GAME 30: Ole Miss (20-9, 6-9) at Georgia (13-15, 4-11)
March 8, 2008 4 p.m. ET
Athens, Ga. Stegeman Coliseum (10,523)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online
XM Radio: Channel 201
REGULAR-SEASON FINALE IN ATHENS FIRST OF TWO STRAIGHT TRIPS TO GEORGIA
Ole Miss will be familiar with the Peach State in the coming weeks. The Rebels travel to Athens to face the Georgia Bulldogs in the final game of the regular season before they visit Atlanta and the Georgia Dome for the SEC Tournament beginning Thursday. Pending Saturday’s outcome, Ole Miss will earn the SEC West’s No. 3 or 4 seed for the league tournament and face the East’s No. 5 or 6, which will be either Georgia or South Carolina. The Rebels have a chance to finish the regular season at 7-9 in league play and could rack up 21 regular-season victories for the first time since 2000-01, when Ole Miss advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. The Rebels are looking for their first league road win of the year, as they are 0-7 so far.
With Tuesday’s win over Arkansas, Ole Miss continues to build on its strong rsum for an NCAA Tournament bid. With a 20-9 overall record, Andy Kennedy has led Ole Miss to just its ninth 20-win season in school history and back-to-back 20-win campaigns for only the fifth time. Kennedy is the first Rebel coach in the 98-year history of the program to produce back-to-back 20-win campaigns in his first two years at Ole Miss.
A school-record 13-0 start and 13 consecutive victories, the eighth-best non-league RPI in the nation, a 6-4 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 Big Dance since 2002.
Among Ole Miss’ wins over current top-50 RPI squads are victories over #8 Vanderbilt, #20 Clemson at a neutral site, #28 South Alabama, #36 Miss. State, #41 Arkansas and #48 New Mexico. Another Rebel victim, Florida, is just outside the top 50 at #61. With an 18-11 record, Winthrop is another Rebel victim with NCAA Tourney hopes. Ole Miss has top-50 losses to Tennessee (1), MSU, Arkansas and Kentucky (47).
Ole Miss places among the top 20 teams in the nation in scoring and top 11 in rebounding, putting up 79.0 points per game and pulling down 40.6 boards per contest. The Rebels were ranked among the nation’s top 25 for six straight weeks during December and January. They boast a 14-2 record at Tad Smith Coliseum, where they are averaging record crowds, and have gone 5-0 in neutral-site contests.
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS
Georgia enters the last day of the regular season at the bottom of the SEC East despite a 59-54 road win over Auburn on Wednesday. The Bulldogs are 13-15 overall and 4-11 in league play. They had dropped five in a row and 10 of their last 11 before Wednesday’s victory. UGA averages 68.0 points on offense and gives up 66.9 points per contest. Senior point guard Sundiata Gaines does almost everything for the Dogs, as he leads the team in points (14.5), rebounds (6.3), assists (4.3) and steals (1.9). Billy Humphrey adds 12.6 ppg with a team-high 56 3-point field goals.
OLE MISS-GEORGIA SERIES
Saturday's game is the 101st meeting between the two schools, with Georgia holding a 64-36 lead in the series. Ole Miss has prevailed in two of the last three encounters. The Rebels earned a 67-49 victory over the Bulldogs last year in Oxford with Clarence Sanders’ 21 points topping four Rebels in double figures. Georgia maintains a 37-9 series lead in games played in Athens. The last Ole Miss win at Stegeman Coliseum was a 74-70 overtime victory in 1989.
Two young members of the Rebel hoops program call the Peach State their home. Freshman guards Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham both hail from the Atlanta area. Gaskins attended Chattahoochee High School in Alpharetta and Graham came to Ole Miss by way of Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee. They were also AAU teammates with the Georgia Hurricanes.
BACK-TO-BACK 20-WIN SEASONS
With Saturday’s 81-72 win over Arkansas, Ole Miss improved to 20-9, giving the Rebels consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since 2000-01 and 2001-02 and just the fifth time ever. Ole Miss has now earned 20+ wins in consecutive regular seasons for just the fourth time in program history. Head coach Andy Kennedy directed the Rebels to a 21-13 campaign a year ago and has become the first coach in the Rebels’ 98-year history to produce back-to-back 20-win campaigns in his first two years at Ole Miss.
Ole Miss has one of the best marks in the nation with a 6-4 record against teams currently in the RPI top 50. The Rebels have wins over Vanderbilt (RPI #8), Clemson (20) at a neutral site, South Alabama (28), Mississippi State (36), Arkansas (41) and New Mexico (48). Another Rebel victim, Florida, is just outside the top 50 at #61. With an 18-11 record, Winthrop is another Rebel victim with NCAA Tourney hopes. Ole Miss has top-50 losses to Tennessee (1), Mississippi State, Arkansas and Kentucky (47).
KENNEDY BREAKS REBEL COACHING RECORD
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy’s 41 wins in his first two seasons in Oxford set a new standard for second-year Rebel head coaches, as he surpassed Rod Barnes’ previous record of 39 victories. Kennedy owns a record of 41-22 (.651 win pct.) at Ole Miss.
SEC TOURNEY SEEDINGS STILL UP FOR GRABS
With just one game left for all 12 SEC schools, there are still several scenarios that could play out for SEC Tournament seedings. Pending the outcome of Saturday’s game at Georgia, Ole Miss can earn the West’s No. 3 or 4 seed and will face the No. 5 or 6 seed from the East, which will be either Georgia or South Carolina. Mississippi State has already clinched the West No. 1 seed and Tennessee the East title. The only other spots still up for grabs are East No. 2 and 3 (Kentucky and Vanderbilt) and West No. 5 and 6 (Alabama and Auburn).
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 its last two games, a 91-88 win over Alabama and an 81-72 victory over Arkansas. 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, while the last two games are the 12th and 13th contests with 80+ points. The Rebels rank third in the SEC and 20th in the nation with 79.0 points per contest on the season.
CURTIS MAKES ALL-DISTRICT TEAM
Senior center Dwayne Curtis was named All-District 6 second team by the NABC this week and is one of 150 student-athletes from 15 districts that are now eligible for the NABC All-America teams to be announced at the conclusion of the regular season. Curtis also earned NABC All-District 6 second-team honors as a sophomore. He is the 10th player in school history to earn All-District honors multiple times.
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 11th nationally with 40.6 rebounds per game, while boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +5.6. Ole Miss also leads the league with 15.48 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 32nd in the country. Kenny Williams grabs 6.4 boards per contest, good for 14th 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 23rd-most in the SEC.
WARREN EXTENDS FRESHMAN RECORDs
With each additional game, Rebel point guard Chris Warren continues to build on his Ole Miss freshman points record. He enters Saturday’s Georgia game with 456 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 15.7 points in all games and 17.2 points in league contests. He also holds the Ole Miss freshman records for 3-pointers made (85) and 3-pointers attempted (220).
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 64.4 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 15 double-doubles and tops the league with nine double-doubles in conference games only. His 15 double-doubles are tied for the most at Ole Miss since 1957. Curtis and Hendrix are the only players that average a double-double in league play, as Curtis posts 13.7 points and a league-high 10.4 boards per SEC tilt. Curtis has posted 31 double-doubles in his career. He had seven as a sophomore and nine last year.
With 23 points and 11 boards against Arkansas on Tuesday, Curtis has also reached the 20-point, 10-rebound plateau on six occasions, including four times in league play. He has hit for 20-and-10 nine times in his Rebel 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 Saturday’s game at Georgia, Curtis ranks ninth in Rebel annals with 711 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 Georgia game with 1,135 points at Ole Miss, 23rd-most in school history. 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 14.7 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 1,190 points in his college career.
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 (15.7 ppg), assists (4.6/game), three-pointers (2.9/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 12th in the league in scoring and 10th with a 1.60 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-29 contests. Warren has eight games with 20 or more points, including seven in league play. He 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 17.2 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 second in school history with 85 triples this season and tied for second with 220 attempts. 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.
LOOKING FOR SOME ROAD MAGIC
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 14-2 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 84.8 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.
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 4th-most in the nation.
As a team, Ole Miss tops the SEC with 15.5 offensive boards per game and ranks second in the league and 11th in the nation with 40.6 total rebounds.
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. Ole Miss’ non-league RPI is No. 8 in the nation.
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 (+5.6) and offensive rebounds (15.48/game), while ranking second in total rebounds (40.6/game) and defensive rebounds (25.14/game) and third in scoring offense (79.0 ppg). Individually, Dwayne Curtis tops the conference with a .644 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 2.93 three’s per game.
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 30-3 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 7,636 fans per game and 8,994 fans at each SEC contest are both on pace to set school records.
Ole Miss has won 161 of its last 196 games (.821 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 396-182 (.685 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.
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.
HUERTAS SCORING IN BUCHES OF LATE
Sophomore guard David Huertas fell on hard times with his outside shooting stroke during the middle of the season, but recently the Puerto Rican has been clicking on all cylinders. Huertas has scored a career high in points in back-to-back games, with 18 against Alabama and 19 vs. Arkansas. He has hit seven 3-pointers over the two-game span and also tied a career high with five assists vs. the Razorbacks. He has upped his rebounding over the past four games, averaging 6.5 boards during that span.
POLYNICE FILLING IT UP
Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice has put up big numbers in several columns of the stat sheet this year. He ranks among the SEC leaders in rebounds (23rd at 5.5/game) assists (9th at 3.7/game), steals (7th at 1.7/game) and assist-turnover ratio (9th at 1.62).
Polynice most recently scored 12 points with 8 reobunds and 4 assists in the win over Arkansas. 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 against both Vanderbilt and Arkansas.
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. Tied his SEC season highs with 8 points and 4 boards against Arkansas on Senior Night. Also had 8 points and 4 rebounds at Alabama. He returned to the court at Arkansas after missing four straight and five of the previous six games with a high ankle sprain. Injured his ankle in the second half at Tennessee and returned to play limited minutes vs. Florida. 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 two starts of the season in his hometown of Lexington, Ky. and on Senior Night vs. Arkansas. 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.
Malcolm White: Has only played 11 minutes over his last six contests. DNP vs. Arkansas. 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.