80+ points in 11 of their first 18 contests. Their 78.2 average in SEC play ranks third among league schools. Ole Miss is on pace to rack up the second-highest scoring average in school history behind the 1970-71 team’s 90.8 ppg and in front of the 1974-75 squad’s 81.6 average.
Ole Miss topped 100 points for the second time this year with a 102-76 victory over Troy on Nov. 27. It is the first time Ole Miss has topped the century mark twice in a season since the 1998-99 campaign. The 108 points in the Nov. 16 win over Lamar were the most in a game since Ole Miss beat Prairie View A&M 111-50 on Dec. 29, 1998.
BANGING THE BOARDS
With a pair of senior big men leading the way, Ole Miss has established itself as one of the top rebounding teams in the nation. The Rebels top the SEC and rank fifth nationally with 42.3 rebounds per game, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +6.6. Ole Miss also leads the league with 16.3 offensive boards per game, having grabbed 20+ offensive boards six times, including three times in league play. The Rebels have been out-rebounded twice all year.
On the individual level, senior center Dwayne Curtis is averaging a team-high 8.7 boards per game, second-most in the conference. The Chicago native ranks first in the SEC and seventh in the nation with 4.2 offensive boards per game and is second in the league with nine double-doubles, including five in the last six games. He has notched 25 double-doubles in his Rebel career.
Kenny Williams grabs 7.8 boards per contest, good for seventh in the league. The senior forward from Miami has posted four double-doubles this season, including 10 points and 12 rebounds against LSU.
WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE
When running an up-tempo style of offense, much of the success is determined by how many turnovers the defense can create and how few turnovers the offense commits. Ole Miss has done an outstanding job in both facets through 18 games, as the Rebels rank third in the SEC with 12.5 turnovers committed, fifth with 15.5 turnovers forced and third with a +3.0 turnover ratio. Ole Miss also boasts the league’s third-best assist-turnover ratio at 1.36 (305 A, 225 TO).
Overall, Ole Miss has forced 20 or more turnovers four times and committed 10 or less on six occasions. The Rebels have lost the turnover battle just five times this season. They had a feast with Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 24, creating 31 Warhawk turnovers and giving up the ball just eight times.
Ole Miss is a perfect 13-0 against non-conference opponents this season, with just one non-league matchup remaining, vs. Presbyterian on Feb. 11. The only Rebel squad to ever go undefeated in its regular-season non-conference schedule is the 1948-49 team that was 4-0 outside of league play en route to an 8-13 overall record.
OLE MISS GETS BY DEFENDING CHAMPS
The Rebels put another notch in their ever-growing NCAA Tournament rsum with an 89-87 win over two-time defending national champion Florida on Jan. 16. It was the Rebels’ first win over Florida since 2002 after failing the last six tries. It took a gritty battle to tough out the two-point win as the Gators made several second-half runs and Ole Miss had a hard time from the charity stripe, hitting just 6-of-13 free throws in the final 2:17. Freshman Trevor Gaskins knocked down several key shots in the second half en route to his 19 points, while senior center Dwayne Curtis was steady as ever with game highs of 20 points (8-of-9 FGs) and 12 rebounds.
SCHOOL-RECORD 13-0 START SNAPPED
An 85-83 loss at No. 8 Tennessee snapped Ole Miss’ school-record start at 13-0. That mark surpassed the 1936-37 and 2000-01 teams that reeled off 11 straight wins to open their seasons. Ole Miss was one of six unbeaten teams left in the nation at the time of the loss.
SCHOOL-RECORD WIN STREAK ENDS
The Tennessee loss also snapped the school-record win streak of 13. The Rebels’ 86-50 win over Alabama A&M broke the school record for most consecutive wins, topping the previous record of 12 straight wins put up by the 1926 Rebel squad, 82 years ealier. The streak is tied for the seventh-longest in the nation this year.
REBELS NEARLY KNOCK OFF NO. 8 VOLS
Ole Miss led by four points with 2:22 left in its SEC opener at No. 8 Tennessee, but the Vols scored the game’s final six points, including Tyler Smith’s game-winning layup with 4.2 seconds left, to hand the Rebels their first loss of the season. An Ole Miss win would have been the first over a top-10 team since an 84-56 win over No. 6 Alabama on March 3, 2002 in Oxford. The last Rebel victory over a top 10 foe on the road came in Lexington on Feb. 14, 1998, when the No. 18 Rebels upended No. 7 Kentucky 73-64.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Ole Miss’ game at Mississippi State televised by FSN South was the seventh TV appearance this year and the fifth of five straight after seeing a school-record 22 games televised a year ago. Ole Miss is slated to play at least 14 games on TV this year, which will mark the 10th straight season that the Rebels played 10 or more TV games.
HE CAN'T MISS (MUCH)
In addition to providing senior leadership for the nationally ranked Rebels, center Dwayne Curtis has produced an outstanding season stats-wise thus far. Curtis ranks second on the team and 14th in the SEC with 15.2 ppg and ranks second in the SEC with 8.7 rebounds per game and first with 4.2 offensive boards per contest (7th in nation). The Chicago native leads the league and ranks second in the nation in field-goal percentage, hitting shots at a 68.4 percent clip. Curtis has shot 80 percent or better from the field in eight games, including 4-of-5 vs. MVSU, 3-of-3 vs. South Alabama, 8-of-9 vs. Lamar, 8-of-10 vs. New Mexico, 10-of-12 vs. Winthrop, 5-of-6 vs. Alabama A&M, 5-of-6 vs. LSU and 8-of-9 vs. Florida.
Curtis has posted double-figure points in all but one game (8 vs. Lousiana-Monroe) and grabbed 10 or more rebounds in nine contests. His nine double-doubles rank second in the SEC behind Alabama forward Richard Hendrix’s 10.
FABULOUS FRESHMAN FLOOR GENERAL
Freshman point guard Chris Warren has been a tremendous addition to the Rebels this season after the departure of All-SEC floor general Todd Abernethy. The rookie leads Ole Miss in scoring (15.8 ppg), assists (5.17/game), three-pointers (2.94/game) and minutes played (30.4/game). He ranks second in the SEC and 47th in the nation in assists, while draining the third-most three’s per game in the league, good for 44th in the country. He ranks 13th in the league in scoring and sixth with a 1.90 assist-turnover ratio.
The Orlando native has scored in double figures in all but one game (8 vs. Florida). He has dished out 5 or more assists in 10-of-17 contests. Warren poured in a career-high 25 points at Auburn and tied Trevor Gaskins’ Ole Miss freshman record with seven treys. He is averaging a team-high 17.4 ppg in SEC contests. He has already earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors twice and was named the MVP of the San Juan Shootout.
POLYNICE FILLING IT UP
Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice has put up big numbers in several columns of the stat sheet this season. He ranks 26th in the SEC with 12.7 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (19th at 5.6/game) assists (9th at 3.8/ game), steals (8th at 1.8/game) and field-goal percentage (10th at .460).
Polynice most recently posted 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals at Mississippi State. He poured in 20 points, grabbed 8 boards and dished out 4 assists at No. 8 Tennessee. He had an outstanding game against Southern Miss with a near triple-double of 14 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and a career-high 9 assists. He also shattered several career highs with his stellar performance in the Nov. 13 win over South Alabama, including career bests of 28 points and 7 3-pointers.
GASKINS MAKES SPLASH AS ROOKIE
One of several freshmen and newcomers contributing for the Rebels this year, guard Trevor Gaskins has made a big impact with his ability to hit from long range. The Alpharetta, Ga., native ranks 12th in the league with 1.89 three’s made per game.
Gaskins loomed large in the Rebels’ 89-87 win over Florida with 19 points on 6-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 from behind the arc, including several big shots to halt Gator runs in the second half. He got off to a furious start to his Ole Miss career in the season opener. He finished one 3-pointer shy of the school record with seven treys on 10 attempts, but did collect the freshman record previously held by Josh Hayes, who stroked six three’s against Troy State on Dec. 18, 2000 and Joe Harvell, who had six vs. Kentucky on Jan. 27, 1990. The Ole Miss record of eight was set by Keith Carter against Prairie View on Dec. 29, 1998.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Zach Graham: An “explosive scorer” according to Kennedy, the rookie from Suwanee, Ga., has proved that true by averaging 5.9 points in 11.8 minutes per game. Had his best game of the season with 12 points and 7 rebounds at Auburn, logging a season-high 21 minutes. Posted double figure points in back-to-back games vs. Lamar (12) and Louisiana-Monroe (13). Poured in all nine of his points at UCF in the first half. Scored eight points with four free-throws vs. USM. Posted six points and six boards vs. Alabama A&M.
David Huertas: The Puerto Rican hit at least one three-pointer in nine straight games from 12/21 to 1/16. He has struggled in his last two games, though, going 1-of-16 from the field and 0-9 from behind the arc. He tied a career high when he poured in a game-high 17 points against Alabama A&M. Nailed a career-high 5 3-pointers vs. the Bulldogs. Scored 14 points and grabbed 5 rebounds vs. La Salle and Clemson. Had 12 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals against Southern Miss. The long-range threat made back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half to close a 7-point deficit to just one in the win over Winthrop. He also scored 17 points vs. ULM.
Jermey Parnell: Has missed three of the last four games with a high ankle sprain. Injured his ankle in the second half at Tennessee and returned to play limited minutes vs. Florida. He remains day-to-day. Started the first three games of the season and came off the bench for the next nine before starting the next two. In just seven minutes of action at No. 8 Tennessee, made three big blocks to tie a career high. Also posted three blocked shots in a season-high 22 minutes against La Salle. Season-high 12 points on 6-of-7 from the field vs. Troy.
Brian Smith: Senior point guard is averaging 9.2 minutes per game in a reserve role behind Chris Warren. Has missed just one game this season, at Auburn. Tied a career high with 3 steals vs. Alabama A&M. Made two big 3-pointers to help extend a Rebel lead in the win over Southern Miss. Season-high 17 minutes and 3 assists vs. South Alabama.
Terrence Watson: A very long, athletic forward, Watson has 10 blocks in limited action in 12 games. Saw his first action of the league schedule with 7 minutes at Mississippi State. The JC transfer earned the starting nod and logged a season-high 19 minutes vs. Lamar. Swatted 4 shots against Louisiana-Monroe.
Malcolm White: Sensational freshman leaper saw first significant action filling in for Parnell vs. LSU. Scored a season-high 12 points with 6 rebounds in 21 minutes vs. the Tigers. Made 4-of-5 from the field and 4-of-4 free throws in the game. Tallied 9 points, all in the first half, at Mississippi State. Swatted a career-high 3 shots against Florida. Saw his previous most action with 14 minutes vs. Troy and put up 6 points and 6 rebounds. Had two huge dunks in that game.
WARREN GRABS 2ND SEC FRESHMAN HONOR
For the second time this season, Rebel point guard Chris Warren was named the SEC Freshman of the Week, as announced by the league office on Dec. 24. The 5-foot-10 guard received San Juan Shootout MVP distinction after scoring 41 of his 49 points in the second half of the three Rebel wins in Puerto Rico. He poured in 19 points against both La Salle and Clemson, while adding nine assists and just two turnovers against the Explorers. In Saturday's 85-82 win over previously unbeaten No. 15 Clemson, Warren tallied eight of the Rebels' 10 points in the final four minutes to claim the tournament title.
CURTIS TABBED NATIONAL PLAYER OF WEEK
After garnering SEC Player of the Week accolades on Dec. 17, senior center Dwayne Curtis was honored as National Player of the Week on Dec. 24 by CollegeHoops.net. Curtis poured in 19 points and had nine rebounds in the final against No. 15 Clemson, and he put up 21 points and seven boards against DePaul and 14 and five against La Salle. Curtis shot 61 percent from the field and 88 percent from the free-throw line in the three games.
REBELS CLAIM SAN JUAN SHOOTOUT TITLE
With wins over DePaul, La Salle and No. 15 Clemson, Ole Miss claimed the 2007 San Juan Shootout title. The championship game vs. the previously unbeaten Tigers saw Ole Miss earn a victory over its first ranked foe of the season and move to 11-0. Freshman point guard Chris Warren was named the Tournament MVP with 19 points in each of the last two games. Senior center Dwayne Curtis also earned a spot on the All-Tournament team after averaging a team-high 18.0 points over three games.
CURTIS NAMED SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
After scoring 22 points with 11 rebounds and helping Ole Miss to a 76-71 win over Winthrop, senior center Dwayne Curtis was tabbed as the SEC Player of the Week on Dec. 17. Curtis posted his fourth double-double in the last six games and collected season highs in points and rebounds vs. the Eagles. He finished three points shy of his career high and made good on 10-of-12 from the floor. It was the second weekly honor for a Rebel this season and the second career honor for Curtis, who was the SEC POW on Jan. 7, 2006 after leading Ole Miss to a win at Alabama with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
PACKING THE PAD
Over the last decade, the "Tad Pad" has proven to be one of the toughest arenas in the nation for opposing teams to play, and second-year head coach Andy Kennedy has only added to that success. Ole Miss owns a 25-1 record at Tad Smith Coliseum since Kennedy took the reins last season. The Oxford crowds have jumped on board, too. This year’s LSU game saw the Tad Pad’s second-highest attendance ever with 9,328 fans and the Florida game crowd of 9,304 ranks sxith in arena annals.
Last year’s 16-1 mark established an arena record for single-season wins. Kennedy’s club inspired a huge homecourt advantage during SEC play, averaging 8,241 fans and drawing a record crowd of 9,452 for the victory over No. 18 Alabama.
Ole Miss has won 156 of its last 189 games (.825 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 391-180 (.685 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.