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GAME 23: Ole Miss (14-8, 3-5) vs. Auburn (14-9, 4-4)
February 3, 2007 1 p.m. CT
Auburn, Ala. Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum (10,500)
Live TV: None
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 123 (AU broadcast)
REBELS FACE SEC WEST ROAD CLASH
Ole Miss tangles with SEC Western Division leader Auburn Saturday on the Plains. The Rebels are one game out of first place following Tuesday’s 85-73 triumph over Mississippi State. The bulk of the Ole Miss scoring was provided by the senior class, as the backcourt trio accounted for 64 of the 85 points. Bam Doyne and Clarence Sanders scored 23 and 22 points, respectively, while Todd Abernethy notched his first career double-double with 19 points and a career-high 10 assists. Doyne has led the team over the last two games, averaging 22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
FORMER REBELS RETURN TO CAMPUS
The Athletics Department, Tip-Off Club, Alumni Association and Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy will host the Ole Miss Men's Basketball Alumni Reunion February 9-10. Ole Miss will take on Alabama that Saturday, and a number of activities are planned throughout the weekend for the former Rebels and their families. The Alumni Reunion is designed to give former players an opportunity to come back to campus and visit with old teammates and acquaintances, as well as offer support to the Ole Miss basketball program. For more information, contact Associate Athletics Director Derek Horne at 662-915-5677 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The registration deadline is February 5.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS
Off to its best conference start since 2003, Auburn sits atop the SEC Western Division standings on the strength of home victories over Vanderbilt, Tennesee and Alabama along with Wednesday’s road win at South Carolina. The Tigers have five players averaging between 11.5 and 12.8 points. Since serving an 11-game suspension, junior forward Quan Powell has posted a team-high 12.8 points per game, including 15.4 over the last five games. Korvotney Barber scores 12.0 points and is top-10 in the SEC in rebounds (6.5 rpg) and blocked shots (2.0 bpg), while fellow sophomore forward Josh Dollard posts 11.5 points and a team-high 7.2 boards. Sophomore guard Quantez Robertson is the league leader in assists (5.65 apg) and is eighth in steals (1.70 spg).
OLE MISS-AUBURN SERIES
Saturday’s game will be the 113th meeting between the two schools, with the Tigers holding an all-time series lead of 68-44. The teams have split the last 12 meetings. Ole Miss swept the 2005-06 season series, and Auburn came back to take both meetings a year ago (see page 6). The Tigers hold a commanding 45-9 series lead in games played in Auburn, and claimed a 58-50 win on the Plains last season.
The Rebels’ starting center will be returning to a familiar spot this weekend. Junior Dwayne Curtis spent his freshman season at Auburn in 2003-04, before transferring to Ole Miss in May 2004. Curtis played in 19 games, starting five, in his one year on the Plains and tallied 11 points and 6 rebounds at Arkansas and 10 points and 9 boards at Mississippi State.
In addition, Rebel junior forward Kenny Williams signed with Auburn out of high school as part of the Tigers’ 2003 football recruiting class. A first-team all-county tight end from Miami, Williams opted for hoops instead at St. Petersburg Community College.
Several members of the Rebel family will be returning to their homestate this weekend. Senior guard Clarence Sanders is a native of Phenix City, sophomore forward Trey Hampton hails from Hoover, and junior guard Kiah Brown is from Haleyville. On the Rebel staff, assistant coach Torrey Ward and coordinator of operations Bill Armstrong are both from Birmingham, while operations assistant Robi Coker is from Skirum. In addition, head coach Andy Kennedy spent three years playing at UAB and later served assistant coaching stints for both the Blazers and the South Alabama Jaguars.
STEALING THE SHOW
Ole Miss leads the SEC in steals in league play at 8.00 per game and has posted double-digit takeaways three times. The Rebels established a season high for steals at Florida with 12 against the No. 1 Gators, including 3 from Eniel Polynice. Brian Smith collected 3 against Tennessee, as the team totaled 11. The Rebels notched 10 steals against Arkansas, led by Bam Doyne's career-best tying 4, and forced the Hogs into 21 turnovers.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Ole Miss is the SEC’s best in turnover margin (+3.68) and ranks third in assist/turnover ratio (1.17). 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 3.03.
Andy Kennedy’s style of “pressure basketball” has paid some dividends for the Rebels on the offensive side. Ole Miss is averaging 74.6 points per game, a 9.4 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 (13.77 per game), and pulled down 21 off the offensive glass at Mississippi State. Dwayne Curtis is the team leader in total rebounds per game (9.1) and ranks fifth in the SEC in league play (8.8). Kenny Williams has also helped lead the charge, ranking seventh in the SEC for the season on the offensive boards (2.64) and 15th in overall rebounding (5.7).
Prior to Tuesday’s MSU game, Ole Miss had ignited huge second-half comebacks in three straight games. At Vanderbilt last 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.
DOYNE IT ALL
Bam Doyne has been among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking fourth in scoring (16.5), 20th in rebounding (5.3), sixth in free throw accuracy (79.8) and 14th in minutes played (32.09). The senior guard has topped the team or tied for the team-lead in scoring in eight games, including each of the last two. In notching his eighth 20-point game of the year, Doyne connected on 6-of-7 free throws in posting 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocked in Tuesday’s win over Mississippi State. That performance came on the heels of 22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals at Vanderbilt.
Prior to the last two breakout games, Doyne’s previous 20-point game was a 22-point outburst in the non-conference finale at Saint Louis. In non-league play, he scored 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 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 this year, including 9 boards at Saint Louis. In addition, he has tallied multiple steals in seven games, including a career-high tying 4 against Arkansas.
CLARENCE BE STROKIN’
After a streaky first season in the Red and Blue, Clarence Sanders has been a steady point provider for the Rebels this year. After a 35.7 shooting clip a year ago, Sanders boasts a 42.1 field goal percentage this season. The senior guard has scored in double-figures in 20 of the last 21 games and ranks seventh in the SEC at 15.6 points per game. He is also fourth in 3s per game (2.59) and 13th in the league in 3-point percentage (37.3). The Phenix City, Ala., native knocked down 4-of-6 treys Tuesday in hanging 22 points on Mississippi State, marking his ninth career 20-point outing. With huge second halves, Sanders struck for team-highs of 17 points at No. 1 Florida and 20 against Tennessee.
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.
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 11.1 ppg and turned in two 20-point games. The Carmel, Ind., native also registered his first career double-double Tuesday with 19 points and a career-high 10 assists against Mississippi State. In addition, Abernethy leads the SEC in assist/ turnover ratio (3.03) and is third in assists (5.33 per game).
With 13 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. Curtis posted 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Wildcats and all-star center Randolph Morris, and he tallied 11 points and 12 boards against LSU and All-American Glen Davis. Curtis just missed double-doubles against Tennessee (18 points and 9 rebounds) and Mississippi State Tuesday (14 points and 8 boards).
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 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.
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 138 treys. He also needs only 9 more assists to tie current assistant coach and former Rebel Michael White (1996-99) for No. 5 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 10 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 earned the starting nod in each of the last two games. Polynice got his first career start last 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.
Clarence Sanders: The second-half soldider has averaged 13.8 points after halftime in the last four contests. In three of those contests, the Rebels erased big deficits late with the senior guard speerheading the rallying efforts. 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.
Brian Smith: The junior guard has hit 8 of his last 12 shots and 6-for-9 from 3-point range over the last seven 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 ... Smith earned his second career start at Vanderbilt last Saturday. He played 19 minutes and collected 3 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists ... 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 six outings, including at Vanderbilt 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 (2.64) and 15th 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.
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.
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.