GAME 27: Ole Miss (18-8, 4-8) at Kentucky (15-10, 9-3)
February 27, 2008 8 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky. Rupp Arena (23,000)
Live TV: Raycom Sports (Tom Hammond, play-by-play; Larry Conley, analyst). Watch Online
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 231
REBELS IN SEARCH OF FIRST SEC ROAD WIN
Ole Miss travels to Lexington, Ky., and historic Rupp Arena in search of its first road victory in Southeastern Conference play on Wednesday. The Rebels are 4-2 at home and 0-6 on the road in SEC games. They will face a Kentucky squad that has won eight of its last nine contests and owns a perfect 6-0 record at Rupp in league play. Ole Miss split its games last week, winning 74-63 at home over Mississippi State before suffering a 69-49 defeat at LSU. Chris Warren set the Ole Miss freshman record for points in the game at LSU, though the Rebels scored their fewest points in two years under head coach Andy Kennedy. Ole Miss is currently tied for third in the SEC West and would be the West’s No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament if the season ended today.
A school-record 13-0 start and 13 consecutive victories, a 6-3 record against teams currently ranked in the RPI top 100 and a 2-1 record against top-25 teams are all accomplishments that could help Ole Miss earn its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2002. The Rebels’ record of 18-8 is the best mark through 26 games since that 2002 team was 19-7.
Second-year Rebel mentor Andy Kennedy has pumped life into the Rebel team and fan base. Ole Miss places among the top 20 teams in the nation in scoring and rebounding, putting up 79.5 points per game and pulling down 41.2 boards per contest. The Rebels were ranked among the nation’s top 25 for six straight weeks during December and January. They boast a 12-2 record at Tad Smith Coliseum, where they are averaging record crowds, and have gone 5-0 in neutral-site contests.
In non-league action, Ole Miss went a perfect 14-0, including quality wins over No. 15 Clemson, South Alabama and New Mexico. Those three teams have a combined 60-18 record entering the week. The Rebels racked up an umblemished non-league record for the first time since 1948-49 and just the second time ever.
The Rebels are 4-8 in SEC games, with wins over LSU, defending National Champion Florida, then-No. 18 Vanderbilt and SEC West-leading Mississippi State. Six of the eight defeats have come on the road, including a two-point loss at current No. 1 Tennessee, as well as losses at the SEC West’s top two teams in Mississippi State and Arkansas.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Kentucky has won eight of its last nine games and sits in second place in the SEC East with a 9-3 league record. After a very un-Wildcat-like 6-7 record in non-conference games, Kentucky has turned its season around and maintains a 15-10 record entering Wednesday’s contest. Despite the 9-3 league record, the Wildcats are being out-scored 66.8-66.4 in SEC games, a number skewed heavily by a 93-52 loss at Vanderbilt. Every other UK game in league play has been decided by 10 points or less. After going 6-4 against non-league foes at home, Kentucky has rolled off six victories with no defeats against SEC teams at Rupp Arena. Three Wildcats make up 68 percent of the UK offense. Senior Joe Crawford (16.8 ppg), freshman Patrick Patterson (16.5) and senior Ramel Bradley (15.9) all rank among the top 10 scorers in the SEC. They make up 73 percent of UK’s offense in league play. Injuries have whittled the Wildcats’ roster to seven full-time players in most league contests.
OLE MISS-KENTUCKY SERIES
Wednesday’s game will be the 106th meeting between the two schools. The Wildcats hold a 94-11 lead in the series, which began in 1925. Beginning with the 2001 SEC Tournament finals win in Nashville, Kentucky has taken eight straight in the series. In last season’s meeting, the Wildcats handed the Rebels their only home loss of the year with a 68-58 decision in the SEC opener for both teams. Todd Abernethy led the Rebels with 17 points, while Dwayne Curtis had 13 points and 10 boards.
Kentucky holds a 44-2 series lead in Lexington. Ole Miss secured one of the program’s biggest ever victories with a 73-64 win in Rupp Arena over the eventual national champs on Feb. 14, 1998. Current Rebel assistant coach Michael White scored 16 points as the then-junior point guard for Ole Miss. The only other Ole Miss win at Kentucky occurred in 1927.
Wednesday will be a bittersweet day for Rebel senior point guard Brian Smith. The Lexington native will face his former hometown team for possibly the last time in his career and for the first time without his father, Tubby Smith, manning the Cats’ sideline. Tubby is in his first year as head coach at Minnesota after a 10-year tenure with Kentucky that included the 1998 national title when Brian was a seventh-grader.
WARREN SETS FRESHMAN POINTS RECORD
Rebel point guard Chris Warren scored eight points at LSU Saturday, just enough to surpass Joe Harvell as the all-time Rebel freshman leader in points scored with 396 on the year. The Freshman All-America candidate from Orlando has broken the 18-year-old record in four less games (26) than Harvell used (30) in 1990. Ole Miss still has at least five games left on its schedule, including an opening-round tilt in the SEC Tournament. Warren averages a team-best 15.2 points in all games and 16.5 points in league contests. He also already holds the Ole Miss freshman records for 3-pointers made (74) and 3-pointers attempted (198).
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 tied for first in the SEC and ninth nationally with 41.2 rebounds per game, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +5.6. 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 four times all year.
Individually, senior center Dwayne Curtis is averaging a team-high 9.2 boards per game, second-most in the SEC and 38th in the country. Kenny Williams grabs 6.8 boards per contest, good for 11th in the league. The senior forward has posted five double-doubles this season, most recently 10 points and 10 boards vs. Vanderbilt. Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice helps out with 5.5 boards per game, which is 19th-best in the SEC.
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 (41.2/game), rebounding margin (+5.6) and offensive rebounds (15.7/game), while ranking second in defensive rebounds (25.5/game) and third in scoring offense (79.5 ppg), assist/turnover ratio (1.25) and turnover margin (+1.69). Individually, Dwayne Curtis tops the conference with a .645 field-goal percentage and 4.2 offensive rebounds per game, while posting the second-most total rebounds per game at 9.2.
SOLID RECORD DESPITE STRUGGLES
Despite the recent stretch in which Ole Miss has won just three of its last 10 games, the Rebels’ 18-8 record is the best through 26 games since the 2001-02 NCAA Tournament squad was 19-7 through this point in the season. This season, Ole Miss began with 13 straight wins and 15 in its first 16 contests before the recent struggles.
With Wednesday’s win over Mississippi State, the Rebels have earned at least four league victories for the 13th straight year.
While Ole Miss boasts a 12-2 home record this season and a perfect 5-0 mark in neutral sites, the Rebels are just 1-6 on opponents’ home courts. Ole Miss is 0-6 on the road in league play, with its lone road win of the season coming in non-conference action at UCF. The Rebels are putting up 84.6 ppg at home versus just 69.9 on the road. They out-score their foes by more than 14 at Tad Smith Coliseum, but have been out-scored by more than seven on the road.
CLEANING OFF THE GLASS
In addition to ranking second in the SEC with a career-high 9.2 rebounds per game, senior center Dwayne Curtis pulls down 4.2 offensive boards per game, tops in the SEC and 7th-most in the nation.
As a team, Ole Miss tops the SEC with 15.7 offensive boards per game and ranks tied for first in the league and ninth in the nation with 41.2 total rebounds.
HE CAN'T MISS (MUCH)
Hitting shots at an alarmingly high rate, senior center Dwayne Curtis leads the SEC and ranks sixth in the nation with a 64.5 field-goal percentage. He is on pace to shatter the Ole Miss career and season records for field-goal percentage, as show in the charts below. 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.
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 SEC lead with 13 double-doubles and tops the league with seven double-doubles in conference games only. He has been on a tear recently, with nine double-doubles in his last 14 games. He has the most by a Rebel since Rahim Lockhart also posted 13 in 1999-2000. Curtis and Hendrix are the only two players that average a double-double in league play, as Curtis posts 12.2 points and 10.1 boards per SEC tilt. Curtis has posted 29 double-doubles in his career. He had seven as a sophomore and nine last year.
Curtis has also 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.
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 Kentucky game with 1,076 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 14.1 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 1,131 points in his college career.
CURTIS MOVES UP REBOUNDING CHART
In just three years with the Red and Blue, Dwayne Curtis has established himself as one of the best rebounders in school history. Entering Wednesday’s game at Kentucky, Curtis ranks 11th in Rebel annals with 676 career boards. He is just the third Rebel to amass 650 career rebounds in three years or less.
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 (15.2 ppg), assists (4.7/game), three-pointers (2.8/game) and minutes played (30.7/game). He ranks fifth 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 eighth with a 1.70 assist-turnover ratio.
The Orlando native has scored in double figures in all but four games. He has dished out five or more assists in 13-of-26 contests. Warren has six games with 20 or more points, including five in league play. He scored a game-high 22 points against Mississippi State Wednesday night. He dropped in a career-high 26 points on six 3-pointers at Arkansas. 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 16.5 ppg in SEC contests, good for 12th in the league. 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
Despite his quiet, reserved personality off the court, point guard Chris Warren has not been shy when it comes to shooting from behind the arc this season. The rookie has netted 74 triples on 198 attempts through 26 games, which both rank top 5 in a season in school history. His 74 three’s are fifth in the Rebel records, while the 198 attempts are fourth. 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.
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 28-3 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. Six of this year’s crowds rank among the top 20 in facility history. This season’s averages of 7,507 fans per game and 9,146 fans at each SEC contest are both on pace to set school records.
Ole Miss has won 159 of its last 194 games (.820 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 394-182 (.684 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.
With a 66-55 win over Presbyterian on Feb. 11, 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.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Wednesday’s game at Kentucky televised by FSN South will be the 13th 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 16 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.
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 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.
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. Before 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 after their NCAA Sweet Sixteen berth.
REBELS DEFENDING SEC WEST TITLE
Ole Miss sits tied for third place in the SEC West with a 4-8 record 12 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 29th in the SEC with 11.6 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (19th at 5.5/game) assists (10th at 3.6/ game), steals (6th at 1.8/game) and assist-turnover ratio (7th at 1.76).
At LSU, Polynice registered just 5 points, but had 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a block. He posted 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a career-high 3 blocks in the win over Mississippi State. He had 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 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 joined his Rebel freshman counterparts by making a significant contribution since he started six straight games from Jan. 30-Feb. 16. In his six starts, the rookie guard put up 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds, including averages of 10.0 and 5.6 in five SEC starts. 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 nine or more points in each of the seven games this month and is shooting at a 41.5 percent clip from the field and 36.4 percent from behind the arc in February, above his season averages of 36.4 and 30.3. The last seven 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
Rodney Jones: Tallied a career-high 6 points at LSU Saturday against his home state team. Drained a pair of 3-pointers in 4 minutes of action late in the game.
Jermey Parnell: Made his first two starts since Jan. 9 in the last two games. He 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 9.7 minutes per game in a reserve role behind Chris Warren. Averaging 11.6 minutes and 2.8 assists over his last five games played. 15 minutes and career-high five assists 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 18 games. Has seen action off the bench in 6-of-12 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: Has only played 7 minutes over the last four contests. 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.