SENIOR NIGHT: Ole Miss (19-9, 5-9) vs. Arkansas (19-9, 8-6)
March 4, 2008 8 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,910)
Live TV: ESPN (Brad Nessler, play-by-play; Jimmy Dykes, analyst; Jeannine Edwards, sideline reporter)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online
XM Radio: Channels 199 and 200
REBELS FACE HOGS IN HOME FINALE
Ole Miss makes its final appearance of the regular season in Tad Smith Coliseum and will honor its four seniors Tuesday night in a nationally televised contest against Arkansas on ESPN. Dwayne Curtis, Jermey Parnell, Brian Smith and Kenny Williams will be recognized for their careers in the Red and Blue in a pregame ceremony. Meanwhile, Ole Miss is in a dogfight for SEC Tournament positioning and is trying to maintain its chance for an NCAA Tournament bid. After Saturday’s 91-88 win over Alabama, the Rebels are 19-9 overall and sit in third place in the SEC West with a 5-9 league record. Ole Miss finishes the regular season Saturday at Georgia. If the season ended today, Ole Miss would be the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tourney and actually face UGA in the first round.
A school-record 13-0 start and 13 consecutive victories, a 4-3 record against teams currently ranked in the RPI top 50 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 19-9 is the best mark through 28 games since that 02 team was also 19-9.
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 top 10 in rebounding, putting up 79.0 points per game and pulling down 40.8 boards per contest. The Rebels were ranked among the nation’s top 25 for six straight weeks during December and January. They boast a 13-2 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 65-19 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.
SCOUTING THE RAZORBACKS
After getting through the first half of conference play with six wins and two losses, Arkansas is 2-4 in its last six league games and sits in second place in the SEC West with an 8-6 league mark. The Razorbacks own a 19-9 overall record. They are 6-1 at home in league play and 2-5 on the road in the SEC. They have dropped their last four road games, including their most recent two at Kentucky and Alabama by a combined eight points. Arkansas is led offensively by senior wing man Sonny Weems with 15.6 ppg. He has stepped up in SEC play for 18.9 ppg, which ranks third among league players. Sophomore Patrick Beverley adds 11.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, with 10.4 ppg and 8.7 rpg in SEC contests. As a team, the Hogs give up the third-fewest ppg in the league at 65.5 and allow just 68.4 ppg in conference play.
OLE MISS-ARKANSAS SERIES
Saturday's game will be the 62nd meeting between the two schools, with the Razorbacks holding an all-time series lead of 40-21. The series began in 1937. Since Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference in the 1991-92 season, the Hogs hold a narrow 17-16 lead. Ole Miss has won 13 of the last 20 meetings against the Razorbacks, while the teams split the season series the last two years with each winning on its homecourt. Arkansas held off a second-half Rebel surge led primarily by point guard Chris Warren to win 75-69 earlier this year in Fayetteville.
Ole Miss holds a 13-4 series lead in games played in Oxford, and has won 10 of the last 11 bouts in Tad Smith Coliseum, including a 74-72 triumph a year ago, in which Dwayne Curtis went for 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Ole Miss certainly holds a strong connection with the nearby western state of Arkansas. The Rebels have sported 15 Arkansas natives on their roster since 1998-99, including current senior forward Jermey Parnell (Gosnell). Other notable Rebels from Arkansas include Bam Doyne (Little Rock), Jason Smith (Wheatley), Keith Carter (Perryville), Jason Flannigan (L.R.) and Jason Harrison (L.R.).
ROB EVANS RETURNS TO TAD PAD
Arkansas assistant coach and former Ole Miss head coach Rob Evans will make his first trip back to Oxford in a basketball capacity on Tuesday. Evans manned the Rebel bench from 1992-93 to 1997-98, amassing an 86-81 record and guiding Ole Miss to NCAA Tournament berths in 1997 and 98 and SEC West titles both of those years, as well. He was the 97 SEC Coach of the Year (Associated Press) and was tabbed National Coach of the Year by College Hoops Insider. He has faced the Rebels on the court just once since his departure from Oxford in 1998, and that was earlier this year in Fayetteville. He did not square off against the Rebels during his eight-year tenure as the head coach at Arizona State.
TWO YOUNGEST SEC COACHES FACE OFF
Tuesday’s matchup features the two youngest men’s basketball head coaches in the SEC with 39-year-olds Andy Kennedy and John Pelphrey. Kennedy, born March 13, 1968, is four months older than Pelphrey, whose birthday is July 18. The Rebels’ coach is 61-35 (.635 winning pct.) in his third season as a Division I head coach, while the Razorbacks’ top man is 99-76 (.566 pct.) in his sixth campaign.
FOUR REBEL SENIORS TO BE HONORED
The 2008 home finale marks the final regular season game in Oxford for a quartet of Rebel seniors. Dwayne Curtis, Jermey Parnell, Brian Smith and Kenny Williams will be recognized for their careers in the Red and Blue in a pregame ceremony. Parnell and Smith are the only two to play four seasons at Ole Miss. Curtis transferred from Auburn after his freshman campaign and Williams arrived via St. Petersburg Junior College after his sophomore year. Ole Miss has amassed a 68-55 record over the last four seasons with the help of these outstanding contributors.
REBEL OFFENSE GETS BACK ON TRACK
Ole Miss has had one of the premier scoring offenses in the nation all season, but was in the midst of an 11-game stretch of under 80 points prior to Saturday’s effort against Alabama. The 91 points against the Tide were the most by the Rebels versus a league foe since a 105-71 victory over Alabama in the 2001 season finale. It marked the fifth game of 90+ points this season and the 12th contest with 80+ points. The Rebels rank third in the SEC and 20th in the nation with 79.0 points per contest on the season.
REBELS ON ESPN
The “Super Tuesday” matchup with Arkansas on ESPN marks the 11th time in the last eight years for the Rebels to play a nationally televised game on ESPN or ESPN2. Ole Miss is 3-7 in the previous 10 contests. Last year, the Rebels defeated Mississippi State on “Super Tuesday” by an 85-73 count, but fell to Clemson on the road in the second round of the NIT inESPN’s other broadcast of the Rebels.
WARREN EXTENDS FRESHMAN RECORDs
Rebel point guard Chris Warren continued to build on his Ole Miss freshman points record with 25 more points against Alabama on Saturday. He enters Tuesday’s Arkansas contest with 446 points on the year. The Freshman All-America candidate from Orlando broke Joe Harvell’s 18-year-old record in four less games (26) than Harvell used (30) in 1990. Warren averages a team-best 15.9 points in all games and 17.7 points in league contests. He also already holds the Ole Miss freshman records for 3-pointers made (83) and 3-pointers attempted (216).
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 second in the SEC and 10th nationally with 40.8 rebounds per game, while boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +5.7. Ole Miss also leads the league with 15.61 offensive boards per game, having grabbed 20+ offensive boards seven times, including four times in league play. The Rebels have been out-rebounded just five 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 6.5 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 5.4 boards per game, which is 23rd-most 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 seconds, 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 four of its last 12 games, the Rebels’ 19-9 record is the best through 28 games since the 2001-02 NCAA Tournament squad was also 19-9 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.
HOME OR ROAD MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Life on the road in the SEC is tough, and the Rebels have proven that over the course of the season. While Ole Miss boasts a 13-2 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 85.1 ppg at home versus just 67.9 on the road. They out-score their foes by more than 13 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 the most by a Rebel since Coolidge Ball and Fred Cox each had 15 in 1971-72. Curtis is the only player that averages a double-double in league play, as he posts 13.0 points and 10.4 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 ranks sixth in the nation with a 64.3 field-goal percentage. He is on pace to shatter the Ole Miss career and season records for field-goal percentage. 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 Tuesday’s game vs. Arkansas, Curtis ranks ninth in Rebel annals with 700 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 Arkansas game with 1,112 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 14.4 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 1,167 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 15.6 offensive boards per game and ranks second in the league and 10th in the nation with 40.8 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 rebounding margin (+5.7) and offensive rebounds (15.61/game), while ranking second in total rebounds (40.8/game) and defensive rebounds (25.14/game) and third in turnover margin (+1.46) and scoring offense (79.0 ppg). Individually, Dwayne Curtis tops the conference with a .643 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 2.96 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 (15.9 ppg), assists (4.6/game), three-pointers (3.0/game) and minutes played (31.0/game). He ranks third in the SEC in treys per game, while dishing out the fifth-most assists. He ranks 10th in the league in scoring and eighth with a 1.67 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 14-of-28 contests. Warren has eight games with 20 or more points, including seven in league play. He most recently tallied 25 points vs. Alabama and went 9-for-9 from the charity stripe. This was one game after he poured in 23 of his game-high 25 points in the second half at Kentucky. He also 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 17.7 ppg in SEC contests, good for fifth in the league, while chipping in an astounding 19.4 ppg in conference road games. 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 is tied for second in school history with 83 triples this season and ranks third with 216 attempts. He has hit at least two three’s in all but five games this year. At his current pace of 3.0 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 29-3 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 7,600 fans per game and 9,112 fans at each SEC contest are both on pace to set school records.
Ole Miss has won 160 of its last 195 games (.821 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 395-182 (.685 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
Tuesday’s game vs. Arkansas televised by ESPN will be the 15th 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 among the SEC leaders in rebounds (23rd at 5.4/game) assists (9th at 3.7/game), steals (6th at 1.7/game) and assist-turnover ratio (10th at 1.61).
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 middle of the season, but since February hit, the Puerto Rican has reclaimed his touch. Huertas is averaging 11.6 points over his last nine games and has made 20 3-pointers during that span. He poured in a career-high 18 points and drained four treys in the Rebels’ last game vs. Alabama.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Rodney Jones: Tallied a career-high 6 points at LSU 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 9.3 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 11 minutes over the last six 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.