GAME 25: Ole Miss (17-7, 3-7) vs. Mississippi State (17-7, 8-2)
February 20, 2008 7 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,910)
Tape Delayed TV: CSS (Matt Stewart, play-by-play; Richard Cross, analyst). Will air Wednesday night at 9 p.m.
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online
XM Radio: Channel 200
REBELS AND BULLDOGS MEET AGAIN
Ole Miss looks to snap a four-game conference losing skid when it hosts Mississippi State in a key Western Division showdown Wednesday night in Oxford. The Bulldogs handed the Rebels their worst loss of the season 88-68 in Starkville on Jan. 26, and the Rebels look to even the season series Wednesday. The two teams have split their games each of the last two seasons, with the home team prevailing each time. Ole Miss lost just its second home game of the year to Auburn on Saturday, as the Rebels boast an 11-2 mark at Tad Smith Coliseum and 27-3 record since Andy Kennedy arrived last season. The Rebels’ next SEC victory would give them at least four league wins for the 13th consecutive year.
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS
After an 80-74 victory over Arkansas Saturday, Mississippi State stands alone in first place in the SEC Western Division with an 8-2 league record. After starting the season 5-5, the Bulldogs have won 12 of their last 14 contests and sport a 17-7 overall mark. Owners of the league’s top defense, they rank first in the SEC in scoring defense (63.5 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (.366 pct. - 2nd in nation) and rebounding (41.1/game). Jamont Gordon is the team catalyst. He ranks fifth in the league in scoring (17.7), tied for third in assists (4.8) and 14th in rebounds (6.4). Three more Bulldogs average double-figure points with Charles Rhodes at 15.3, Barry Stewart at 12.3 and Ben Hansbrough at 10.2. Sophomore center Jarvis Varnado leads the team and ranks fourth in the league in rebounding at 7.9/game, while he is the nation’s top shot blocker with 4.8 per contest. As a team, MSU ranks second in the nation in blocked shots.
OLE MISS-STATE SERIES
Wednesday’s game will be the 237th meeting between the two schools, with the Bulldogs holding an all-time series lead of 133-103 in the SEC’s most-played rivalry. The teams have split the season series each of the last two years, with each winning on its home court. State claimed an 88-68 victory earlier this year in Starkville on the strength of Charles Rhodes’ 26 points, while the Rebels’ Dwayne Curtis posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 boards. The Rebels hold a 76-40 series advantage in games played in Oxford and have taken eight of the last 12 at Tad Smith Coliseum. Bam Doyne scored 23 and Clarence Sanders added 22 to help Ole Miss to an 85-73 victory in Oxford a year ago.
BULLDOG COACHING TIES
Ole Miss assistant coach Owen Miller will be countering a familiar program on Wednesday. Miller served the same position at Mississippi State from 1994-95 until 1996-97. In his first coaching experience, he helped Richard Williams’ Bulldogs to an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 1995 and a Final Four trip the following year. MSU won the SEC West crown twice in his tenure and captured the league tournament title in 1996.
Ole Miss has just completed a tough stretch of four games in eight days. The Rebels went 1-3 in those contests, with a home win over Presbyterian and SEC West losses at Arkansas and Alabama and at home to Auburn.
The Rebels are going through a rough patch in SEC play. Since starting league play 2-1 with a two-point loss at No. 8 Tennessee, the Rebels have lost six of their last seven, with four of those coming on the road against division foes. In the Rebels’ three home games, Ole Miss defeated No. 18 Vanderbilt 74-58 and lost to South Carolina 80-77 and Auburn 90-78 for the first two losses at Tad Smith Coliseum this season.
REBELS, BULLDOGS PULL DOWN REBOUNDS
Both of the Magnolia State’s SEC teams rank among the nation’s elite rebounders entering Wednesday’s contest. Mississippi State ranks ninth in the nation at 41.1 boards per game, while Ole Miss is 10th with 41.0. The top two rebounding teams in the SEC have been out-rebounded by foes a combined seven times, not including their previous matchup, in which the Bulldogs had the rebounding edge 40-39.
THREE-PEAT FRESHMAN HONOR FOR WARREN
For the third time this season, Ole Miss point guard Chris Warren was tabbed the SEC Freshman of the Week, the league office announced Monday, Feb. 11. 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.
With a 66-55 win over Presbyterian last Monday, 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 on Feb. 2 to become the 30th member of the Rebels’ 1,000-Point Club. He enters the Mississippi State game with 1,058 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 14.5 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 1,113 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 league lead with six double-doubles in conference games only, while he ranks second behind Hendrix for the overall SEC lead with 12 double-doubles. He has been on a tear recently, with eight double-doubles in his last 12 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 last 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 third in the nation with a 66.7 field-goal percentage. The nation’s leader is 7-foot-7 UNC Asheville center Kenny George (70.7 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 9.0 rebounds per game, senior center Dwayne Curtis pulls down 4.0 offensive boards per game, tops in the SEC and 11th-most in the nation.
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 (15.3 ppg), assists (4.8/game), three-pointers (2.8/game) and minutes played (30.5/game). He ranks third in the SEC in assists, while draining the fourth-most three’s per game in the league. He ranks 14th in the league in scoring and 10th with a 1.66 assist-turnover ratio.
The Orlando native has scored in double figures in all but three games. He was held scoreless for the first time vs. Presbyterian. He has dished out 5 or more assists in 13-of-24 contests. Warren dropped in a career-high 26 points on six 3-pointers at Arkansas 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 16.8 ppg in SEC contests, good for 10th 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 68 triples on 178 attempts through 24 games, which both already rank top 5 in a season in school history. His 68 three’s are fifth in the Rebel records, while the 178 attempts are tied for fifth. He has hit at least two three’s in all but five games this year. At his current pace of 2.8 per game, Warren has a chance to break Clarence Sanders’ school record of 96 treys set last year.
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 are second in the SEC and rank 10th nationally with 41.0 rebounds per game, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +6.3. Ole Miss also leads the league with 15.5 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 9.0 boards per game, second-most in the SEC. Kenny Williams grabs 7.1 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.
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 rebounding margin (+6.3) and offensive rebounds (15.5/game), while ranking second in scoring offense (81.0 ppg), total rebounds (41.0/game) and defensive rebounds (25.5/game) and third in assist/turnover ratio (1.25) and turnover margin (+1.75). Individually, Dwayne Curtis tops the conference with a .667 field-goal percentage and 4.0 offensive rebounds per game, while posting the second-most total rebounds per game at 9.0. Chris Warren ranks third with 4.83 assists per game.
POINTS INCREASING IN 2007-08
Scoring 81.0 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 second 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 of the last four games and under 80 in eight straight. The Rebels have scored 80+ points in 11 contests this season. Their 75.6 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 27-3 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. Five of this year’s crowds rank among the top 20 in facility history. This season’s averages of 7,379 fans per game and 9,142 fans at each SEC contest are both on pace to set school records.
Ole Miss has won 158 of its last 193 games (.819 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 393-182 (.683 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Wednesday’s game against Mississippi State televised by CSS will be the 11th 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 year.
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 a tie for third place in the SEC West with a 3-7 record 10 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 11.8 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 1.8/game) and assist-turnover ratio (9th at 1.74).
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 most recently scored a team-high 15 points in the loss to Auburn, making 3-of-4 from behind the arc. 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 six games ago against Vanderbilt. The rookie guard is putting up 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in his starts over the last six games, including averages of 10.0 and 5.6 in five SEC games. He most recently scored eight points with five rebounds vs. Auburn. He 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 five games this month (including a lucky 13 each of the past three games) and is shooting at a 46.8 percent clip from the field and 36.4 percent from behind the arc in February, well above his season averages of 37.2 and 29.8. The last five 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 at Arkansas after missing four straight and five of the previous six games with a high ankle sprain. Tallied SEC season highs of 8 points and 4 rebounds at Alabama. 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 9.8 minutes per game in a reserve role behind Chris Warren. Played 15 minutes and dished out a career-high five assists Saturday vs. Auburn. Has missed just two games this season. 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 USM.
Terrence Watson: A long, athletic forward, Watson has 11 blocks in limited action in 17 games. After sitting the first four SEC games, has seen action off the bench in five 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.