Rebels To Tussle With Tide In Tuscaloosa

GAME 23: Ole Miss (17-5, 3-5) at Alabama (13-11, 2-7)
February 13, 2008  7 p.m. CT
Tuscaloosa, Ala. Coleman Coliseum (15,316)

Live Stats:
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 After squeezing in the final non-conference game of the season Monday vs. Presbyterian, Ole Miss returns to SEC action and a Western Division battle against the Crimson Tide of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels are 3-5 in SEC play and sit in third place in the division, while Alabama owns a 2-7 league record and is tied for fourth in the West. Ole Miss has dropped each of its four league road contests so far, while boasting a 3-1 SEC mark at home. The Rebels return to Alabama less than a month after dropping an 80-77 contest to the Auburn Tigers on the Plains. The Rebels still rank 11th in the nation in team scoring, but have not eclipsed the 80-point mark in the last six contests. The two teams have split the season series in eight of the last nine years.

 Alabama enters the week 13-11 overall and 2-7 in SEC play, which puts the Crimson Tide in a tie for fourth place in the Western Division standings. Alabama is on a two-game losing streak with road losses at Mississippi State and Kentucky. The Tide is 10-5 at home and 1-5 in away games. They own a 2-3 record in league contests at Coleman Coliseum, but are winless away from home in league play at 0-4. As a team, Alabama averages 75.9 points per game, while allowing 72.7 per contest. The Tide’s leader is junior forward Richard Hendrix, the only SEC player averaging a double-double with 19.0 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He shares the league lead in double-doubles with Ole Miss’ Dwayne Curtis at 12. Alonzo Gee puts up 15.8 points and 7.3 boards per contest, while Mykal Riley adds 13.4 points per game.

 Wednesday’s game will be the 161st meeting between the two schools. The Crimson Tide holds a 112-48 lead in the series, which began in 1921. The teams have split their season series in eight of the last nine years, including last season when the home team won each instance. Ole Miss held court in last year’s first meeting 75-69 over the 18th-ranked Tide, while Alabama won 69-58 in Tuscaloosa (see page 7). Prior to the 2004-05 season, the home team prevailed in 13 straight bouts between the Rebels and Tide.
 The Tide holds a 66-9 lead in games played in Tuscaloosa and had won eight straight at Coleman Coliseum before the Rebels broke the streak with a 71-61 upset in 2006. The previous Rebel victory in Tuscaloosa had been a 74-63 triumph during the 1997-98 campaign.

 Several members of the Rebel family call Alabama their “sweet home”. Assistant coach Torrey Ward and coordinator of operations Bill Armstrong are both from Birmingham, while operations assistant Jake Headrick is from Hamilton. In addition, Dwayne Curtis spent a season at Auburn University before arriving at Ole Miss, and 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.

 With Monday’s 66-55 win over Presbyterian, Ole Miss finished with a perfect 14-0 record against regular-season non-conference opponents this season. The only other 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.

 For the third time this season, Ole Miss point guard Chris Warren has been tabbed the SEC Freshman of the Week, the league office announced Monday. The Orlando, Fla., native poured in a career-high 26 points at Arkansas on Saturday, his fourth 20-point performance in league play. He single-handedly kept Ole Miss in the game, scoring 18 points in the second half, including 11 straight for the Rebels in the stretch run to cut a 12-point Razorback lead with just under three minutes remaining to a three-point edge with 51 seconds left in the game. Warren also earned Freshman of the Week honors on Dec. 3 and Dec. 24. He is the second SEC freshman to three-peat on the weekly honors, joining Vanderbilt’s A.J. Ogilvy.

 Senior center Dwayne Curtis tied his career high with 25 points against South Carolina last Saturday to become the 30th member of the Rebels’ 1,000-Point Club. Recently adding 24 more against Presbyterian, he enters the Alabama game with 1,047 points at Ole Miss. The Chicago native is the 20th Rebel to amass 1,000 or more points in three seasons or less. He currently averages a career-high 15.4 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 1,102 points in his college career.

 At 6-foot-8 and 262 pounds, senior center Dwayne Curtis has long been known as a big body who can create space to rebound and score in the post, but he has taken his talents to another level in league play this year. The Chicago native is tied with Alabama’s Richard Hendrix for the overall SEC lead with 12 double-doubles, while Curtis tops the league with six double-doubles in conference games only. He has been on a tear recently, with eight double-doubles in his last 10 games. Curtis has posted 28 double-doubles in his Rebel career. He had seven as a sophomore and nine last season.
 With his 24-point, 11-rebound effort vs. Presbyterian on Monday, Curtis has reached the 20-point, 10-rebound plateau on five occasions, including three times in league play. He has hit for 20-and-10 eight times in his Rebel career.

 In addition to ranking second in the SEC with a career-high 9.2 rebounds per game, senior center Dwayne Curtis pulls down 4.1 offensive boards per game, tops in the SEC and 9th-most in the country.

 Hitting shots at an alarmingly high rate, senior center Dwayne Curtis leads the SEC and ranks second in the nation with a 67.5 field-goal percentage. The nation’s leader is 7-foot-7 UNC Asheville center Kenny George (70.8 pct.). Curtis’ percentage of 67.5 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 nine games, including an 11-for-13 performance to tie a career high with 25 points against South Carolina.

 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 (41.4/game), rebounding margin (+6.5) and offensive rebounds (15.6/game), while ranking second in scoring offense (81.7 ppg) and defensive rebounds (25.9/game). They also sit in third in turnover margin and assist/turnover ratio. Individually, Dwayne Curtis tops the conference with a .675 field-goal percentage and 4.1 offensive rebounds per game, while posting the second-most total rebounds per game at 9.2. Chris Warren ranks third with 5.14 assists per game and 2.91 three-pointers per contest.

 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 seventh nationally with 41.4 rebounds per game, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +6.5. Ole Miss also leads the league with 15.6 offensive boards per game, having grabbed 20+ offensive boards six times, including three times in league play. The Rebels have been out-rebounded just three times all year.
 Individually, senior center Dwayne Curtis is averaging a team-high 9.2 boards per game, second-most in the SEC. Kenny Williams grabs 7.3 boards per contest, good for eighth in the league. The senior forward has posted five double-doubles this season, most recently 10 points and 10 boards vs. Vanderbilt.

 Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC and 11th nationally in scoring with 81.7 points per game. The Rebels have scored 80+ points in 11 of their 22 contests, but have not done so in the last six games. Their 76.4 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.

 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 (15.7 ppg), assists (5.1/game), three-pointers (2.9/game) and minutes played (30.4/game). He ranks third in the SEC and 49th in the nation in assists, while draining the third-most three’s per game in the league, good for 33rd in the country. He ranks 12th in the league in scoring and seventh with a 1.80 assist-turnover ratio.
 The Orlando native has scored in double figures in all but two games. He was held scoreless for the first time Monday vs. Presbyterian. He has dished out 5 or more assists in 13-of-22 contests, including the last three straight. Warren dropped in a career-high 26 points on six 3-pointers at Arkansas Saturday for his fifth 20+ game of the year and fourth in league play. He scored 25 points at Auburn and tied Trevor Gaskins’ Ole Miss freshman record with seven treys, while also posting 24 at Tennessee and 20 vs. Vanderbilt. He is averaging a team-high 18.4 ppg in SEC contests, good for sixth in the conference. He has earned three SEC Freshman of the Week honors and was named the MVP of the San Juan Shootout.

 Point guard Chris Warren has not been shy when it comes to shooting from behind the arc this season. The rookie has netted 64 triples on 165 attempts through 22 games, which both already rank top 8 in a season in school history. His 64 three’s are seventh in the Rebel records, while the 165 attempts are eighth-most. He has hit at least two three’s in all but four games this year. At his current pace of 2.9 per game, Warren has a chance to break Clarence Sanders’ school record of 96 treys set last year.

 Ole Miss was ranked for six straight weeks, appearing as high as 15th, prior to dropping out of both polls following the home loss to South Carolina. The Rebels were receiving votes for three weeks prior to their first ranking.
 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.

 Ole Miss is 2-1 this season against teams ranked in the top 25 at the time of the game. The Rebels upended No. 15 Clemson 85-82 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before falling 85-83 at No. 8 Tennessee. They most recently earned a 74-58 victory over No. 18 Vanderbilt. 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.

 Ole Miss sits in third place in the SEC West with a 3-5 record eight 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.

 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 27-2 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 sixth in arena annals. Four of this year’s crowds rank among the top 20 in facility history. This season’s averages of 7,238 fans per game and 9,157 fans at each SEC contest are both on pace to set school records.
 Ole Miss has won 158 of its last 192 games (.823 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 393-181 (.685 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.

  Saturday’s game against Arkansas televised by SportSouth was the ninth 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 15 TV games this year, which will mark the 10th straight season that the Rebels played 10 or more TV games.

 Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice has put up big numbers in several columns of the stat sheet this season. He ranks 29th in the SEC with 12.0 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (21st at 5.3/game) assists (9th at 3.7/ game), steals (7th at 1.7/game) and assist-turnover ratio (8th at 1.78).
 Polynice 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 career highs with his stellar performance in the Nov. 13 win over South Alabama, including career bests of 28 points and seven 3-pointers.

 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. He 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.

 Georgia native Zach Graham has joined his Rebel freshman counterparts by making a significant contribution since he broke into the starting lineup four games ago against Vanderbilt. The rookie guard is putting up 8.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in his starts over the last four games, including averages of 10.7 and 5.7 in three SEC games. He poured in a season-high 14 points against South Carolina and grabbed a season-high nine rebounds at Arkansas. He also scored nine points in both the Vanderbilt and Arkansas games.

David Huertas: The Puerto Rican hit at least one three-pointer in nine straight games from 12/21 to 1/16. Broke out of a 3-game slump with 13  points and 3-of-5 from behind the arc against South Carolina and has since added 10 at Arkansas and 13 more vs. Presbyterian. 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. 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: Returned to the court after missing four straight and five of the previous six games with a high ankle sprain. Played 13 minutes and grabbed 2 rebounds in his return at Arkansas, while also playing seven minutes vs. Presbyterian. Injured his ankle in the second half at Tennessee and returned to play limited minutes vs. Florida. 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 9.5 minutes per game in a reserve role behind Chris Warren. He has dished out 3 assists in each of the last two games. 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 16 games.   After sitting the first four SEC games, has seen action off the bench in the last four league contests. 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.

 ESPN Regional Television, in conjunction with the BIG EAST Conference and the Southeastern Conference, announced recently 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.



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