Rebels Await LSU in SEC Tournament

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SEC TOURNAMENT
Second Round
W2 Ole Miss (19-11, 8-8)  vs. W6 LSU (17-11, 5-11)
March 9, 2007 9:45 p.m. ET
Atlanta, Ga. Georgia Dome (26,000)

MEDIA
Live TV:
Lincoln Financial Sports (Tim Brando, play-by-play; Barry Booker, analyst; Dave Baker, sideline). NOTE: The LFS telecast of the game will be shown on SportsSouth in the following markets: Jackson, Tenn., DMA; Tri-Cities, Tenn., DMA; Greenwood/Greenville, Miss., DMA; Columbus/Tupelo/West Point, Miss., DMA.
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, analyst)
Tournament Website: www.SECSports.com
Satellite Radio: NA

WEST CHAMPION REBELS HEAD TO ATLANTA
 With an SEC Western Division title in hand, Ole Miss rolls into the SEC Tournament with a first-round bye. The West No. 2 seed Rebels will face LSU in Friday’s final game. Ole Miss is coming off its best regular season since 2002 and a thrilling finale against Auburn Saturday that sealed the program’s fourth SEC West title. Bam Doyne broke a tied game with four free throws in the final three seconds of an 83-79 victory. Doyne posted a team-high 19 points, while Clarence Sanders scored 18 and Todd Abernethy added 15 and 9 assists. The Rebels enter the tourney with wins in six of their last nine games.

NCAA TOURNEY-WORTHY
 After a slow start to the SEC season, Ole Miss fired back to take the Western Division title and establish itself as one of the league’s toughest teams. With  a strong finish that included wins over Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas, Andy Kennedy’s club thrust itself into the national eye as a serious NCAA Tournament contender.
 Ole Miss enters the weekend with a 5-7 record against teams currently rated in the top 65 of the RPI and an 8-11 mark against the index top 105. Of the Rebels’ victories, Tennessee is seventh in the latest RPI, while both Alabama and LSU have been ranked top-5 in the AP poll. Ole Miss outscored the Volunteers 55-31 in the second half in knocking off the defending SEC champions. The Rebels also traveled to Auburn to slam the then division-leading Tigers by 22 points.
 Of the Rebels’ 11 losses this year, 10 were on the road, four were against top-20 teams, while three others were to squads that have spent time in the national polls. Ole Miss’ first two setbacks were at the homes of UConn and Memphis and were without the full services of All-SEC center Dwayne Curtis, who fractured his foot in the preseason. The Rebels’ leading scorer from a year ago could not make the trip to Connecticut and saw only a few minutes in his first game back against Memphis.

OLE MISS-LSU SERIES
 The series with the Tigers, which began in 1909, is the second-longest in Ole Miss basketball history. LSU leads the all-time series 113-78, although the Rebels hold a 12-11 edge in the last 23 meetings. The average margin of victory is 4.4 over the last five games. Ole Miss split its season series with LSU with the home team prevailing in each instance. The Rebels won the most recent meeting 71-70 on a Clarence Sanders buzzer beater on Valentines Day. Including an encounter in the 1928 Southern Conference tournament, the teams have met in conference tourneys on eight occasions, with the Tigers enjoying a 5-3 advantage. It last occurred at the 1993 SEC Tournament, when LSU prevailed 89-70.

SEC WEST CHAMPIONS
 With Saturday’s thrilling victory over Auburn in the regular season finale, Ole Miss earned the program’s fourth SEC Western Division championship and first since 2001. Just like this year, the Rebels were picked to finish last in the West that preseason as well. Ole Miss also captured consecutive division crowns in 1997 and 1998. The Rebels’ four SEC West titles in the last 11 years is the most of any division rival over that span.

REBELS SEEDED AS WEST NO. 2
 The Rebels are the Western Division’s No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament and are receiving a first-round bye for the first time since 2001. Ole Miss tied for first in SEC West standings with an 8-8 league mark, but earned the No. 2 seed by virtue of a 6-4 division record compared to Mississippi State’s 7-3 mark.

OLE MISS IN THE SEC TOURNAMENT
 The Rebels have an overall record of 22-43 in Southeastern Conference Tournament play, and are 8-15 in tournament action since the league went to the two-division format in the 1991-92 season. Ole Miss has participated in 44 of the previous 46 SEC Tournaments.
 Last season, the team lost in the first round to Kentucky 71-57 in Nashville. The Rebels have reached four SEC championship contests and have a 1-3 record in those games. Ole Miss took home the tournament title in 1981, defeating Georgia in the championship game.

REBELS RETURN TO ATLANTA
 After a year in Nashville, the Southeastern Conference Tournament returns to Atlanta for the seventh time in the last 10 years and the 10th time ever, including the first SEC tourney in 1933. Ole Miss has a 3-9 record in the tournaments that have taken place in Atlanta. The Rebels’ best showing in the Georgia Dome was a semifinal appearance in 1998, when the team fell to South Carolina 87-77.

OLE MISS IN SECOND-ROUND PLAY
 The Rebels have an overall record of 8-17 in second-round games at the SEC Tournament. The Rebels are 2-4 in second-round games in Atlanta and last played in the second round of the 2005 SEC Tournament, falling to Alabama 69-52.

COACH OF THE YEAR
 In his debut season at Ole Miss, Andy Kennedy returned the Rebels to the top of the Southeastern Conference Western Division, and on Tuesday, was named the SEC Coach of the Year by the Associated Press. He is the fifth Rebel coach to receive the award.
 Kennedy guided Ole Miss, a preseason last-place pick in the West, to its first division title since 2001 and its most wins -- both overall (19) and SEC (8) -- in five years. The Rebels knocked off 18th-ranked Alabama for first its top-25 victory since 2004 and defeated current No. 22 Tennessee.

ALL-SEC REBELS
 Ole Miss seniors Todd Abernethy and Clarence Sanders are All-SEC guards, garnering second team honors from the league coaches. Abernethy has also received AP Honorable Mention All-SEC and NABC All-District hardware this season. Sanders picked up All-SEC second team distinction from the AP as well.

BEST SEASON SINCE 2001-02
 The home victory over Alabama secured Ole Miss of its first winning season since going 20-11 during the 2001-02 campaign, the program's last NCAA Tournament appearance. This year's 19 wins bests the previous high of 14 over the last four seasons. Also, after five or less SEC victories in each season since 2002, Ole Miss nearly doubled that mark with eight this year.

SEC’S TOP POINT GUARD?
 Todd Abernethy has raised his scoring average and assist total in each of his seasons as a Rebel, and this year, those figures are jumping once again as the senior has emerged as arguably the SEC’s best point guard. Abernethy is the SEC leader in assists per game (5.83) and ranks second in the nation in assist/turnover ratio (3.31). He has posted 24 assists with 6 turnovers over the last three games.
 Abernethy is also averaging in double-figure points for the first time in his career at 10.9 ppg with a 12.3 clip in SEC action. The Carmel, Ind., native has registered a pair of 20-point games and his first two career double-doubles with 19 points and 10 assists against Mississippi State and 12 points and a career-high 11 assists against LSU. He narrowly missed the mark in Saturday’s Auburn win with 15 points and 9 assists. In addition, he is eighth in the SEC in minutes played at 33.28 per game.

DIALING LONG DISTANCE
 Aside from his spectacular buzzer-beater against LSU, sixth man Clarence Sanders has played a starring role of late, averaging 19.0 points over the last eight games and leading the scoring efforts five times. Twice in that span he tied his own school record for 3s against an SEC foe with 7. Sanders was 7-of-13 from long range in matching his career high of 29 points against the Bayou Bengals. The Phenix City, Ala., native also burned Auburn for 7-of-11 from downtown for 21 points on the Plains, and he fired in 4-of-6 from behind the arc in hanging 22 on Mississippi State. In last week’s win over Georgia, Sanders posted his 10th 20-point game of the year with 21, drilling 5 3-pointers. Also in SEC play, he struck for 16 and 18 points against Alabama, 17 at Florida and 20 against Tennessee. He lit up Auburn for 18 points Saturday and hit two 3s in the final 1:35 for the win.
 After a streaky first season in the Red and Blue, Sanders has been a steady point provider for the Rebels this year. The senior guard has scored in double-figures in 28 of the last 29 games and ranks fifth in the SEC at 16.5 points per game. Sanders is also second in 3s per game (3.03) and seventh in the league in 3-point percentage (38.1). In SEC play, Sanders finished first in 3-pointers (3.50) and fourth in scoring (17.3). Also, after a 35.7 shooting clip a year ago, he boasts a 42.7 field goal percentage this season.

POURING IN THE POINTS
 Andy Kennedy's style of "pressure basketball" is paying tremendous dividends for the Rebels on the offensive side. The team is averaging 73.5 points per game, a 8.3 raise from a year ago, and the highest clip since scoring 77.0 per game in 1998-99. Ole Miss scored 80-plus points in four consecutive SEC games this year for the first time since 1976. The Rebels' 100-80 victory over Nicholls marked only the second time since 2001 for the team to reach the century mark in points. 

DOYNE IT ALL
 Bam Doyne ranks 10th in the SEC in scoring (15.2) and ninth in free throw accuracy (76.9). Doyne posted three 20-point games in SEC play and nine total this year. He scored an even 20 at Auburn, and posted 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in the win over Mississippi State. Doyne had 22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals at Vanderbilt. The senior guard has topped the team or tied for the team-lead in scoring in 10 games, most recently in Saturday’s home win over Auburn when he dropped in 19 and broke a tied game with four free throws in the final three seconds. Doyne also led the way in the Alabama victory with 17 points.

PROTECTING THE BALL
 Ole Miss is second in the SEC in both in turnover margin (+4.07) and assist/turnover ratio (1.27). The Rebels have been in single digits in turnovers in 10 games and five times in league play. Ole Miss had only 5 giveaways against Alabama and a season-low 4 against LSU. Senior guard Todd Abernethy is second in the NCAA in assist/turnover ratio at 3.31.

RECORD-BREAKING SENIORS
 With his 3 3-pointers at South Carolina, senior Clarence Sanders moved atop the Ole Miss single-season chart for treys, passing Aaron Harper’s 2002 total of 83. Sanders’ tally is now at 91.
 In addition, Todd Abernethy is close to joining the Ole Miss 1,000 point club, sitting 18 points shy of becoming the 29th player in Rebel history to reach that mark. Abernethy also needs 9 more assists to tie Jason Harrison (1999-2002) for third on the all-time chart and 11 more 3-pointers to tie Harrison for fourth on the career trey list.

D.C.=DOUBLE-DOUBLE
 Since his return from a fractured foot late in non-conference play, Dwayne Curtis has notched 10 double-doubles, including six in SEC play. He has twice reached the 20-point, 10-rebound plateau this year, including his 20 and 12 performance in the home win over Arkansas. Curtis also shined with season highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds against Alabama A&M. He narrowly missed that mark at Auburn, scorching his former team for 19 points and 11 boards. Curtis posted 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Wildcats and all-star center Randolph Morris, and he tallied 11 points and 12 boards against LSU and All-American Glen Davis. On Wednesday, he hit for 12 points and 10 rebounds against Alabama and their vaunted frontcourt of Davidson and Hendrix. Curtis just missed double-doubles against Tennessee (18 points and 9 rebounds), Mississippi State (14 points and 8 boards), Alabama (14 points and 8 rebounds). He also scored 14 points in two of the last three games against Georgia and South Carolina. In SEC play, Curtis finished fourth in the conference in field goal percentage (55.1) and sixth in rebounding (8.2).

STEALING THE SHOW
 Ole Miss finished fourth in the SEC in steals in league play at 7.56 per game and has posted double-digit takeaways five times, including 10 in turning over Auburn 21 times in Sunday’s win. The Rebels established a season high for steals at Florida with 12 against the No. 1 Gators, including 3 from Eniel Polynice. Brian Smith collected 3 against Tennessee, as the team totaled 11. Ole Miss also managed 11 steals on the Plains in forcing Auburn into 25 turnovers. The Rebels notched 10 steals against Arkansas, led by Bam Doyne's career-best tying 4, and pressed the Hogs into 21 turnovers. Todd Abernethy had 4 swipes at Mississippi State and 3 against Auburn Sunday. Clarence Sanders has tallied multiple steals in 12 games overall this year and leads the team with 37. Dwayne Curtis has collected multiple steals in five of the last eight games.

OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Todd Abernethy: The fourth-year Rebel missed the first game of his career against Louisiana-Lafayette. He was injured three minutes into the season opener after his head collided with an opposing player's shoulder on a screen. He suffered a slight concussion and had five stitches over his right eye. After sitting out the ULL game, the three-time Team Captain returned to the Ole Miss starting lineup with 13 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds against Fairfield.
Dwayne Curtis: The junior center suffered a stress fracture of the third metatarsal in his left foot in the third day of preseason practice and missed the first eight games of the year. In his second game back, the preseason All-SEC honoree reached a double-double less than 15 minutes into the UL-Monroe contest and finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. He nearly repeated that feat at South Alabama with 16 points and 9 boards, and against UIC, he registered 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Bam Doyne: The senior forward has tallied multiple steals in eight games, including a career-high tying 4 against Arkansas ... Doyne has led or tied the team-lead in rebounds six times this year ... Prior to game seven of the SEC slate at Vanderbilt, Doyne's previous 20-point game was a 22-point outburst in the non-conference finale at Saint Louis. During an impressive non-league season, he scored a career-high 28 in the win at South Alabama and a pair of 25-point outings against Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe. Doyne has also turned in his first two career double-doubles with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Nicholls and 20 points and a career-best 12 boards against Fairfield.
Trey Hampton: Playing in only his sixth game in SEC play, Hampton tipped in a pair of baskets for 4 points and tied the team-lead in rebounds with 5 at South Carolina. Both were SEC highs this year. The sophomore forward had one previous bucket in league play (in the opener), and his rebound total was the most since the fifth game of the year (6 at UConn) ... Hampton appeared in the starting lineup for only the second time this season at Mississippi State. He played 6 minutes and connected on 1-of-2 free throws. Hampton made 9 starts as a freshman a year ago ... After missing two games with sickness, the sophomore forward returned to the court against New Orleans and added 5 points and 4 boards ... Hampton enjoyed his best game of the year against Central Arkansas. With Kenny Williams slowed by a sprained ankle, Hampton earned his first start of 2006-07 and posted season highs in minutes (25), points (8), rebounds (5) and assists (2). He was also 2-of-4 from behind the arc.
Xavier Hansbro: After making no starts as a rookie, the sophomore forward received the starting nod in the season’s first two games. In his first career start in the opening win over Mississippi Valley State, the Trezevant, Tenn., native responded with his second double-digit scoring outing as a Rebel, dropping in 11 points along with 6 rebounds. Coincidentally, Hansbro’s only other double-figure game was in last year’s season opener, when he hit 4-of-6 3-pointers for 12 points against Southern Utah.
Greg Hardy: Since suiting up for his first game with the Rebel basketball team against Alabama A&M, the two-sport athlete has seen action in 11 games and earned his first career start at LSU. With Kenny Williams and Jermey Parnell both fouling out at Florida, Hardy saw 12 minutes of action and posted 3 points, 4 rebounds and a steal, giving him 6 takeaways in the last four games. He posted a season-high 5 rebounds with 2 points and 2 steals at Mississippi State ... A freshman from Memphis who is also a member of the Ole Miss football team, Hardy began practicing with the team on Nov. 27, following the Rebels’ Egg Bowl victory over Mississippi State in the season finale on the gridiron. As a rookie on the football team, Hardy played in all 12 games on the defensive line, tying for the team-lead in sacks (3.0) and ranking fifth in total tackles (49). His four fumble recoveries also tied for third in the SEC, and against MSU, he saw his first action at wide receiver and hauled in a 23-yard touchdown.
Rodney Jones: The freshman guard scored his first basket in SEC play at Arkansas, going 1-for-1 with 2 points and 1 rebound in 6 minutes. Jones has seen action in six league games with the most minutes, 7, coming at Florida.
Andy Ogide: After playing in only three of the first 12 games, the freshman forward received the starting nod for the first time in his career in the win over Alabama A&M. Ogide saw 11 minutes of action and posted 3 points and 5 rebounds. He had his best game against Louisiana-Monroe with 7 points on 3-for-3 shooting.
Jermey Parnell: The junior forward turned in his first career double-double against Georgia, posting SEC highs of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Besides that, Parnell has not scored more than 6 points against a league foe this year and reached that mark on four occasions. He has totaled 6 points and 5 rebounds in each of the last two outings ... Parnell returned to the starting lineup in two of the last three games. His only other start in SEC action came against Arkansas at home. Parnell started 11 straight games during non-conference play ... After only five double-figures scoring games in his first two seasons, the junior forward has already scored 10 or more points seven times this year. In the win over Tennessee Tech, Parnell tallied 14 points and 8 rebounds, and he followed up with 13 points and 4 boards against Nicholls. Against New Orleans, the Gosnell, Ark., native established a career high in scoring with 16 points, going 5-for-5 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw stripe.
Eniel Polynice: The freshman guard earned the starting nod in seven SEC games, including six straight at one point. Polynice got his first career start at Vanderbilt and responded with his third double-digit scoring performance of the year. He finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Polynice also totaled 7 points and 3 assists in the win over LSU and 6 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals ... For the fourth time this season, Polynice helped energize a big Rebel run in the second-half comeback at Florida. During Ole Miss' 29-11 outburst on the Gators, the Sarasota, Fla., native scored 8 points and collected 3 steals, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in helping bring a 25-point deficit down to 7 ... The freshman guard had his best game as a Rebel against New Orleans, knocking down 4-of-4 3-pointers in totaling 15 points, 3 assists and 3 steals. Polynice dropped in 12 of his points in the second half in helping Ole Miss rally from 7 down early in the stanza. He followed up with 10 points in a career-high 29 minutes at Memphis. Down 12-3 early, Polynice came off the bench to score three of the next four Ole Miss baskets to help ignite a 21-11 Rebel run ... Polynice also sparked Ole Miss in the victory over Central Arkansas in the HCF Classic. With the Rebels clinging to a 2-point advantage midway through the second half, Polynice drilled a pair of 3-pointers and scored 8 points in 2:18 to push the lead up to 10. 
Clarence Sanders: In six SEC contests, the Rebels erased deficits late with Sanders spearheading the rallying efforts. The senior guard scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second stanza at Florida, as Ole Miss reeled off a 29-11 against the nation's No. 1. He followed with 18 second-half points against Tennessee to help the Rebels go from 10 down at the break to a 83-69 victory. Sanders dropped in 11 after the break at Vanderbilt and hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cap a 32-16 run and provide Ole Miss a 1-point lead. Against Alabama, he led the Rebels from 7 points down with 10:10 left to a 75-69 win, scoring 11 of the team's final 12 points. Sanders struck again in the home victory over LSU, when he scored 7 points during the team’s game-ending 12-5 run, including the go-ahead jumper with less than a second left for the 71-70 win. His latest heroics occurred Saturday, when he hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final 1:35 to overcome Auburn. The Rebels were down by 4 points when he fired the first trey, and his second bomb tied the game with 39 ticks left ... At one point this year, Sanders hit 11 straight shots, posting a perfect second half against UIC and connecting on his first five attempts against Alabama A&M. In the win over UIC, Sanders connected on 4-of-6 treys in leading the Rebels with 20, and he netted his first four 3s in scoring 23 against Alabama A&M. Sanders drilled 4-of-7 treys in pouring in 22 points against Louisiana-Lafayette, and he struck for a team-high 21 against Fairfield and 20 against Nicholls.
Brian Smith: The junior guard was a hero in the LSU win. Down by a point with the Tigers burning the clock, Smith got the steal with 6 seconds left that led to Clarence Sanders’ game-winning basket. Smith also deflected LSU’s inbound pass on their last-second possession ... Smith shot 48.1 percent from the field (13-of-27) and 47.6 from 3-point range (10-of-21) in league play. He scored 5 or more points in five games, including when he hit a pair of late 3-pointers at Alabama. Smith was 2-for-2 from the field in scoring 5 points against both Mississippi State and Tennessee. He also came off the bench to hit a key trey with 8:11 left in the home win over Arkansas, and was 2-for-2 from behind the arc during the Rebels' 29-11 second-half comeback at Florida. In addition, he hit a crucial 3-pointer in the midst of the Rebels' late game-winning rally against Alabama ... Smith earned his second career start at Vanderbilt. He played 19 minutes and collected 3 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists ... With starting point guard Todd Abernethy leaving with injury in the game's opening moments, Smith stepped in admirably in the season opener, helping lead the Rebels to the 72-49 victory over Mississippi Valley State. Smith played 21 minutes and recorded career highs of 10 points and 4 rebounds. He connected on 4-of-7 field goals, including 2-of-4 treys. With Abernethy still out, the 5-foot-11 Smith earned his first career start against Louisiana-Lafayette and saw 17 minutes of action.
Kenny Williams: The junior forward leads Ole Miss in field goal percentage at 55.3 percent and 59.5 in SEC play ... Williams notched multiple blocked shots in a game for the 11th time this year with a pair against Auburn Saturday. He collected a career-high 3 against Alabama. He is 13th in the SEC in blocks (1.10) ... Williams has scored in double figures in four SEC outings, including at Arkansas where he tallied 10 points, 8 rebounds and a career-high 4 assists. He struck for 10 points and 7 rebounds in the home win over Arkansas, and he amassed 10 points and 6 rebounds on the road against both Vanderbilt and LSU. Williams was also effective against Tennessee with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots and Auburn Saturday with 9 points, 4 boards and 2 blocks ... Williams has turned in two double-doubles, including a 13-point, career-high 13-rebound effort against Alabama A&M. Williams had his best game as a Rebel against Nicholls with his first double-double, posting career highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds. He also hit for 15 points and 6 boards against New Orleans and 13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals against Tennessee Tech.

REBELS ON THE TUBE
  Ole Miss is making its 19th TV appearance of the year at the SEC Tournament, as the second-round game is available on Lincoln Financial Sports. The Rebels’ 19 television appearances is their second-most ever, just short of the school-record 21 times in 2000-01. It marks the ninth straight season that Ole Miss has played 10 or more TV games. Friday’s contest is the fifth on LFS, while five games were played on FSN. Ole Miss and Mississippi State renewed their bitter rivalry in Oxford with an ESPN "Super Tuesday" showdown. In non-conference play, the Rebels were in front of the cameras four times on SportsSouth, three on CSS and an ESPNU appearance at Connecticut. In addition, four early-season games were streamed live over the internet on OleMissSports.com's premium site, OleMissSports.tv.


 

 

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