GAME NOTES: Ole Miss Begins Three-Game Homestand
GAME 25: Ole Miss (17-7, 5-5 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt (19-5, 8-2 SEC)
REBELS TIP OFF 3-GAME HOMESTAND
With the SEC West crown and NCAA Tournament hopes in view, Ole Miss begins a crucial three-game homestand this Thursday against No. 17 Vanderbilt. That game is followed by home contests with Florida on Saturday and Auburn next Wednesday. The Rebels dropped a 71-63 decision on the road at Mississippi State on Thursday to move to 17-7 overall and 5-5 in league play. Ole Miss has built a strong NCAA Tournament resumé founded on some quality non-league wins. The Rebels beat current top-10 ranked Kansas State 86-74 in Puerto Rico and current C-USA leader UTEP also on a neutral court. The win over KSU (No. 7 RPI) is the best non-league victory by an SEC team away from its home court this season.
- Thursday's game will be the 110th meeting between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, with the Commodores holding a 70-39 lead in the series.
- Ole Miss has gone 1-3 over the last four games without the services of freshman big man Reginald Buckner, who was averaging 8.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg in the two contests before he went down with an ankle injury.
- Andy Kennedy enters the game just one win shy of 100 for his career (99-59).
- Kennedy has directed Ole Miss to a 53-9 home record in his four seasons at the helm.
- Ole Miss is 3-6 against top-25 opponents over the last three seasons.
- At 17-7, the Rebels have surpassed last year's win total of 16.
- At 79.6 ppg, Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC and 17th in the nation in scoring offense.
- Ole Miss is 13-1 when equaling or surpassing its opponent in rebounds, while the Rebels are 4-6 when they get out-rebounded. They have won the rebound battle in five of the last seven outings.
HIGH HOPES FOR A RETURN TO THE BIG DANCE
Ole Miss is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002, and it has built a strong case starting with some big non-conference results. The Rebels, whose RPI stands at 48, have neutral-site wins over the hot Kansas State Wildcats (RPI No. 7) and C-USA leader UTEP (No. 56). The win over KSU is the best non-league victory by an SEC team away from its home court this season. Ole Miss has gone 1-3 over the last four games without the services of freshman big man Reginald Buckner, who was averaging 8.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg in the two contests before he went down with an ankle injury. He is expected to return to the lineup soon.
Overall, Ole Miss is 6-6 against teams in the current RPI top 115. Among the Rebels' seven losses are three of the RPI's top squads - No. 3 Villanova, No. 5 Kentucky and No. 6 West Virginia. The only loss to a team currently below 100th was to up-and-coming Arkansas (No. 116).
SCOUTING THE COMMODORES
Vanderbilt enters Thursday's game with a 19-5 overall record and 8-2 mark in SEC play. The 17th-ranked Commodores are in second place in the SEC East and second in the SEC overall. Kevin Stallings' team is putting itself in position for an NCAA Tournament berth. VU has made the tourney three of the last six years. The 'Dores are coming off back-to-back wins over Tennessee and LSU. They average 78.4 ppg on the season and allow 68.4 ppg to opponents. Senior point guard Jermaine Beal paces four players who average double figures with his 14.8 ppg. Jeffery Taylor, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, adds 13.9 ppg. A.J. Ogilvy averages 13.3 ppg and a team-high 6.0 rpg, while John Jenkins contributes 10.4 ppg.
OLE MISS-VANDERBILT SERIES
Thursday's game will be the 110th meeting between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt on the hardwood. The Commodores hold a 70-39 lead in the series, which began in 1925. Vanderbilt won last year's meeting 71-61 in Nashville, while the Rebels snapped VU's six-game win streak in the series with a 74-58 win in 2008, the last time they played in Oxford. Ole Miss leads the series 30-21 in games played in Oxford and has won nine of the last 11 meetings at the Tad Pad.
Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy is 2-2 against Vandy in his career. In addition to a 1-2 mark with Ole Miss, he picked up a 92-83 victory at Vanderbilt during the 2005-06 campaign, his lone season as Cincinnati mentor.
The Ole Miss-Vanderbilt series has been all about location in recent years. In fact, the home team has prevailed in 20 of the last 23 meetings. From 1989 through 2000, the home team held court in 14 straight games.
REBELS VS. RANKED FOES
The No. 17-ranked Commodores represent the fifth ranked opponent for the Rebels this season. Ole Miss is 0-4 in the previous outings (lost to No. 5 Villanova on a neutral site, and at No. 6 West Virginia, No. 9 Tennessee and No. 3 Kentucky). Ole Miss is 3-6 against top-25 opponents over the last three seasons and 4-11 in four years under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels' last win over a ranked team was an 85-80 triumph over No. 24 Kentucky on 1/27/09.
KENNEDY NEEDS ONE WIN FOR CENTURY MARK
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy enters Thursday's game vs. Vanderbilt just one win shy of 100 for his career. The Louisville, Miss., native is in his fifth season as a collegiate head coach - one year at Cincinnati and four at Ole Miss. His career record stands at 99-59 (.627 win pct.).
DEFENDING HOME COURT
Winning at home has been a trademark of Andy Kennedy's squads since he took the reins in 2006-07. Ole Miss is 54-9 (.857 win pct.) in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum during Kennedy's tenure, including a 10-2 mark this year. The Rebels are 20-8 in SEC home games under Kennedy's watch.
IT'S RAINING THREE'S
With an abundance of shooters in its backcourt-heavy lineup, Ole Miss is getting plenty of production from behind the arc this season. The Rebels rank third among SEC teams and 25th in the nation with 8.1 three's made per game. They tied the school record with 14 treys against Jacksonville State and have drained 12 against Southern Miss and UTEP.
Individually, Chris Warren leads the way with 73 3-pointers (8th-most in school history in a season - needs 4 more to tie for 5th place), ranking second in the SEC and 16th in the nation with 3.0/game. Terrico White has drained 42 shots from downtown (1.8/game), including a career-high seven against Jacksonville State. Zach Graham has added 34 triples (1.4/game). Eight different Rebels have hit at least one 3-pointer.
SULTANS OF SWAT
There's a new strength on this year's team that the Rebels have not featured much in years past - the blocked shot. The presence of freshman Reginald Buckner, who ranks third in the SEC and 38th in the nation with 2.2 blocks per game, has helped the Rebels average 5.4 swats per contest, fifth-best among SEC teams and 26th in the country. The team's total of 130 blocks is already fourth-most in a season in school history, and the 12 blocks against Indiana was one shy of the school record for a game.
STRONG OFF THE BENCH
Ole Miss has benefitted from strong contributions off its bench in SEC play. The Rebel bench is averaging 24.2 ppg and out-scoring the SEC opponents' bench 242-116, which is an average of 12.6 more ppg. Against Alabama, the Rebel bench out-scored the Tide bench 32-7.
WARREN JOINS 1,000-POINT CLUB
With 14 points against UCF, junior point guard Chris Warren became the 31st player in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. Warren enters the Vanderbilt game with 1,159 career points, tied for 22nd-most in school history. He reached 1,000 points in his 60th career game, tied for the fifth-fastest pace in school history with all-time leading scorer John Stroud. Gerald Glass is the fastest Rebel to reach the milestone (37 games).
POLYNICE SET TO ENTER EXCLUSIVE CLUB
Junior guard Eniel Polynice has been a stat sheet stuffer during his three seasons with the Rebels and is about to enter an exclusive club. He needs eight assists to reach 300 for his career. That would make him one of three players in school history with 700 career points, 300 rebounds and 300 assists. Below is the complete list:
- Todd Abernethy ('04-07): 1,036 pts, 305 rebs, 431 asts
- Jason Flanigan ('98-01): 785 pts, 329 rebs, 302 asts
- Eniel Polynice ('07-pres.): 760 pts, 365 rebs, 292 asts
WARREN BACK TO HIS OLD WAYS
He set the Ole Miss record for 3-pointers in a season as a freshman and then averaged 19.6 ppg as a sophomore before being injured. Now, Chris Warren is providing his magic again. The junior point guard currently ranks fifth in the SEC with 16.2 ppg and second with 3.0 3-pointers per game (16th in NCAA). He scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the second half of the comeback win over Alabama. He dropped in 15 points with 4 3s at Kentucky. He had 17 points against Arkansas. He led the Rebels with 20 points (4-7 3's) and 5 assists at Auburn. He scored all 14 of his points in a second-half surge at LSU. He led the Rebels with 17 points vs. SC. He dropped in 19 points (including 5 3-pointers) at Tennessee. He led the Rebels with 12 points at Georgia and 15 points against MSU. He reached 1,000 career points when he scored 14 (4 3-pointers) against UCF. He posted his third straight 20-point game with a career-high 32 (5-10 3's, 13-15 FT's) - with 11 points in OT - in the win over UTEP. He poured in 20 points, including a clutch pair of 3's in the final minute, in the comeback win over Southern Miss, adding six assists. He was named to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off All-Tournament Team after he led all scorers in San Juan with 22.3 ppg. He had 16 in the win over Indiana before putting together back-to-back 20-point games against Kansas State (27) and No. 5 Villanova (24).
WHITE MAKES SCORING LOOK EASY
With his laid-back, smooth approach on offense, sometimes Terrico White's eye-popping scoring totals can take a person by surprise. The sophomore guard is averaging 14.8 ppg, which is 13th-best among SEC players. He also ranks 25th in the league with 4.6 rpg. He had 13 points at Mississippi State. He posted a game-high 19 points and 7 rebounds at Kentucky. He had 19 points (8-12 FGs) and 7 rebounds at Auburn, including a 16-point second-half outburst. He posted 11 points with 6 rebounds vs. South Carolina. He had 17 points - including a big 4-point play in OT - at Tennessee. He poured in 21 points with 5 3s against UCF. He tied a career high with 29 points vs. Jacksonville State, draining a career-high 7 3's and grabbing 7 boards. He led all scorers with 17 points in a rout of Centenary. He tallied 19 points (8-of-10 FTs), in the OT win over UTEP. He had 15 points vs. Southern Miss. He poured in 25 points in a win over Kansas State and dropped in 19 points three more times (vs. Alabama State, vs. Texas A&M-CC and at Arkansas State). He posted 14 points and a career-high 9 rebounds vs. No. 5 Villanova.
BUCKNER CLOSING IN ON SCHOOL RECORDS
Freshman forward Reginald Buckner has already established himself as one of the best shot-blockers in the SEC and soon to be one of the best in school history. His 44 blocks through 20 games are two shy of Sean Murphy's school freshman record (46 in 1987-88) and 12 shy of David Dean's school record for blocks in a season (56 in 1992-93). Buckner's total already ranks 10th-most in a season in school history.
POLYNICE DOES A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING
Junior guard Eniel Polynice is at his best when he is filling up every column of the stat sheet, and the Rebels' "glue" guy has been producing. For the season, he averages 10.6 ppg, 4.3 rebounds/game (28th in SEC), 4.2 assists/game (leads team, 6th in SEC) and 1.3 steals/game. With 292 career assists, he needs 8 more to become the ninth player in school history with 300 in a career. He led the Rebels with 14 points and 5 assists at MSU, adding 6 boards. He had 14 points at Kentucky. He tallied 15 points, 7 boards and 6 assists vs. Arkansas. He had his second straight 14-point game at Auburn, adding 5 rebounds and 5 assists. He had 14 points and 4 rebounds at LSU. He posted 10 points, 4 boards and 3 steals vs. South Carolina. He tied a season high with 9 rebounds at Tennessee. He recorded 10 points at Georgia and secured the win with a nifty in-bounds pass off Travis Leslie's back and layup with 12 seconds remaining. He reached 100 steals for his career with 2 against MSU. He had 16 points and 5 assists vs. UCF. He notched 9 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists vs. Jacksonville State. He posted 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists at West Virginia. He had 13 points and 6 assists vs. Centenary. He came up big in a late rally vs. McNeese State to finish with 12 points and tie career highs with 9 assists and 4 steals. He had 15 points, 6 assists and the game-winning dunk with 1.3 seconds left vs. Southern Miss. Against Kansas State he put up 13 points, 5 boards and 2 steals. Against Indiana, he posted 10 points, 7 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Against Alabama State, he had 17 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals and a block.
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