GAME NOTES: High Stakes In Regular-Season Finale
REGULAR-SEASON FINALE: Ole Miss (20-9, 8-7 SEC) at Arkansas (14-16, 7-8 SEC)
LOTS ON THE LINE IN REGULAR-SEASON FINALE
Ole Miss will be battling for the chance to win an SEC West title, to earn a bye in the first round of next week's SEC Tournament and to improve its stock as an NCAA Tournament candidate in Saturday's game at Arkansas. The winner of today's matchup will be the Western Division's No. 2 seed in Nashville next week, receiving a first-round bye. An Ole Miss win and a Mississippi State loss to Tennessee would result in a tie for the SEC West crown. Ole Miss' NCAA Tournament resumé is founded on some quality non-league wins. The Rebels beat current top-10 ranked Kansas State 86-74 in Puerto Rico and current top-25 ranked UTEP also on a neutral court. The win over KSU (No. 5 RPI) is the best non-league victory by an SEC team away from its home court this season.
- The winner of today's matchup will be the Western Division No. 2 seed in next week's SEC Tournament.
- If Ole Miss beats Arkansas and Mississippi State loses to Tennessee, the Rebels and Bulldogs would share the SEC Western Division title.
- Andy Kennedy has led Ole Miss to 20 wins for the third time in his first four seasons. He is the second Rebel coach ever to reach the 20-win mark three times.
- Saturday's game will be the 66th meeting between the two schools, with the Razorbacks holding an all-time series lead of 41-24.
- Ole Miss is 5-4 this season in true road games (4-3 in SEC road games).
- The Rebels went 1-3 with freshman Reginald Buckner out with an ankle injury, but are 19-6 when he plays.
- At 78.7 ppg, Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC and 25th in the nation in scoring offense.
- The Rebels have out-rebounded their opponent in nine of the last 12 games.
- Junior guard Chris Warren has hit a 3-pointer in 39 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in school history and seventh-longest in SEC history.
REBS COMPETE FOR A RETURN TO THE BIG DANCE
Ole Miss is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002, and it has built a strong case starting with some big non-conference results. The Rebels have neutral-site wins over the hot Kansas State Wildcats (RPI No. 5) and C-USA Champion UTEP (No. 44). The win over KSU is the best non-league victory by an SEC team away from its home court this season.
Overall, Ole Miss is 2-5 against top-50 RPI teams and 7-8 against teams in the current RPI top 120. Among the Rebels' losses are five of the RPI's top 16 squads - No. 4 Kentucky, No. 6 West Virginia, No. 7 Villanova, No. 12 Vanderbilt and No. 16 Tennessee - and no loss by more than 12 points. The squad's only loss to a team currently below 100th is to Arkansas (No. 136). The Rebels are 12-4 at home and 8-5 away from home (5-4 road, 3-1 neutral).
The presence of 6-foot-8 freshman Reginald Buckner, the team's best post defender, has been a big key to the Rebels' success. The team is 19-6 when he dresses out but went just 1-3 in the four SEC games he missed with a severe ankle sprain.
SCOUTING THE RAZORBACKS
Arkansas enters the regular-season finale with a 14-16 overall record and 7-8 mark in SEC play. The Razorbacks are in third place in the SEC West standings, one game behind Ole Miss. After starting league play with six wins in their first nine outings, they have lost five of their last six. John Pelphrey's team averages 75.4 ppg to opponents' 74.0 ppg. Sophomore guard Courtney Fortson, who was suspended during the non-league, leads the team with 18.7 ppg, which ranks third among SEC players in league play. He also adds a league-high 6.0 assists per game in league play. Rotnei Clarke averages 15.6 ppg, Marshawn Powell 15.3 ppg and a team-high 6.8 rpg and Mike Washington 12.4 ppg and 6.1 rpg.
OLE MISS-ARKANSAS SERIES
Saturday's game will be the 66th meeting between the two schools, with the Razorbacks holding an all-time series lead of 41-24. The series began in 1937. Since Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference in the 1991-92 season, Ole Miss leads the series 19-18 and has won 16 of the last 24 meetings and five of the last eight. Arkansas snapped the Rebels' three-game winning streak in the series with an 80-73 win on Jan. 31 in Oxford, a game that was postponed from Saturday to Sunday due to severe winter weather travel issues. Arkansas owns a 14-7 advantage in games played in Fayetteville, but the Rebels won 98-91 (OT) there last year.
SEC TOURNAMENT SCENARIOS
Ole Miss enters today's contest one game ahead of Arkansas for second place in the SEC West standings at 8-7 behind division leader Mississippi State at 9-6. The winner of the Ole Miss-Arkansas contest will be the West's No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament and receive a first-round bye. An Ole Miss win and Mississippi State loss to Tennessee would result in a Co-Western Division title for those two squads. MSU owns the head-to-head tie-breaker with UM and has clinched the West's No. 1 seed.
KENNEDY LEADS OLE MISS TO 20 WINS, AGAIN
Andy Kennedy has led the Rebels to a 20-9 record and becomes just the second coach in school history with three 20-win campaigns (Rod Barnes), doing so in his first four seasons at the helm. The Rebels claimed 21 wins in his first year and 24 in the next before last year's injury-riddled 16-15 campaign. Kennedy now boasts three of the 10 20-win seasons in program history.
Ole Miss has a 5-4 record in true road games this season, including a 4-3 mark in league play, which is the third-best behind overall leaders Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The Rebels have won four SEC road games (Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Alabama) for the first time since claiming four in 2001. The school record for SEC road wins in a season is six (1938). Only twice in school history has Ole Miss finished with a better SEC record on the road than at home (1936 and '51).
WITH AND WITHOUT BUCKNER
The quality of the Rebels' play has depended heavily on the presence of freshman big man Reginald Buckner in the lineup. With Buckner, Ole Miss is 19-6 and averages 79.9 ppg while allowing just 69.1 ppg to opponents (+10.8 margin). In the four SEC games he missed with a sprained ankle, the Rebels went 1-3 and were out-scored by opponents 75.8 to 71.2 (-4.6 margin).
In league play only, the Rebels are 7-4 when Buckner plays and have out-scored SEC foes 74.5 to 70.4 (+4.1).
HOLLOWAY ON A TEAR
Sophomore forward Murphy Holloway has posted some big numbers in recent outings. In the last five games, he is averaging 12.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg, shooting 63.8 percent from the field (30 of 47) and adding 3 blocks and 5 steals. The South Carolina native notched his seventh double-double of the season with 15 points and a career-high 20 rebounds against Auburn. His 20 boards are the most by a Rebel since 1975 and the most by an SEC player this season. He led the Rebels with 16 points and 7 rebounds in Saturday's win at Alabama and posted 12 points and 9 boards vs. LSU.
With this past Saturday's win over the Crimson Tide, Ole Miss has swept the season series with Alabama for the first time since 1998. For the first time in school history, the Rebels have swept the season series with Alabama and Auburn in the same year. The Rebels also completed a season sweep of LSU for the first time since 1999.
SULTANS OF SWAT
There's a new strength on this year's team that the Rebels have not featured much in years past - the blocked shot. The presence of freshman Reginald Buckner, who ranks third in the SEC and 49th in the nation with 1.9 blocks per game, has helped the Rebels average 5.1 swats per contest, fifth-best among SEC teams and 27th in the country. The team's total of 148 blocks this season is 11 shy of the school record set in 1993-94, and the 12 blocks against Indiana was one shy of the school record for a game.
BUCKNER SETS FROSH RECORD, APPROACHES MORE
Freshman forward Reginald Buckner has already established himself as one of the best shot-blockers in the SEC and in school history. His 48 blocks through 25 games is a new school freshman record, eclipsing the old mark of 46 set by Sean Murphy in 1987-88. Buckner is eight blocks shy of David Dean's school record for a season (56 in 1992-93). Buckner's current total already ranks fifth-most in a season in school history.
WARREN JOINS 1,000-POINT CLUB
With 14 points against UCF, junior point guard Chris Warren became the 31st player in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. Warren enters the Arkansas game with 1,256 career points, three shy of B.L. "Country" Graham for 17th-most in school history. He reached 1,000 points in his 60th career game, tied for the fifth-fastest pace in school history with all-time leading scorer John Stroud. Gerald Glass is the fastest Rebel to reach the milestone (37 games).
WARREN BACK TO HIS OLD WAYS
He set the Ole Miss record for 3-pointers in a season as a freshman and then averaged 19.6 ppg as a sophomore before being injured. Now, Chris Warren is providing his magic again. The junior point guard currently ranks fifth in the SEC with 16.8 ppg, third with 3.1 3-pointers per game (19th in NCAA), fourth with an 83.2 free-throw percentage and eighth with 3.5 assists per game. He has 12 assists and no turnovers in the last 2 games. He had 22 points, 5 assists and made 5-of-7 3s against LSU. He had 12 points, 7 assists and 0 turnovers at Alabama. He scored 23 of his team-high 26 points in the second half of the comeback win over Auburn, adding a career-high 6 rebounds. He tallied 14 points vs. Florida. He poured in 23 points vs. Vanderbilt, making 5-of-9 from downtown. He scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the second half of the comeback win over Alabama. He dropped in 15 points with 4 3s at Kentucky. He had 17 points against Arkansas. He led the Rebels with 20 points (4-7 3's) and 5 assists at Auburn. He scored all 14 of his points in a second-half surge at LSU. He led the Rebels with 17 points vs. SC. He dropped in 19 points (including 5 3-pointers) at Tennessee. He led the Rebels with 12 points at Georgia and 15 points against MSU. He reached 1,000 career points when he scored 14 (4 3-pointers) against UCF. He posted his third straight 20-point game with a career-high 32 (5-10 3's, 13-15 FT's) - with 11 points in OT - in the win over UTEP. He poured in 20 points, including a clutch pair of 3's in the final minute, in the comeback win over Southern Miss, adding six assists. He was named to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off All-Tournament Team after he led all scorers in San Juan with 22.3 ppg. He had 16 in the win over Indiana before putting together back-to-back 20-point games against Kansas State (27) and No. 5 Villanova (24).
WHITE MAKES SCORING LOOK EASY
With his laid-back, smooth approach on offense, sometimes Terrico White's eye-popping scoring totals can take a person by surprise. The sophomore guard is averaging 14.8 ppg, which is 14th-best among SEC players. He also ranks 24th in the league with 4.5 rpg. He is averaging 17.0 ppg and 5.3 rpg over the last 3 games. He had 15 points and 7 boards vs. LSU. He had 15 points (4-6 3s) and 6 rebounds at Alabama. He notched his best scoring performance of league play this year with 21 points in the comeback win over Auburn, also dishing out five assists. He posted 14 points vs. Vanderbilt and 13 at Mississippi State. He posted a game-high 19 points and 7 rebounds at Kentucky. He had 19 points (8-12 FGs) and 7 rebounds at Auburn, including a 16-point second-half outburst. He posted 11 points with 6 rebounds vs. South Carolina. He had 17 points - including a big 4-point play in OT - at Tennessee. He poured in 21 points with 5 3s against UCF. He tied a career high with 29 points vs. Jacksonville State, draining a career-high 7 3's and grabbing 7 boards. He led all scorers with 17 points in a rout of Centenary. He tallied 19 points (8-of-10 FTs), in the OT win over UTEP. He had 15 points vs. Southern Miss. He poured in 25 points in a win over Kansas State and dropped in 19 points three more times (vs. Alabama State, vs. Texas A&M-CC and at Arkansas State). He posted 14 points and a career-high 9 rebounds vs. No. 5 Villanova.
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