GAME 24: Ole Miss (17-6, 3-6) vs. Auburn (12-10, 2-7)
February 16, 2008 4 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,910)
Live TV: FSN South (Dave Neal, play-by-play; Barry Booker, 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 201
REBELS HOST AUBURN TIGERS
Ole Miss will face the return trip of a division foe for the first time this season when Auburn travels to Oxford for Saturday’s regionally televised contest on FSN South. The Rebels dropped an 80-77 decision on the Plains when the two teams met up on Jan. 19. Since that meeting, the Tigers have gone 1-5 and are 0-5 against league foes. Ole Miss is also searching for a win, having gone 2-5 in its last seven contests, including 1-5 in league play. The Rebels have dropped three straight SEC contests, including their most recent 76-67 defeat at Alabama. In conference games this season Ole Miss is 3-1 at home and Auburn owns a 1-3 mark in road contests. The Rebels have not lost four straight league games during Andy Kennedy’s tenure as head coach.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS
Auburn is in the midst of a five-game losing skid after a three-game win streak that included a home victory over Ole Miss. The Tigers own a 12-10 overall record and 2-7 mark in league play, putting them tied for fifth in the SEC Western Division. In the recent five-game stretch, Auburn has dropped road games at Alabama and Vanderbilt and home contests versus LSU, Kentucky and Mississippi State. Overall, the Tigers score 70.5 points per game and allow 70.6. They are dead even with opponents at 33.0 rebounds per game. In league play the Tigers have scored 70.6 points and allowed 77.4. Four Auburn players average double figures and are all within 1.1 points of each other - Korvotney Barber (injured - 13.8), Quan Prowell (13.7), Rasheem Barrett (13.6) and Frank Tolbert (12.7). Tolbert tops the squad with 16.7 ppg and 5.9 rpg in league contests.
OLE MISS-AUBURN SERIES
Saturday’s game will be the 116th meeting between the two schools, with the Tigers holding an all-time series lead of 69-46. Ole Miss holds an 8-7 edge in the last 15 meetings, despite Auburn earning an 80-77 victory in the teams’ first meeting this year (see page 7). The Rebels beat the Tigers in both meetings last year (82-59 at Auburn and 83-79 on Senior Day in Oxford).
The Rebels hold a 33-22 series lead in games played in Oxford, and have won six of the last eight and 11 of the last 14 meetings versus the Tigers in Tad Smith Coliseum.
The Rebels’ starting center will be battling a familiar foe this weekend. Senior 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 senior 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.
Ole Miss has just completed a tough stretch of three games in five days, while Saturday’s Auburn game will mark the fourth game in eight days for the Rebels. They are 1-2 so far with a home win over Presbyterian and losses at Arkansas and Alabama.
The Rebels are going through a rough patch in SEC play, as well. Since starting league play 2-1 with a two-point loss at No. 8 Tennessee, the Rebels have lost five of their last six, with four of those coming on the road against division foes. In the two home games, Ole Miss defeated No. 18 Vanderbilt 74-58 and lost to South Carolina 80-77 for the first loss in Tad Smith Coliseum this season.
THREE-PEAT FRESHMAN HONOR FOR WARREN
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.
FANS CAN MEET THE 4TH-RANKED BASEBALL REBELS SATURDAY
The Ole Miss baseball team will be signing autographs for fans as a part of its annual “Meet The Rebels” day on Saturday prior to the Auburn game. The baseball team will begin signing autographs at 3 p.m. at Tad Smith Coliseum. Fans can find the team on the concourse level of the Coliseum where the Rebels will be signing posters for all in attendance.
Nationally ranked No. 4 Ole Miss will open the 2008 season the following Friday, Feb. 22, at 3 p.m. against the Golden Gophers of Minnesota at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.
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.
CURTIS BECOMES 30TH REBEL TO 1,000 POINTS
Senior center Dwayne Curtis tied his career high with 25 points against South Carolina to become the 30th member of the Rebels’ 1,000-Point Club. He enters the Auburn game with 1,050 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 14.8 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 1,105 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 11 games. He has the most by a Rebel since Rahim Lockhart posted 13 in 1999-2000. 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.
HE CAN'T MISS (MUCH)
Hitting shots at an alarmingly high rate, senior center Dwayne Curtis leads the SEC and ranks second in the nation with a 66.7 field-goal percentage. The nation’s leader is 7-foot-7 UNC Asheville center Kenny George (70.8 pct.). Curtis’ percentage of 66.7 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.
CLEANING OFF THE GLASS
In addition to ranking second in the SEC with a career-high 9.1 rebounds per game, senior center Dwayne Curtis pulls down 4.1 offensive boards per game, tops in the SEC and 8th-most in the country.
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 (15.6 ppg), assists (5.0/game), three-pointers (2.9/game) and minutes played (30.7/game). He ranks third in the SEC in assists, while draining the third-most three’s per game in the league. He ranks 12th in the league in scoring and eighth with a 1.76 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-23 contests. 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 17.8 ppg in SEC contests, good for seventh in the conference. He has earned three SEC Freshman of the Week honors and was named the MVP of the San Juan Shootout.
WARREN DRAINING THREE’S AT RECORD PACE
Point guard Chris Warren has not been shy when it comes to shooting from behind the arc this season. The rookie has netted 67 triples on 175 attempts through 23 games, which both already rank top 7 in a season in school history. His 67 three’s are tied for fifth in the Rebel records, while the 175 attempts are seventh-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.
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 (41.5/game), rebounding margin (+6.3) and offensive rebounds (15.7/game), while ranking second in defensive rebounds (25.8/game) and third in scoring offense (81.1 ppg). Individually, Dwayne Curtis tops the conference with a .667 field-goal percentage and 4.1 offensive rebounds per game, while posting the second-most total rebounds per game at 9.1. Chris Warren ranks third with 5.04 assists per game and 2.91 three-pointers per contest.
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 eighth nationally with 41.5 rebounds per game, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +6.3. Ole Miss also leads the league with 15.7 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 9.1 boards per game, second-most in the SEC. Kenny Williams grabs 7.2 boards per contest, good for ninth in the league. The senior forward has posted five double-doubles this season, most recently 10 points and 10 boards vs. Vanderbilt.
POINTS INCREASING IN 2007-08
Scoring 81.1 points per game, Ole Miss is on pace for the highest season average since the 1974-75 squad posted 81.6 points per contest, which is the second-highest average in school history. Ole Miss ranks third in the SEC and 16th nationally in scoring. This despite a recent offensive slump in which the Rebels have posted below 70 points in three straight games and under 80 in seven straight. The Rebels have scored 80+ points in 11 contests this season. Their 75.3 average in SEC play ranks third among league schools.
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.
OLE MISS RANKED AFTER 7-YEAR DROUGHT
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.
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 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.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Saturday’s game against Auburn televised by FSN South will be the 10th TV appearance of the year, marking the 10th straight season that the Rebels have played 10 or more TV games. After seeing a school-record 22 games televised a year ago, Ole Miss is slated to play at least 15 TV games this season.
SUCCESS VERSUS TOP 25
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.
REBELS DEFENDING SEC WEST TITLE
Ole Miss sits in third place in the SEC West with a 3-6 record nine 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.
POLYNICE FILLING IT UP
Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice has put up big numbers in several columns of the stat sheet this season. He ranks 30th in the SEC with 11.7 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (21st at 5.3/game) assists (10th at 3.6/ game), steals (7th at 1.7/game) and assist-turnover ratio (9th at 1.73).
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.
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. 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.
ANOTHER REBEL ROOKIE ENTERS SPOTLIGHT
Georgia native Zach Graham has joined his Rebel freshman counterparts by making a significant contribution since he broke into the starting lineup five games ago against Vanderbilt. The rookie guard is putting up 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in his starts over the last five games, including averages of 10.5 and 5.8 in four SEC games. He most recently chipped in 10 points and grabbed six rebounds at Alabama, while making 6-of-7 free throws. 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.
HUERTAS RECLAIMING HIS STROKE
Sophomore guard David Huertas fell on hard times with his outside shooting stroke during the month of January, but since February hit, the Puerto Rican has reclaimed his touch. Huertas has scored in double figures in each of the four games this month and is shooting at a 47.2 percent clip from the field and 37.5 percent from behind the arc, well above his season averages of 36.7 and 29.5. The last four games broke a six-game slump after he poured in a career-high 17 points on the strength of five 3-pointers against Alabama A&M.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
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.
REBELS TO PLAY IN SEC/BIG EAST INVITATIONAL
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.