Ole Miss Basketball Game Notes
Feb. 6, 2004
GAME #20: Ole Miss (11-8, 3-5) vs. #7 Mississippi St. (18-1, 7-1)
OLE MISS LOOKS FOR FIRST SEC ROAD WIN AT NO. 7 STATE: Ole Miss looks for its first SEC road win of the season Saturday against Mississippi State. The Rebels are winners in three of their last five, but coming off a 64-51 loss at Georgia on Wednesday. Despite a three-point surge to open the second half, Ole Miss could not cool off a Bulldog team that hit 8-of-12 treys in the second half. At one point, the two teams combined to knock down nine consecutive threes. Seniors Justin Reed and Aaron Harper each posted 19 points. Reed is tied for the SEC lead in scoring and posted a career-high 32 points against South Carolina on Saturday. Harper is averaging 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists over the last six games.
BARNES IN SIXTH SEASON AS REBEL MENTOR: Rod Barnes is in the midst of his sixth season at the helm of the Ole Miss Rebel basketball program. The 2001 Naismith and CollegeInsider.com National Coach of the Year, Barnes has a 111-69 record (.617 winning percentage). The 100 wins in his first five seasons is the most by a Rebel coach in that span of time in Ole Miss history. In 2000-01, Barnes was the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, and guided Ole Miss to a school-record 27 wins and the program's first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 berth. Another winning season and postseason tournament followed in 2001-02 - both were the sixth straight for the Ole Miss program.
Barnes was hired as the Rebel head coach on April 9, 1998. A 1988 graduate of Ole Miss, Barnes served as an assistant under Evans from 1993-98. During his time as an assistant coach, the Rebels compiled a record of 76-63 and won back-to-back Southeastern Conference Western Division titles and received consecutive NCAA Tournament berths in 1997 and 1998. Barnes played at Ole Miss from 1984-88 and was named All-SEC his senior season. He still ranks on the Ole Miss career charts in scoring (18th; 1,201 points), assists (2nd; 456) and steals (7th; 154).
SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI STATE: Mississippi State took the midweek off after winning at Auburn last Saturday 73-68. The Bulldogs' current five-game SEC win streak is the team's longest in two years. State's 7-1 league record marks the team's best start to conference play since 1962-63. During the five-game streak, the Bulldogs have boasted four players in double-figure scoring. Leading the charge is Wooden Award candidate Lawrence Roberts, who ranks second in the SEC in rebounding (10.0) and seventh in scoring (16.6). Senior guard Timmy Bowers follows at 15.8 points per game and 4.3 assists, third-best in the conference. Junior swingman Winsome Frazier is the SEC steals leader at 2.95 per game. In his sixth year at the helm, head coach Rick Stansbury returns seven players, including two starters, from last year's 21-10 squad that claimed the SEC West title and won the conference tournament.
OLE MISS-MISSISSIPPI STATE SERIES: Saturday's game will the 229th meeting between the two schools, with the Bulldogs holding an all-time series lead of 127-101. In their first meeting this season on Jan. 7 in Oxford, the Rebels led much of the evening and held a 10-point lead with 6:31 left, before the Bulldogs closed out the game with a 22-5 run for the 61-54 win. Last year, MSU took all three tightly contested meetings - both regular-season encounters and the SEC Tournament second-round matchup. The Bulldogs hold a 83-23 series advantage in games played in Starkville. State has won five straight over the Rebels in Humphrey Coliseum. The last time Ole Miss posted a win in Starkville was the 1997-98 campaign, an 82-78 victory on Feb. 21, 1998. Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes is 3-9 versus Mississippi State and 0-5 against the Bulldogs in Starkville.
QUOTING BARNES ON THE GAME: "We are pretty banged up right now. We have a lot of nicks and bruises. We just have to try to heal and get back on the court this Saturday. Mississippi State presents a lot of tough matchup problems for us, but we will go into it like we do every game - expecting to win. It will be a tough, hard-fought game. They always are when these two teams get together. We just need to keep it close and give ourselves a chance to win at the end. That's all you can hope for on the road. We just have to look at it as being another opportunity to beat another ranked team. One day, the tide is going to change in this series. We just have to hope Saturday is that day."
OLE MISS-MSU IN RANKED MEETINGS: Since the 1995-96 campaign, the Ole Miss-Mississippi State rivalry has not only been for bragging rights in the state, but also a survival encounter to stay in the national polls. The Bulldogs enter Saturday's game ranked No. 7 in both polls. It will be the 12th time since 1995-96 that one of the teams will enter the game ranked nationally. State holds a slight 6-5 edge in the previous 11 ranked match-ups.
A HEATED RIVALRY GETS HOTTER: Everyone knows how heated the rivalry is between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The two schools have turned it up a little more on the hardwood in recent years. In the 17 meetings between the two schools since the 1995-96 season, the average margin of victory has been only 7.2 points. In fact, 10 of the last 15 encounters have been decided by single digits.
SEC'S TOP TANDEM: With Justin Reed and Aaron Harper back, the Rebels have an advantage enjoyed by few others. Ole Miss is one of only two teams in the Southeastern Conference to return its top two scorers from last year, with Arkansas being the other club. Reed and Harper are currently the top scoring duo in the SEC in league play at 20.1 and 15.4, respectively. The senior pair was voted among the top tandems in college hoops by Basketball News. Reed and Harper have spent the majority of their basketball lives together, having teamed up at Provine High School in Jackson, Miss., before arriving in Oxford.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: Saturday's game against Mississippi State, which is being broadcast by Fox Sports Net, will be the sixth of at least nine regular-season contests in which the Rebels will be on television this year. Ole Miss is 2-3 in its first five televised games of the season. Last year, the Rebels were 5-7 in TV games. Under head coach Rod Barnes (since 1998-99), Ole Miss has played 74 television games and has a 41-33 record in those contests.
10 CENT: Although not pilling up the points, point guard Todd Abernethy has been dishing out the dimes in his rookie campaign. The freshman from Carmel, Ind., had one of his finest games as a Rebel Wednesday at Georgia, collecting a career-high seven assists with no turnovers. Abernethy is currently second on the team in assists (55) and second among SEC freshmen in assists at 2.89 per game.
OLE MISS VERSUS RANKED TEAMS: Ole Miss will face its fourth nationally-ranked opponent of the year Saturday in Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 7 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/Coaches polls. The Rebels are 1-3 against top-25 foes this season and boast a 79-68 win over No. 23/24 South Carolina. The Rebels were 2-5 against ranked opponents in 2002-03. Under head coach Rod Barnes (since the 1998-99 season), Ole Miss has a 20-26 record versus ranked opponents.
ROAD WARRIOR: Oxford native Kendrick Fox has surprisingly been one of the Rebels' best when playing away from his hometown. The junior forward is averaging 8.8 points and shooting 53.8 percent from the three-point arc (14-of-26) in road games this season. Included in those contests is Fox's career-high 17-point, five three-pointer performance at Evansville that propelled the Rebels to their first road win of the year. Fox also caught fire at Rupp Arena in Lexington, scorching Kentucky for four threes and 16 points.
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