Ole Miss Basketball Game Notes
March 5, 2004
GAME #27: Ole Miss (12-14, 4-11) vs. Arkansas (12-14, 4-11)
OLE MISS CLOSES OUT REGULAR SEASON WITH ARKANSAS: Ole Miss wraps up the regular season Saturday against Arkansas. The Rebels will be looking to snap a season-long five-game skid and earn their fifth SEC victory of the season, bettering their total from a year ago. An Ole Miss win today would also secure the Rebels at least a tie for fourth in the Western Division standings. Despite maintaining the lead for much of the night, Ole Miss dropped a 58-45 decision at LSU Wednesday. Senior Aaron Harper turned in his seventh game of 20 or more points and posted game-highs in points (20) and rebounds (8). Freshman point guard Todd Abernethy added his fourth double-digit scoring game with 10 points and a pair of three-pointers.
BARNES IN SIXTH SEASON AS REBEL MENTOR: Rod Barnes is in the midst of his sixth season at the helm of the Ole Miss Rebel basketball program. The 2001 Naismith and CollegeInsider.com National Coach of the Year, Barnes has a 112-75 record (.599 winning percentage). The 100 wins in his first five seasons is the most by a Rebel coach in that span of time in Ole Miss history. In 2000-01, Barnes was the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, and guided Ole Miss to a school-record 27 wins and the program's first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 berth. Another winning season and postseason tournament followed in 2001-02 - both were the sixth straight for the Ole Miss program.
Barnes was hired as the Rebel head coach on April 9, 1998. A 1988 graduate of Ole Miss, Barnes served as an assistant under Evans from 1993-98. During his time as an assistant coach, the Rebels compiled a record of 76-63 and won back-to-back Southeastern Conference Western Division titles and received consecutive NCAA Tournament berths in 1997 and 1998. Barnes played at Ole Miss from 1984-88 and was named All-SEC his senior season. He still ranks on the Ole Miss career charts in scoring (18th; 1,201 points), assists (2nd; 456) and steals (7th; 154).
SCOUTING ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks skid into Saturday's game with only one victory in their last seven games and fresh off an overtime home loss to Alabama 72-68, in which they squandered a 22-point second-half lead. Sophomore forward Jonathan Modica posted a team-high 17 points against the Crimson Tide and has led Arkansas this season with a 16.9 scoring clip. Guard Ronnie Brewer dropped in 23 points against Florida last Saturday, and tops all SEC freshmen in scoring at 12.8. Brewer also leads the Backs on the boards at 5.7 per game and in steals at 2.04 per game, which ranks top five in the league. As a team, Arkansas is among the conference's best in turnover margin (+3.08) and offensive rebounding (13.12 per game). UA head coach Stan Heath is in his second year at the helm and returns eight letterwinners and two starters from last year's 9-19 squad that tied for fifth in the SEC West.
OLE MISS-ARKANSAS SERIES: Saturday's game will be the 54th meeting between the two schools, with the Razorbacks holding an all-time series lead of 35-18. The series began in 1937. Since Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference in the 1991-92 season, the Rebels lead the series 13-12. Ole Miss has won 10 of the last 13 meetings against the Razorbacks. Earlier this season, Arkansas snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Rebels with a 86-78 victory in Fayetteville, despite 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists from Aaron Harper. Ole Miss holds a 10-3 series lead in games played in Oxford, and has won eight straight encounters in Tad Smith Coliseum. Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes is 9-2 versus Arkansas and 5-0 against the Razorbacks in Oxford.
QUOTING BARNES: "We are looking forward to the game against Arkansas this Saturday. We are anxious to get back out on the floor after our poor second half at LSU. We are getting better and are going to keep working hard. We want to send these seniors off with a win. When you lose players, people always ask what you are going to do to fill the void. You are always going to have recruits to come in and play and current players that are going to get better. It doesn't affect us as much because we are a defensive minded team. Everybody asked the same thing about what would Mississippi State do after they lost Mario Austin last year and look what they've done. You just can't be worried or discouraged about any of the talk."
ENDING ON A WINNING NOTE: Through the years, Ole Miss has sent off its seniors with a victory in their final home game. In the last eight regular-season home finales, the Rebels are 7-1, with the lone loss coming to LSU 77-64 on Senior Day a year ago. Including road games, Ole Miss has won three straight regular-season finales.
SCORING TITLE STILL UP FOR GRABS: Justin Reed enters the final weekend of the regular season with a shot at the SEC scoring crown. In second place with an 18.6 average, Reed trails league leader Matt Freije from Vanderbilt by one full point (19.6 ppg) with one regular-season game and the SEC Tournament remaining. Freije's Commodores travel to Georgia Saturday night. The last Rebel to claim the conference scoring title was Joe Harvell in 1992 with a 25.0 average. Prior to that, John Stroud won the title back-to-back years in 1979 (26.3 ppg) and 1980 (25.5 ppg).
TOURNAMENT SCENARIOS: With a victory over Arkansas Saturday, Ole Miss would earn the Western Division's No. 4 seed for the SEC Tournament next week in Atlanta. That would put the Rebels in a first-round matchup with the East No. 5 seed - either Georgia or Tennessee. UGA can clinch the No. 5 spot with a win over Vanderbilt or a Tennessee loss vs. South Carolina. The Volunteers can earn the East No. 5 seed with a victory over USC coupled with a Georgia loss. Should both teams win or lose, the Bulldogs own the tiebreaker. If the Rebels lose Saturday and Auburn falls to LSU, Ole Miss would be the West No. 5 seed. The Rebels and Tigers would have split their season series and both teams would have 3-7 division records. Ole Miss' 1-1 record compared to Auburn's 0-2 record versus Alabama would be the deciding factor. The West No. 5 seed will face the East No. 4 in the first round, either South Carolina or Vanderbilt. If both Arkansas and Auburn prevail Saturday, the Rebels would drop to the No. 6 seed, which plays East No. 3. That spot could be occupied by the Gators, Commodores or Gamecocks.
ARKANSAS REBELS: Little Rock native Bam Doyne may be the only current Rebel from Arkansas, but Ole Miss certainly holds a strong connection with the nearby western state. The Rebels have sported 12 Arkansas natives on their roster under head coach Rod Barnes (since 1998-99), including such Ole Miss notables as Jason Smith (Wheatley), Keith Carter (Perryville), Jason Flannigan (Little Rock) and Jason Harrison (Little Rock). Also, two of Ole Miss' fall signees are from Arkansas - Jeremy Parnell, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward/center from Gosnell, and Brandon Patterson, a 6-foot-6, 180-pound swingman from Altheimer.
HAVEN'T WE MET BEFORE?: Saturday's game between Arkansas and Ole Miss is the fourth time Rod Barnes and Stan Heath will face each other as head coaches, but before these contests, the two were on opposing benches once before. Back in the 1999 NCAA Tournament, Barnes, then the Rebels' 1st-year head coach, guided Ole Miss to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament where it played Michigan State. Heath was an assistant on that Spartan coaching staff. Michigan State won a hard-fought 74-66 game, and went on to advance to the Final Four.
DYNAMIC DUO: The Rebels continue to boast two of the top scorers in the Southeastern Conference in seniors Justin Reed and Aaron Harper. Reed and Harper form the top scoring duo in the SEC at 18.6 (2nd) and 17.0 (7th), respectively. The former Provine High School teammates are also No. 1 in conference play with Reed at 18.7 (4th) and Harper at 18.1 (6th).
HARPER'S HOT MONTH: Aaron Harper was second in the SEC in scoring during the month of February at 21.1 ppg in the seven games. Harper finished three assists shy of a triple-double against Vanderbilt with 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Also included in the month was a career-high 30-point night against Auburn.
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