GAME 28: Ole Miss (18-9, 4-9) vs. Alabama (15-13, 4-9)
March 1, 2008 1 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,910)
Live TV: Raycom Sports (Dave Baker, play-by-play; Barry Booker, 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 199
REBELS RETURN HOME TO FACE TIDE
After a pair of tough road games, Ole Miss returns to the friendly confines of Tad Smith Coliseum for its second-to-last home game of the regular season against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Ole Miss nearly escaped from Lexington with a win on Wednesday, but an explosive second-half comeback was not enough in the 58-54 road defeat. The Rebels are now 12-2 at home and 1-7 on the road this season, including 4-2 in Oxford in league play and 0-7 on the road against SEC foes. Chris Warren put on a show in the second half at Kentucky, scoring 23 of his game-high 25 points in the period. Ole Miss is now one of four teams in the SEC West tied at 4-9, but the Rebels do not hold any tiebreakers and would be the No. 6 seed at the SEC Tournament if the season ended today.
A school-record 13-0 start and 13 consecutive victories, a 6-4 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 18-9 is tied for the best mark through 27 games since that 02 team was 19-8.
Second-year Rebel mentor Andy Kennedy has pumped life into the Rebel team and fan base. Ole Miss places among the top 30 teams in the nation in scoring and top 10 in rebounding, putting up 78.5 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 62-19 record entering the weekend. The Rebels racked up an umblemished non-league record for the first time since 1948-49 and just the second time ever.
SCOUTING THE CRIMSON TIDE
Alabama brings a 15-13 overall record and 4-9 SEC mark into Saturday’s contest in Oxford. After starting the league schedule with four straight losses, the Tide has gone 4-5 in its last nine. The squad earned a 59-56 home win over Arkansas in its most recent game on Wednesday. UA has a 4-3 record in home league contests, but is winless at 0-6 on the road. Alabama holds a slim +2.7 scoring margin over all opponents with 74.9 ppg to foes’ 72.2. The Tide is led by an upper-classman trio of juniors Richard Hendrix and Alonzo Gee and senior Mykal Riley. Hendrix is third in the SEC in scoring (18.3) and first in rebounding (10.1). Gee adds 15.1 ppg and 7.1 rpg, while Riley chips in 14.1 ppg and tops the team with 79 3-pointers.
OLE MISS-ALABAMA SERIES
Saturday’s game will be the 162nd meeting between the two schools. The Crimson Tide holds a 113-48 lead in the series, which began in 1921. Alabama won this year’s previous meeting in Tuscaloosa by a 76-67 margin. The teams have split their season series in eight of the last nine years, including last season when the home team won each instance. Prior to the 2004-05 season, the home team prevailed in 13 straight bouts between the Rebels and Tide.
The Rebels have won eight of the last 10 meetings at Tad Smith Coliseum, while Alabama holds a narrow 37-36 lead in games played in Oxford.
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.
HARVELL, BALL TO BE HONORED SATURDAY
Upcoming SEC Basketball Legend Joe Harvell and Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame honoree Coolidge Ball will be recognized during Saturday’s game. The former Rebel greats are members of their respective 2008 class of honorees. They will be in Oxford also as part of the annual reunion of Ole Miss hoops alumni.
WARREN SETS FRESHMAN POINTS RECORD
Rebel point guard Chris Warren scored eight points at LSU Saturday to surpass Joe Harvell as the all-time freshman leader in points scored at Ole Miss. After adding 25 at Kentucky, Warren has 421 points on the year. The Freshman All-America candidate from Orlando broke the 18-year-old record in four less games (26) than Harvell used (30) in 1990. Warren averages a team-best 15.6 points in all games and 17.2 points in league contests. He also already holds the Ole Miss freshman records for 3-pointers made (79) and 3-pointers attempted (210).
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 rank first in the SEC and eighth nationally with 41.2 rebounds per game, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +6.0. Ole Miss also leads the league with 15.85 offensive boards per game, having grabbed 20+ offensive boards seven times, including four 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 9.4 boards per game, second-most in the SEC and 33rd in the country. Kenny Williams grabs 6.7 boards per contest, good for 13th 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 22nd-best in the SEC.
SECOND-HALF COMEBACK FALLS JUST SHORT
Ole Miss followed perhaps its worst first half of the season with one of its best second periods and almost pulled off a miracle comeback at Kentucky Wednesday. The Rebels trailed 31-14 at the break and were fortunate to score 14 by making three baskets and hitting a pair of free throws over the last 3:04 of the half. The 14 points were the fewest in a half since Ole Miss scored 13 in the first half against Memphis in December 2003.
However, spurred by Chris Warren’s 23 second-half points, Ole Miss came out of the locker room with more energy and defensive intensity and used a 15-2 run coming out of the break to pull within four. With UK ahead 56-54 in the waning secondds, the Rebels had a chance to take the lead, but Trevor Gaskins’ three attempt was just long and the Wildcats’ Ramel Bradley sank a pair of free throws to seal the outcome.
SOLID RECORD DESPITE STRUGGLES
Despite the recent stretch in which Ole Miss has won just three of its last 11 games, the Rebels’ 18-9 record is tied with last year’s team for the best through 27 games since the 2001-02 NCAA Tournament squad was 19-8 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 last 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 1-7 on opponents’ home courts. Ole Miss is 0-7 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 67.9 on the road. They out-score their foes by more than 14 at Tad Smith Coliseum, but have been out-scored by almost seven on the road.
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 14 double-doubles and tops the league with eight double-doubles in conference games only. He has been on a tear recently, with 10 double-doubles in his last 15 games. He has the most by a Rebel since Coolidge Ball and Fred Cox each had 15 in 1971-72. Curtis and Hendrix are the only two players that average a double-double in league play, as Curtis posts 12.2 points and 10.5 boards per SEC tilt. Curtis has posted 30 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.
HE CAN'T MISS (MUCH)
Hitting shots at an alarmingly high rate, senior center Dwayne Curtis leads the SEC and entered the week ranked sixth in the nation with a 64.0 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.
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 Saturday’s game vs. Alabama, Curtis ranks 11th in Rebel annals with 691 career boards. He is just the third Rebel to amass 650 career rebounds in three years or less.
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 Alabama game with 1,088 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 14.0 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 1,143 points in his college career.
CLEANING OFF THE GLASS
In addition to ranking second in the SEC with a career-high 9.4 rebounds per game, senior center Dwayne Curtis pulls down 4.4 offensive boards per game, tops in the SEC and 5th-most in the nation.
As a team, Ole Miss tops the SEC with 15.9 offensive boards per game and ranks first in the league and eighth in the nation with 41.2 total rebounds.
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 (+6.0) and offensive rebounds (15.85/game), while ranking third in defensive rebounds (25.33/game) and turnover margin (+1.59). Individually, Dwayne Curtis tops the conference with a .640 field-goal percentage and 4.4 offensive rebounds per game, while posting the second-most total rebounds per game at 9.4. Chris Warren ranks third with 2.9 three’s per game.
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 (4.5/game), three-pointers (2.9/game) and minutes played (30.9/game). He ranks third in the SEC in treys per game, while dishing out the fifth-most assists. He ranks 12th in the league in scoring and ninth with a 1.65 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-27 contests. Warren has seven games with 20 or more points, including six in league play. He poured in 23 of his game-high 25 points in the second half at Kentucky and scored a game-high 22 points against Mississippi State. 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 17.2 ppg in SEC contests, good for 10th 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 79 triples on 210 attempts through 27 games, which both rank top 3 in a season in school history. His 79 three’s are tied for third in the Rebel records, while the 210 attempts are third. He has hit at least two three’s in all but five 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.
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
Saturday’s game vs. Alabama televised by Raycom Sports will be the 14th 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.
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 11.3 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (22nd at 5.5/game) assists (9th at 3.6/ game), steals (7th at 1.7/game) and assist-turnover ratio (7th at 1.69).
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 when 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 had scored nine or more points in each game this month prior to the Kentucky game. That seven-game roll 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: Has made seven starts, including three in league play. 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 made his first start of the season in his hometown of Lexington, Ky. He is averaging 9.5 minutes per game in a reserve role behind Chris Warren. 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-13 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 9 minutes over the last five 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.
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.