SEC TOURNAMENT 1ST RD: W5 Ole Miss (16-14, 7-9) vs. E4 Kentucky (19-12, 8-8)
Thursday 03.12.09 | 1 p.m. ET
Tampa, Fla. | St. Pete Times Forum (21,655)
Live TV: Raycom (Tom Hammond, play-by-play; Larry Conley, analyst; Dave Baker, sideline).
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Keith Carter, analyst). Listen Online through RebelVision
XM Radio: Channel 199
Tournament website: www.SECSports.com
REBELS FACE WILDCATS IN SEC TOURNEY
Ole Miss earned the West's No. 5 seed for the SEC Tournament and will play East No. 4 Kentucky in the first game of Thursday's first round. The Rebels had a chance to claim the West No. 3 seed on Saturday, but an 82-80 nail-biting loss to Miss. St. combined with an Alabama win over Tennessee slid the Rebels into the fifth slot. Ole Miss finished the regular season at 16-14 overall and 7-9 in league play. The winner of the OM-UK game will face West No. 1 seed and regular-season SEC champ LSU on Friday at 1 p.m. ET. Ole Miss owns a 23-45 all-time record in SEC Tournament games. Ole Miss and UK have squared off 13 times in the tournament, with the Wildcats winning every meeting. The Rebels defeated the 24th-ranked Wildcats 85-80 in the regular season and would be looking to defeat UK twice in a season for the first time in school history.
WHITE IS SEC FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR, TWO ALL-SEC
An outstanding initial campaign for Ole Miss point guard Terrico White was recognized by the league coaches when they voted him SEC Freshman of the Year, the league office announced Tuesday. He is the second player in school history to receive SEC Freshman of the Year honors, joining 2001 selection Justin Reed.
White, who averaged 18.4 points per game in league play, was also tabbed to the All-SEC second team along with teammate, junior guard David Huertas. White’s eight 20-point outings in league play helped him become a unanimous selection to the SEC All-Freshman team. The Memphis native was the Rebels’ leading scorer in 12 of 16 SEC contests, including all seven wins. Huertas is the team’s leading scorer in all games with 18.2 ppg, while he averaged 16.3 ppg in SEC contests.
It is the second time in three seasons under Andy Kennedy that Ole Miss has had two players earn All-SEC honors from the coaches.
TERRICO WHITE - NATION’S BEST FRESHMAN?
Since he took over as the Rebels’ starting point guard early in the league schedule, SEC Freshman of the Year Terrico White has been nothing short of sensational in his rookie campaign. The Memphis, Tenn., native has perhaps been as important to his team’s success as any freshman in the nation. He is lighting up the scoreboard with his 18.4 ppg in SEC play, tied for fourth-most among all players and topping all league freshmen.
In fact, White’s 20.7 scoring average in the 11 games since Jan. 27 ranks third among all freshmen in the nation during that span, behind NC Central’s Jamar Briscoe (26.0) and High Point’s Nick Barbour (21.1).
After starting the season in a backup role on the wings, White was forced to switch to a brand new position for him and try to replace preseason All-SEC first teamer Chris Warren. Since then the electrifying athlete has seemed to increase his production with nearly every game.
Terrico White Notes:
In league play, ranked 4th with 18.4 ppg, 2nd with 2.9 3’s/game and 13th with 2.8 apg. 1st among freshmen in ppg and 3’s/game, 5th in apg.
Had eight games of 20+ points in league play, including five of the last six.
Team’s leading scorer in 10 of last 11 games
Since taking over as starting PG, has 39 assists to just 26 turnovers in 13 games.
His 29 points at Arkansas were the most by a Rebel freshman since Keith Carter had 29 in 1995-96.
Scoring totals from 1/27 to 3/7: 21, 18, 19, 23, 13, 21, 19, 24, 20, 29, 21
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Kentucky finished in a tie for fourth place in the SEC East with Vanderbilt with an 8-8 league record. The Wildcats earned the No. 4 seed in the division by virtue of a better division record than the Commodores. After starting the season 16-4, a loss at Ole Miss began a decline for UK that has seen it drop eight of its last 11 games to fall to 19-12 overall. The Wildcats enter the SEC Tournament with a four-game losing skid, their longest of the season. The most efficient offense in the conference leads the SEC with a 48.2 FG percentage, while its FG percentage defense also is best in the league at 38.6. UK’s 77.7 free-throw percentage ranks first in the SEC and fifth in the NCAA. Jodie Meeks leads the SEC and ranks fifth in the nation with his 24.7 ppg. In league play, Meeks scored 20+ points 12 times and 30+ in three games. Patrick Patterson adds 18.4 ppg and a team-high 9.2 rpg, ranking in the league’s top 4 in both categories.
OLE MISS-KENTUCKY SERIES
Thursday’s game will be the 108th meeting between the two schools. The Wildcats hold a 95-12 lead in the series, which began in 1925. Ole Miss snapped a nine-game UK winning streak in the series when the Rebels beat the No. 24-ranked Wildcats 85-80 earlier this year in Oxford. David Huertas, Terrico White and Malcolm White each scored 20+ that night. Ole Miss has never beaten Kentucky twice in the same season.
REBELS AND CATS IN SEC TOURNEY
Ole Miss and Kentucky will be meeting for the 14th time in SEC Tournament play, with the Wildcats claiming wins in each of the previous 13. The only postseason win for over UK was in the 1928 Southern Conference, when Ole Miss won that tourney title. The teams faced each other in the SEC Tournament last in 2006, when UK prevailed 71-57 in the first round in Nashville.
OLE MISS IN THE SEC TOURNAMENT
The Rebels have an overall record of 23-45 in 46 SEC Tournament appearances, and are 9-17 in tournament action since the league went to the two-division format in the 1991-92 season.
Last season, the team lost a 97-95 overtime thriller in the first round to Georgia, who went on an improbable run to the tourney title as the East No. 6 seed. It was the second straight season that Ole Miss lost to eventual tournament champion (Florida in 2007). 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.
TOURNEY TIME IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
The SEC Tournament will be hosted in the state of Florida for just the second time ever. It was last hosted there in 1990 in Orlando. That year Ole Miss made a finals appearance, dropping the championship game to Alabama after wins over Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
OLE MISS IN FIRST-ROUND PLAY
The Rebels have an overall record of 9-20 in first-round games at the SEC Tournament, while they have received a first-round bye on 17 occasions. Their last first-round win came in 2005, 53-52 over South Carolina.
With an opening-round victory over Kentucky Thursday, Ole Miss would advance to face the West No. 1 seed and regular-season champion LSU Friday at 1 p.m. ET.
Several Ole Miss players will be returning to their home state this week. Junior forward DeAundre Cranston hails from Orlando and spent the past two years at Daytona Beach Community College. A pair of Caribbean natives played high school ball in Florida, including junior Puerto Rican David Huertas (Arlington Country Day HS - Jacksonville; Univ. of Florida) and redshirt-freshman Kevin Cantinol (Calvary Christian HS - Clearwater) from the island of Martinique in the French West Indies. In addition, injured guards Eniel Polynice (Sarasota) and Chris Warren (Orlando) are from Florida.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY COACH
If the Rebels advance to play in the second round on Friday, they would be playing on the birthday of head coach Andy Kennedy, who was born March 13, 1968 in Louisville, Miss.
TERRICO WHITE NAMED SEC FROSH OF WEEK
For the third time this season, Ole Miss point guard Terrico White was named SEC Freshman of the Week, the league office announced Monday morning. White scored 25 of his career-high 29 points after halftime in leading the Rebels to a 98-91 overtime win at Arkansas. It was the most points by an Ole Miss freshman in a game since Keith Carter had 29 in the 1995-96 season. The Memphis native notched his fourth straight 20-point performance with 21 against Mississippi State (on his birthday), giving him eight 20-point outings in SEC play. White’s three selections as SEC Freshman of the Week are the most for any league player this season.
HUERTAS NAMED ALL-DISTRICT
Ole Miss junior guard David Huertas was named All-District by the NABC on March 5. The Puerto Rico native was named to the District 21 second team. Selected and voted on by member coaches of the NABC, the 240 student-athletes from 24 districts (which were realigned this season) are now eligible for the State Farm Coaches’ Division I All-America teams to be announced on Saturday, April 4. It is the fourth straight season that Ole Miss has placed a student-athlete on the NABC All-District team.
REBELS MAKING PUSH FOR POSTSEASON
Despite early season-ending injuries to key guards Trevor Gaskins, Eniel Polynice and Chris Warren, Ole Miss has been resilient in league play and put itself in a position to compete for a third straight postseason appearance down the stretch.
The emergence of freshman playmakers Terrico White and Murphy Holloway has been a big factor in the Rebels’ surge. Throughout league play, the team has become more balanced in a number of areas. Five players average eight or more points, led by White’s 18.4 ppg and David Huertas’ 16.3.
Consider that Ole Miss...
has won six of its last 11 games (including two SEC road victories).
boasts the nation’s No. 19 strength of schedule (RPIRatings.com).
defeated three teams that were leading their division at the time of the game (No. 24 Kentucky, Mississippi State, Tennessee).
is playing without three key guards, making the team the least experienced in the nation according to KenPom.com.
LEAST EXPERIENCED TEAM IN THE NATION
Departures and injuries have led to Ole Miss being ranked as the least experienced team in the nation, according to statistics published on KenPom.com. The Rebels rank No. 344 of 344 on the list, which calculates the accumulated experience of all the team’s players who have logged minutes on the floor this season. Also among the least experienced squads in the country are fellow SEC teams Arkansas (339) and Vanderbilt (338).
Currently, Ole Miss has no seniors among its scholarship members, while the team features an active roster with just three scholarship players who had any Division I experience prior to this season (junior David Huertas and sophomores Zach Graham and Malcolm White). The remainder of this year’s significant contributors is made up of four freshmen and a junior college transfer.
MARCHING STRONG TO THE FINISH
The Rebels have enjoyed playing in the month of March since Andy Kennedy took the reins in 2006-07. Over the last three seasons, Ole Miss boasts a 10-4 record in March. That includes a 6-1 mark in regular-season games, 0-2 in SEC Tournament contests and 4-1 in NIT competition.
HITTING THE BOARDS
Ole Miss established itself as one of the most physical teams on the boards in SEC play. The Rebels finished 1st in the conference in offensive rebounds per game (13.8), 2nd in total rebounds per game (39.6) and 3rd in rebounding margin (+3.9) in league play. Ole Miss out-rebounded the other team in 11 of 16 league outings. The Rebels dominated Florida on the glass with a 46-22 advantage (second-largest margin by a Rebel squad this season) and out-boarded Tennessee 44-30.
Freshman forward Murphy Holloway leads the team with a 6.7 rebounding average in all games (13th-best in SEC) and 7.4 rpg in league outings (9th in SEC). Sophomore forward Malcolm White, who has 47 boards in the last five games, is second on the squad with 5.7 rpg in all games (19th in SEC) and 6.6 rpg in conference play (14th in SEC).
Ole Miss produed an impressive comeback from a nine-point halftime deficit in its overtime win at Arkansas on Wednesday, but the Rebels have also had to come back all year from injury after injury.
The team was recently recognized for its resiliency when it was named one of 12 finalists for the ninth annual V Foundation Comeback Award. The award, given in memory of the late Jim Valvano to an individual or a team who has accomplished a personal triumph in the face of true adversity, is presented in conjunction with ESPN, and the recipient will be announced during ESPN’s basketball Final Four/NIT weekend coverage.
WHAT A WIN
Already down three key members of the backcourt, it’s hard to imagine that the nation’s “least experienced team” could play without its leading scorer at 18.5 ppg and still win a road game in one of the toughest environments in the league, but that’s exactly what the Ole Miss did on Wednesday night in Fayetteville.
Playing without junior David Huertas (bone bruise in foot), the Rebels sent just seven players onto the court (four true freshmen, two sophomores and a JUCO transfer) and defeated Arkansas 98-91 in overtime in front of more than 14,000 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
Three Rebels notched career highs in points, Terrico White with 29, Zach Graham with 20 and Will Bogan with 16 - while Ole Miss out-rebounded Arkansas 46-36 and out-scored the Hogs 63-47 after being down 44-35 at half.
INJURIES DETER BUT DON’T DESTROY
To call the 2008-09 Ole Miss basketball season “injury-plagued” would be an understatement. Before conference play began, the Rebels were already down three key members of the backcourt to season-ending knee injuries. In an 11-day stretch during the first two weeks of play, the Rebels lost sophomore Trevor Gaskins (torn ACL in left knee) and junior Eniel Polynice (extensive cartilage damage and loose fragments in left knee). And then on Dec. 18, sophomore point guard Chris Warren suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on the Rebels’ last offensive possession of the 77-68 loss to No. 9 Louisville.
Sophomore guard Zach Graham is battling through a partially torn patella tendon in his right knee, while junior guard David Huertas missed the Arkansas game and half of the MSU game with a bone bruise in his foot. Freshman guard Terrico White has played through a bone bruise to his right knee that he suffered at S.C.
And still, the Rebels found their new identity and finished 7-9 in league play with the very young roster that was left.
Gaskins, Polynice and Warren have had successful surgeries and are in the midst of their rehab programs and expect to be ready before the start of next season. Gaskins and Polynice are expected to receive medical redshirts, while it is doubtful that Warren will be eligible for the medical redshirt based on the number of games he had already played (11).
Despite facing just two ranked teams this season, across the board the Rebels have pitted themselves against one of the toughest slates of opponents in the nation. Ole Miss’ strength of schedule is ranked as high as No. 19 in the nation by RPIRatings.com. Four teams the Rebels have faced have top 30 RPI rankings - Louisville (9), Utah (11), Tennessee (24) and West Virginia (26) - while three more are among the top 50 in LSU (37), Florida (48) and South Carolina (50).
DIVISION LEADER KILLERS
Ole Miss played the spoiler role in a trio of games against teams that were at least tied for an SEC division lead at the time of the matchup. In three contests against such teams, Ole Miss won 85-80 at home over No. 24 Kentucky, 67-63 at Mississippi State and 81-65 over Tennessee in Oxford.
TERRICO WHITE, BUDDING SUPERSTAR
Freshman guard Terrico White has been hitting on all cylinders since league play began and is making a push for national freshman honors with his outstanding body of work. His 18.4 scoring average in league games ranked in a tie for fourth among all SEC players and first among league freshmen. He also ranked second in 3’s per game (2.9), 13th in assists (2.8/game), 12th in FG percentage (44.5) and fifth in 3-pt FG pct. (35.7) in SEC outings. The superb athlete known for highlight-reel dunks has also drained 3+ field goals from downtown in 13 of the last 15 contests. He has led the Rebels in scoring in 10 of the last 11 games, including seven 20+ point outings during that time. He scored 20+ points for the fourth straight game with 21 against MSU. He poured in a career-high 29 in the overtime road win at Arkansas, the most points by a Rebel freshman since Keith Carter had 29 in a double-OT game against Southern Miss in 1995-96. White had 24 points at Auburn for a then-career high. He led with 21 points vs. Tennessee and 19 against Georgia. He poured in 23 at Vanderbilt. He had 19 points and a career-high 8 rebounds in the win over Auburn. He had 18 points (12 in 2nd half) to lead the Rebels to victory at Mississippi State. His 21 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds helped Ole Miss upset No. 24 Kentucky. In that game, he had a highlight-reel dunk that landed on Sportscenter’s top plays when he skied over 6-foot-9 post men Patrick Patterson and Perry Stevenson. He captured back-to-back then-career highs with 18 points against Arkansas and 22 vs. LSU.
MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE
Throughout league play, Malcolm White has continued to improve, and the sophomore forward proved that again when he tied a career high with 20 points and added nine rebounds in the season finale vs. Mississippi State. At Auburn, he pulled down a career-high 18 boards, the most by a Rebel since Justin Reed had 19 against SE Louisiana in 2003. White scored a big game against Georgia, nearly posting a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds, while blocking a career-high five shots. Entering the Kentucky game, White was averaging 5.7 points and 4.9 boards per outing, but he exploded for a career-high 20 points (8-of-12 FGs) with 6 rebounds in a season-high 36 minutes of action against the 24th-ranked Wildcats. Since Dec. 13, White’s season averages have gone from 3.0 ppg and 4.1 rpg to currently 7.2 ppg and 5.7 rpg. His shot blocking has been a constant all year as he ranks seventhth in the SEC with 1.4 bpg. In fact, White’s 41 blocks this season are the most ever by a sophomore in Ole Miss history and 10th most by any player in a season.
HOLLOWAY TURNING IN MONSTER GAMES
Freshman forward Murphy Holloway has become a beast on the boards in recent weeks and has produced five double-doubles in the last seven outings. He has a team-high six double-doubles this season, tied for the most among SEC freshmen. Holloway posted 11 points and 14 rebounds in the season finale vs. MSU. He had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the 98-91 OT win at Arkansas. He posted 12 points and 10 rebounds vs. UGA after he tallied a career-high 18 points to go with 13 boards against Tennessee. He recorded 13 and 11 at LSU. Had five straight double-figure scoring games from 1/3 to 1/21. Posted first double-double of season with 15 pts and 16 rebs vs. FAMU.
Holloway leads the team and ranks 13th in the SEC with a 6.7 rebounding average, while he is fourth in the SEC with 3.1 offensive boards per game. In league play, he ranks ninth among all players with 7.4 rpg.
HUERTAS TAKES GAME TO A NEW LEVEL
David Huertas has been a scoring machine for the Rebels this season, averaging 18.2 points, good for fifth among SEC players. At his current pace, Huertas would finish with the highest season scoring average by a Rebel since Justin Reed scored 18.5 ppg in 2003-04. The junior guard has scored 20 or more points in 12 contests. He ranks fourth in the SEC overall in 3’s per game (2.6) and fourth in 3-point percentage (35.8). A bone bruise to his foot caused him to miss his first game of the season at Arkansas and the 2nd half vs. MSU. He tied a season high with 27 points at South Carolina. He had 20 against No. 9 Louisville and set or tied career highs with 8 free-throws, 2 blocks and 4 steals against the Cardinals. Against South Alabama, he poured in 27 points and tied his career high with 7 three’s, which is also tied for the second-highest single-game total in school history.
HUERTAS LANDS ON SEASON TREY CHART, AGAIN
For the second time in his two seasons at Ole Miss, David Huertas has shot his way onto the school’s all-time single season chart for most 3-pointers. With his 76 trifectas this season, he has passed his own mark of 75 from last year and vaulted into 6th on the list. Huertas’ 151 treys are the most ever by a Rebel in a two-year span.
OLE MISS SEASON 3-POINT FIELD GOALS
1. 103 Chris Warren (35 games, 2008)
2. 96 Clarence Sanders (34 games, 2007)
3. 83 Aaron Harper (31 games, 2002)
4. 79 Joe Harvell (28 games, 1992)
5. 77 Keith Carter (33 games, 1999)
6. 76 David Huertas (29 games, 2009)
7. 75 David Huertas (35 games, 2008)
RUNNING THE POINT
Freshman Terrico White has proven himself more than capable since taking over the starting point guard duties 13 games ago. The Memphis native has been the team’s leading scorer in 10 of those 13 outings, including all six wins during the span. He began the season working on the wings, but in the last 13 games as the primary ball handler, White has put up 19.1 ppg and 4.2 rpg while dishing out 39 assists to 26 turnovers. Following the season-ending injury to preseason All-SEC PG Chris Warren on Dec. 18, the team turned to freshman Will Bogan, who had served as Warren’s backup for the season’s first 11 games. Bogan received the starting nod in the first six games after the injury.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Will Bogan: Shattered his previous career highs with 16 points and 7 assists to help the Rebels to a 98-91 OT victory at Arkansas ... Went 4-4 from the FT line in overtime to seal the win ... Made first six career starts at PG following Chris Warren’s injury, averaging 25.5 minutes per start ... Served as Warren’s back-up through first 11 games ... Scored 8 points vs. Alabama (3-3 FGs, 2-2 3-pt FGs), at Florida and against Marshall.
Kevin Cantinol: Redshirt-freshman forward set career highs with 8 points (4-4 FGs), 4 rebounds and 23 minutes played in the 78-65 win at New Orleans ... Earned his first career start at New Mexico.
DeAundre Cranston: JUCO transfer tied his season high with 9 points at Arkansas, going a perfect 3-3 from the field and 2-2 from the FT line ... Tied his season high with 9 points against Tennessee, while pulling down six boards ... Recorded 7 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in the win over No. 24 Kentucky ... Had 9 rebounds against No. 9 Louisville ... Set a season high with 12 rebounds along with 8 points vs. UCF ... Started his first game as a Rebel vs. Marshall ... Had 9 points and 5 rebounds vs. South Alabama ... Despite a wide, 6-9 frame, has the ability to connect from long range (8 3-pt FGs on the season).
Zach Graham: Playing with a partially torn patella tendon in his right knee ... Regularly guards the opposing team’s top offensive threat on the perimeter ... Has hit 66-of-83 free throws (79.5 pct.) through 30 games ... Averaging 15.5 ppg over last 4 games ... Scored 16 points with team-high 4 assists vs. Miss. St. ... Dropped in a career-high 20 points in the OT win at Arkansas, adding 4 rebounds and 4 assists ... Tallied 15 points (including 7-of-8 FTs) at Auburn ... 11 points vs. Auburn (3-of-4 from downtown) ... 13 points at MSU ... 11 points and 5 rebounds with 3 trifectas against Kentucky ... Scored 11 points, all in 1st half, at South Carolina, adding 7 rebounds ... Had 12 points and 5 rebounds vs. Arkansas ... Notched 14 points with 5 boards at Florida ... Scored 12 points at New Mexico ... Just hours after learning that junior guard Eniel Polynice would miss the remainder of the season, Graham stepped into Polynice’s spot in the starting lineup vs. South Alabama and responded with a career-high 16 points, including 3-for-4 from the field, 2-of-3 from downtown and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw stripe.
Terrance Henry: Has the ability to play from the 2 to the 4 positions on the floor ... 5 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists at Arkansas ... Pulled down seven rebounds at Auburn ... Set a season high with 10 points in start against Auburn, adding 5 boards and 3 assists ... Had 9 points at New Mexico, also blocked 3 shots ... Scored 9 points vs. Morgan State ... Season-high 8 rebounds vs. UCF ... Earned a spot in the starting lineup for the first three games of his collegiate career ... Tallied 8 points and 7 rebounds vs. Utah ... Had 8 points and 6 boards against South Alabama.