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GAME 24: Ole Miss (15-8, 4-5) vs. #18/19 Alabama (18-5, 5-4)
February 10, 2007 4 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,700)
Live TV: FSN South (Ron Thulin, play-by-play; Cliff Ellis, analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, analyst; Richard Cross, analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 125
White Out the Tide: FSN South is providing 4,000 white t-shirts that will placed in each of the lower bowl seats of the arena. Those seated in other sections are encouraged to wear white in support of the home Rebels. Fans are asked to refrain from taking shirts off seats other than their own.
REBELS AIM FOR SEC WEST TOP SPOT
Ole Miss could grab the SEC Western Division lead and secure its first winning season since 2001-02 Saturday against No. 18 Alabama in Oxford. Before taking their open date, the Rebels won their second straight game and third in their last four with a commanding 82-59 road win at Auburn Saturday. Clarence Sanders returned to his homestate to connect on 7 3-pointers, tying his own school record for treys against an SEC foe. Bam Doyne turned in his third straight 20-point game, and Dwayne Curtis notched 19 points and 11 rebounds against his former team.
SCOUTING THE CRIMSON TIDE
Down by 5 points with 1:09 remaining, Alabama rallied for an 80-79 home win over Mississippi State Wednesday to maintain its one game lead in the SEC West race and run its current win streak to three. The Crimson Tide has risen as high as No. 4 in the national polls this year and is led by the frontcourt tandem of senior Jermareo Davidson and sophomore Richard Hendrix, each averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds. The reigning SEC Player of the Week, Davidson is third in the conference in blocked shots (2.62 bpg), while Hendrix is second in field goal percentage (.625). Sophomore Alonzo Gee is scoring 13.5 points per game, while junior transfer Mykal Riley is adding 12.2. Preseason All-American guard Ronald Steele has battled injuries and is posting 9.5 points and 4.2 assists.
OLE MISS-ALABAMA SERIES
Saturday’s game will be the 159th meeting between the two schools. The Crimson Tide holds a 111-47 lead in the series, which began in 1921. The teams have split their season series in seven of the last eight years, including last season when the road team won each instance (see page 7). However, prior to the 2004-05 season, the home team had prevailed in 13 straight bouts between the Rebels and Tide.
The Rebels have won seven of the last nine meetings at Tad Smith Coliseum, Alabama had dropped seven straight before taking the last two and holds a narrow 37-35 lead in games played in Oxford.
BEST SEASON SINCE 2001-02
With Saturday's road win over Auburn, Ole Miss has established its highest win total with 15 since going 20-11 during the 2001-02 campaign, the program’s last NCAA Tournament appearance. One more victory would clinch the first Rebels’ first winning season in five years. Ole Miss’ triumph on the Plains was also the team’s fifth in SEC play, which equals its most since 2001-02.
POURING IN THE POINTS
Andy Kennedy’s style of “pressure basketball” is paying tremendous dividends for the Rebels on the offensive side. Ole Miss has scored 80-plus points in four consecutive SEC games for the first time since 1976. For the year, the team is averaging 74.9 points per game, a 9.7 raise from a year ago, and the highest clip since scoring 77.0 per game in 1998-99. The Rebels’ 100-80 victory over Nicholls marked only the second time since 2001 for the team to reach the century mark in points.
Saturday’s 82-59 final winning margin marked the largest for the Rebels in an SEC game since an 84-56 triumph over Alabama on March 3, 2002, and the widest margin on the road in conference play since beating LSU 83-57 on Feb. 18, 1998. It marked Ole Miss’ biggest win over Auburn on the Plains and the second-biggest overall against the Tigers. Including Tennessee and Mississippi State, the Rebels have won three SEC games by 12 or more points this season after doing so only twice in the previous four years.
ON THE BUBBLE
Ole Miss was listed as an NCAA Tournament contender this week on ESPN.com’s “Drive to 65”. The Rebels were named along with Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Vanderbilt as SEC clubs with “work left to do”.
REBELS VS. RANKED TIDE
Ole Miss has lost 12 straight to ranked competition. The last time the Rebels defeated a top-25 adversary was a 79-68 home win over No. 23 South Carolina in 2003-04. However, Ole Miss has enjoyed some success at home against ranked Alabama teams, winning three of the last four such encounters including a pair of blowouts. Below charts how the Rebels have fared of late against top-25 Tide squads in Tad Smith Coliseum:
2000-01 vs. No. 20 Alabama W, 105-71
2001-02 vs. No. 6 Alabama W, 84-56
2002-03 vs. No. 13 Alabama W, 76-57
2004-05 vs. No. 22 Alabama L, 66-58
The Rebels have made better than half their shots in each of the last three games and are shooting a flaming 51.4 percent from the field over that stretch. The team is also connecting on 42.4 percent of its 3-pointers, including Clarence Sanders’ 51.9 clip (14-of-27).
STEALING THE SHOW
Ole Miss leads the SEC in steals in league play at 8.33 per game and has posted double-digit takeaways four times, including 11 at Auburn last Saturday in forcing the Tigers into 25 turnovers. 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 pressed the Hogs into 21 turnovers. Doyne is tied for 11th in the SEC in league-play steals (1.44 pg) and has tallied multiple steals in nine games this year.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Ole Miss is the SEC’s best in turnover margin (+3.87) 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. Senior guard Todd Abernethy is the SEC leader in assist/ turnover ratio at 3.18 and ranks fifth in the nation.
HITTING THE BOARDS
The Rebels are second in the SEC in offensive rebounds (13.61 per game), and pulled down 21 off the offensive glass at Mississippi State. Dwayne Curtis is the team leader in total rebounds per game (9.3) and ranks fourth in the SEC in league play (9.0). Kenny Williams has also helped lead the charge, ranking seventh in the SEC for the season on the offensive boards (2.61) and 14th in overall rebounding (5.7).
Several members of the Rebel family call Alabama their “sweet home”. 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.
Three-point gunner Clarence Sanders has been on target of late, connecting of 11-of-17 treys over the last two games. He fired in 4-of-6 from behind the arc in hanging 22 on Mississippi State, and he followed up with a record performance near his hometown Saturday. The Phenix City, Ala., native burned Auburn for 7-of-11 from long range in tying his own school record for 3-pointers in a game and notching his 10th career 20-point outing with a team-high 21. Earlier in SEC play, Sanders used huge second halves to strike for team-highs of 17 points at No. 1 Florida and 20 against Tennessee.
After a streaky first season in the Red and Blue, Sanders has been a steady point provider for the Rebels this year. The senior guard has scored in double-figures in 21 of the last 22 games and ranks seventh in the SEC at 15.9 points per game. He is also second in 3s per game (2.78) and ninth in the league in 3-point percentage (39.0). After a 35.7 shooting clip a year ago, Sanders boasts a 42.5 field goal percentage this season.
DOYNE IT ALL
Bam Doyne has been among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking fourth in scoring (16.7), 21st in rebounding (5.1), seventh in free throw accuracy (78.7) and 13th in minutes played (32.17). Doyne has posted three straight 20-point games and nine this year, including an even 20 at Auburn Saturday. That performance came on the heels of 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in the win over Mississippi State and 22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals at Vanderbilt. The senior guard has topped the team or tied for the team-lead in scoring in eight games. 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.
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 with a 14.1 clip in SEC action. The Carmel, Ind., native has registered two 20-point games and his first career double-double with 19 points and a career-high 10 assists against Mississippi State. In addition, Abernethy leads the SEC in assists (5.5) and assist/turnover ratio (3.18) and is averaging out 8.7 over the last three games. He also ranks 10th in the league in minutes played (32.36).
Since his return from injury late in non-conference play, Dwayne Curtis has notched nine double-doubles, including five 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. He narrowly reached that mark at Auburn last Saturday, scorching his former team for 19 points and 11 boards. 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). In league play, he ranks third in the SEC play in field goal percentage (56.0) and fourth in rebounding (9.0).
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 a tie for fifth on the all-time chart for assists with 370, equaling the mark of current assistant coach and former Rebel Michael White (1996-99). This year, Abernethy also entered the top five for 3-pointers made by passing Joezon Darby (1996-98) ... 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.
Bam Doyne: Prior to the last three 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.
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 seven 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: In three SEC contests, the Rebels erased big deficits late with Sanders speerheading the rallying efforts. The senior guard 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 ... At one point this year, Sanders 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.
Brian Smith: The junior guard has hit 9 of his last 16 shots and 6-for-12 from 3-point range over the last eight 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. 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 SEC 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 (2.61) 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.
Prior to the Mississippi State game, Ole Miss had ignited huge second-half comebacks in three straight games. At Vanderbilt, 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 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.
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 11-1 mark this year, Ole Miss has won 143 of its last 176 games (.813 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 (.677 winning percentage) at C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Ole Miss is making its 13th TV appearance of the year against Alabama, as the game is available on FSN South. 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. Ole Miss and Mississippi State renewed their bitter rivalry in Oxford with an ESPN “Super Tuesday” showdown. The Bama contest is the third of five on FSN, while four games will be played on Lincoln Financial Sports. 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.
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.