GAME 20: #22/24 Ole Miss (16-3, 3-3) vs. South Carolina (10-10, 2-4)
February 2, 2008 4 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,910)
Live TV: SportSouth (Rich Waltz, play-by-play; Daymeon Fishback, analyst).
Pay-per-view TV: ESPN Full Court
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online
XM Radio: Channel 200
REBELS HOST SEC EAST’S GAMECOCKS
Following an impressive 74-58 win over No. 18 Vanderbilt, No. 22 Ole Miss looks to remain unbeaten at home this year when South Carolina visits Oxford on Saturday. The Rebels are 10-0 this year at home and 26-1 at the Tad Pad since Andy Kennedy took the helm last season. The Rebels sit in third place in the SEC West with a 3-3 league mark, while Carolina is tied for fifth in the East. Wednesday’s win marked the second for Ole Miss this year over a ranked opponent, including the victory over No. 15 Clemson in San Juan. The Commodores’ 58 points matched the second-lowest by a Rebel opponent this season. Chris Warren tallied 20 points for his fourth 20+ effort of the year. Eniel Polynice had 18, while Kenny Williams posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.
SCOUTING THE GAMECOCKS
South Carolina is 10-10 on the year and sits in a tie for fifth place in the SEC Eastern Division with a 2-4 league record. The Gamecocks most recently earned a 62-56 win over Georgia on Wednesday. They are led by the SEC’s top scorer in sophomore point guard Devan Downey (19.6 ppg), a former pupil of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy at Cincinnati. Downey has poured in 20+ points in five of the last six games. He also leads the nation with 3.4 steals per game and ranks third in the SEC with 5.1 assists per contest. Another transfer, junior Zam Fredrick (Georgia Tech), is second on the team with 16.3 ppg. Dominique Archie chips in 10.6 points and a team-high 6.4 boards. SC averaged 74.7 points to its opponents’ 69.7.
OLE MISS-SOUTH CAROLINA SERIES
Saturday’s game will be the 24th time the two schools have faced each other on the hardwood. Ole Miss holds a 12-11 all-time edge and has won seven of the last 11 meetings. South Carolina has never won in Oxford, as Ole Miss enjoys an 8-0 edge at Tad Smith Coliseum. Last year, the Rebels dropped a 76-63 decision in Columbia. The two schools met only once prior to South Carolina joining the Southeastern Conference in the 1991-92 season. The two teams played in the Gulf South Tournament in the 1960-61 season, with the Gamecocks taking an 85-79 decision. The teams have also met in the SEC Tournament six times and have split those games 3-3.
Andy Kennedy’s final game as Cincinnati head coach occurred against South Carolina. The Bearcats lost 65-62 in the 2006 NIT quarterfinals. Mere moments after the game, Kennedy accepted the head coaching position at Ole Miss. A pupil of Kennedy on that UC squad was point guard Devan Downey, who now stars for the Gamecocks as the SEC’s leading scorer (19.6 ppg) and the nation’s leader in steals (3.35 spg) in his redshirt-sophomore season.
The story of the Ole Miss-Carolina series has been a matter of location, location, location. The home team has prevailed in 15-of-16 meetings between the Rebels and Gamecocks on non-neutral courts (the other seven games were played in conference tournaments). The lone road win in the series was Ole Miss’ 67-61 win in Columbia in 2000-01.
SCHOOL-RECORD START THROUGH 19 GAMES
With Wednesday’s 74-58 victory over No. 18 Vanderbilt, Ole Miss has equaled the school-record start of 16-3 through 19 games, set by the 1936-37 Rebels. The 2000-01 squad began 15-3 before dropping its next contest, while the 1925-26 team 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 South Carolina game with 986 points at Ole Miss, 14 points shy of becoming the 30th member of the Rebels’ 1,000-Point Club. He currently averages a career-high 14.6 ppg after scoring 13.6 and 12.2 points his sophomore and junior years. Including his freshman season at Auburn (55 points in 19 games), Curtis has scored 1,041 points in his college career.
SUCCESS VERSUS TOP 25
Ole Miss is 2-1 this season against teams ranked in the top 25 at the time of the game after Wednesday’s 74-58 victory over No. 18 Vanderbilt. Ole Miss upended No. 15 Clemson 85-82 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before falling 85-83 at No. 8 Tennessee. The Rebels have defeated a pair of ranked opponents for the first time since 2002-03, when they prevailed over No. 13 Alabama and No. 23 LSU and went 2-8 against ranked foes that year.
REBELS DEFENDING SEC WEST TITLE
Ole Miss sits in third place in the SEC West with a 3-3 record six games 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.
AT THIS TIME LAST YEAR
After six games of the conference schedule a year ago, Ole Miss had two wins and four losses and would drop to 2-5 before a four-game win streak helped propel them to an 8-8 final record and a share of the SEC Western Division title.
At No. 9 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 are either 9th or 10th in various simulated RPI polls following the Vanderbilt win. It is believed to be the second-highest elevation in the RPI polls in school history, behind the 2000-01 “Sweet Sixteen” squad’s rating of No. 7.
REBELS TO PLAY IN SEC/BIG EAST INVITATIONAL
ESPN Regional Television, in conjunction with the BIG EAST Conference and the Southeastern Conference, announced Thursday the eight men’s college basketball teams, including the Ole Miss Rebels, that will represent the two conferences in next season’s second annual SEC/BIG EAST Invitational.
On Dec. 16 in Nashville, Vanderbilt will face South Florida while Marquette squares off with Tennessee. On Dec. 18 at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Mississippi State will face Cincinnati and Ole Miss will play Louisville. The games will be televised by ESPN and ESPN2.
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 (42.4/game), rebounding margin (+6.8) and offensive rebounds (16.2/game), while ranking second in scoring offense (83.5 ppg) and defensive rebounds (26.2/game). They also sit in third in scoring margin, turnover margin, 3-pointers made and assist/turnover ratio. Individually, Dwayne Curtis tops the conference with a .665 field-goal percentage and 4.2 offensive rebounds per game, while posting the second-most total rebounds per game at 8.8. Chris Warren ranks second with 5.11 assists per game and third with 2.95 three-pointers per contest.
REBELS NEAR TOP OF NATION IN SCORING
Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC and eighth nationally in scoring with 83.5 points per game. The Rebels have scored 80+ points in 11 of their 19 contests. Their 77.5 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 sixth nationally with 42.4 rebounds per game, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +6.8. Ole Miss also leads the league with 16.2 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 8.8 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 seven games. He has notched 25 double-doubles in his Rebel career.
Kenny Williams grabs 7.9 boards per contest, good for sixth in the league. The senior forward from Miami has posted five double-doubles this season, most recently 10 points and 10 boards vs. Vanderbilt.
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 19 games, as the Rebels rank third in the SEC with 12.5 turnovers committed, fourth with 15.5 turnovers forced and third with a +2.95 turnover ratio. Ole Miss also boasts the league’s third-best assist-turnover ratio at 1.34 (318 A, 237 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.
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 26-1 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 157 of its last 190 games (.826 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 392-180 (.685 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.
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 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 ON THE TUBE
Saturday’s game against South Carolina televised by SportSouth will be the eighth TV appearance this year after the Rebels saw 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 16th in the SEC with 14.6 ppg and ranks second in the SEC with 8.8 rebounds per game and first with 4.2 offensive boards per contest (7th in nation). The Chicago native leads the league and entered the week ranked second in the nation in field-goal percentage, hitting shots at a 66.5 percent clip. That percentage is on pace to shatter Marcus Hicks’ school record of 63.8 set in 1998-99. Curtis has shot 80 percent or better from the field in eight games, including 8-of-9 vs. Lamar, 8-of-10 vs. New Mexico, 10-of-12 vs. Winthrop and 8-of-9 vs. Florida.
Curtis has posted double-figure points in all but two games (8 vs. UL-Monroe and 3 vs. Vanderbilt) and grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 10 contests. His nine double-doubles rank second in the SEC behind Alabama forward Richard Hendrix’s 11.
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 (16.1 ppg), assists (5.11/game), three-pointers (2.95/game) and minutes played (30.4/game). He ranks second in the SEC and 55th 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 11th in the league in scoring and sixth with a 1.83 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-19 contests. Warren dropped in 20 points vs. Vanderbilt for his fourth 20+ game of the year. He 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 17.8 ppg in SEC contests. He has earned two SEC Freshman of the Week honors 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 24th in the SEC with 13.0 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (19th at 5.5/game) assists (9th at 3.9/ game), steals (8th at 1.8/game), field-goal percentage (10th at .469) and assist-turnover ratio (10th at 1.68).
Polynice most recently posted 18 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks vs. Vanderbilt. 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: Earned his first career start against Vanderbilt and responded with 9 points and 3 boards. An “explosive scorer” according to Kennedy, the rookie from Suwanee, Ga., has proved that true by averaging 6.1 points in 12.3 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 three games, though, going 2-of-20 from the field and 1-12 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 four of the last five games with a high ankle sprain. Injured his ankle in the second half at Tennessee and returned to play limited minutes vs. Florida. He is questionable for the South Carolina game. 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 11 blocks in limited action in 13 games. After sitting the first four SEC games, has seen action with 7 minutes at Mississippi State and 5 minutes vs. Vanderbilt. 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.