SEC TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND: W3 Ole Miss (21-9, 7-9) vs. E6 Georgia (13-16, 4-12)
March 13, 2008 9:45 p.m. ET
Atlanta, Ga. Georgia Dome (26,000)
Live TV: Raycom Sports (Tim Brando, play-by-play; Barry Booker, analyst; Dave Baker, sideline)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst) Listen Online
Tournament Website: www.SECSports.com
XM Radio: Channel 199 (national feed); Channel 200 (Ole Miss feed)
REBELS SEEK TO BOOST NCAA RSUM WITH STRONG TOURNEY SHOWING
With a chance for its first NCAA Tournament bid since the 2001-02 season, Ole Miss will face Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament in a rematch with its most recent opponent. The Rebels defeated the Bulldogs 76-62 in Athens on Saturday, in both teams’ final regular-season contest. With the win, Ole Miss secured the West’s No. 3 seed, while Georgia is the No. 6 seed out of the East. The winner of Thursday’s 9:45 ET nightcap will advance to face East No. 2 seed Kentucky on Friday at 9:45. Five Rebels scored in double figures Saturday as Ole Miss earned its first road win in league play and improved to 7-7 on the season in games away from Tad Smith Coliseum. Ole Miss is 23-44 all-time in SEC Tournament play.
With three straight wins over Alabama, Arkansas and at Georgia to end the regular season, Ole Miss continues to build on its strong rsum for an NCAA Tournament bid. With a 21-9 overall record, Andy Kennedy has led Ole Miss its best record since 2001, 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.
Starting the season 13-0, rising as high as No. 15 in the national polls, and capping league play on a strong note are all accomplishments that could help the Rebels return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002.
Consider these accomplishments and statistics:
(All RPI information taken from RealTimeRPI.com)
No. 42 RPI
No. 8 Non-league RPI
5-3 record vs. RPI top 50
7-4 record vs. RPI top 62
7-7 in Road/Neutral games
Ranked in top 25 for six weeks
Senior captain Jermey Parnell missed five SEC games with ankle injury during mid-season slide
Nine wins versus potential tourney teams (Vanderbilt, Clemson, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Florida, South Alabama, Winthrop (Big South Champs), New Mexico, Lamar)
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS
Georgia finished the regular season with a 13-16 overall record and enters the SEC Tournament as the East No. 6 seed with a 4-12 league mark. With the loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, the Bulldogs have dropped 11 of their last 13 games. UGA averages 67.8 points on offense and gives up 67.2 points per contest. All-SEC senior point guard Sundiata Gaines does almost everything for the Dogs, as he leads the team in points (14.5), rebounds (6.3), assists (4.2) and steals (1.8). Billy Humphrey scores 12.6 ppg with a team-high 60 3-pointers and Terrance Woodbury adds 10.1 ppg.
OLE MISS-GEORGIA SERIES
Thursday's game is the 102nd meeting between the two schools, with Georgia holding a 64-37 lead in the series. Ole Miss has prevailed in three of the last four encounters, including the 76-62 victory just last week in Athens.
REBELS & DOGS IN SEC TOURNEY
Ole Miss and Georgia will be squaring up for the ninth time in SEC Tournament play, with the Bulldogs holding a 6-2 advantage in previous contests. Ole Miss won the last tourney meeting between the two teams, 72-67, in the 1998 second round in Atlanta. The Rebels’ biggest ever win in tournament history, the 1981 title game, was a 66-62 victory over UGA in Birmingham, Ala.
OLE MISS IN THE SEC TOURNAMENT
The Rebels have an overall record of 23-44 in 45 SEC Tournament appearances, and are 9-16 in tournament action since the league went to the two-division format in the 1991-92 season.
Last season, the team earned a first-round bye and won its second-round game 80-60 over LSU to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2001. Ole Miss lost to eventual SEC and National Champion Florida 80-59 in the semis. 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
The SEC Tournament returns to Atlanta for the second year in a row and the eighth time in the last 11 years. It is being held in the Georgia capital for the 11th time ever, including the first SEC tourney in 1933. Ole Miss has a 4-10 record in the tournaments that have taken place in Atlanta. The Rebels have advanced to the semifinals twice in the Georgia Dome, including last year. Their other semifinal appearance was in 1998.
REBELS RETURN TO GEORGIA
By virtue of their 76-62 victory over Georgia in the regular season finale in Athens, the Rebels earned the SEC West’s No. 3 seed and Georgia fell into the No. 6 slot in the East, setting up a rematch between the two foes in their very next meeting.
BACK-TO-BACK 20-WIN SEASONS
At 21-9, Ole Miss has had 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.
Ole Miss has one of the best marks in the nation with a 5-3 record against teams currently in the RPI top 50. The Rebels have nine wins over potential NCAA Tournament teams, including Vanderbilt (RPI #10), Clemson (22) at a neutral site, South Alabama (38), Mississippi State (40), Arkansas (42), New Mexico (52) and Florida (63), while also defeating Big South champion Winthrop and Southland Conference regular-season co-champion Lamar.
KENNEDY BREAKS REBEL COACHING RECORD
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy’s 42 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 42-22 (.656 win pct.) at Ole Miss.
THREE REBELS EARN SEC POSTSEASON AWARDS
Senior center Dwayne Curtis was voted All-SEC second team by the league coaches, while guards Chris Warren and Trevor Gaskins represent Ole Miss on the SEC All-Freshman team, the league office announced Tuesday.
Curtis, who ranks second in the SEC in rebounding (9.3) and second on the team in scoring (14.7), earns All-SEC honors for the second time in his career. He was an All-SEC honorable mention pick by the Associated Press as a sophomore. The Chicago native tied for the SEC lead with nine double-doubles in conference play and ranks second with 15 double-doubles in all games.
Warren was a unanimous selection to the SEC All-Freshman squad. The 5-foot-10 Orlando native pours in a team-high 15.7 points per game and ranked ninth in the league with 17.1 points per SEC contest. He ranks among the top five freshmen in the SEC in scoring, assists, three-pointers and steals.
Gaskins earned a spot on the All-Freshman team after averaging 6.5 points per game during the regular season. The long-ball threat was pivotal in the win over Florida, scoring a career-high 19 points and draining 3-of-5 from behind the arc. He also poured in 15 points and went 3-for-5 from long range versus Auburn.
Curtis and Warren also received the same honors from Rivals.com on Monday.
REBELS SEEDED AS WEST NO. 3
The Rebels are the SEC West’s No. 3 seed for the third time since the league went to a two-division format in 1992. Ole Miss is a No. 3 seed or better for the sixth time in the last 12 years.
OLE MISS IN FIRST-ROUND PLAY
The Rebels have an overall record of 9-19 in first-round games at the SEC Tournament. The Rebels are 2-5 in first-round action in Atlanta. They did prevail in their last first-round game in the Georgia Dome, a 53-52 win over South Carolina in 2005. Ole Miss has had a first-round bye in Atlanta three times.
With an opening-round victory over Georgia Thursday, Ole Miss would advance to face the East No. 2 seed Kentucky Friday at 9:45 p.m. ET. The Rebels lost to the Wildcats 58-54 on Feb. 27 in Lexington and have never defeated UK in 13 SEC Tournament meetings.
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.
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 91-88 win over Alabama and 81-72 victory over Arkansas. The Rebels have averaged 82.7 points over the last three games. 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 Rebels have amassed 80+ points on 13 occasions. The Rebels rank third in the SEC and 22nd in the nation with 78.9 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 last 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.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY COACH
Thursday is not only the first round of the SEC Tournament, but it also marks the 40th birthday for Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy. Born March 13, 1968 in Louisville, Miss., Kennedy is the second-youngest head coach in the SEC, just four months and five days older than Arkansas’ John Pelphrey.
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 12th nationally with 40.7 rebounds per game, while boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +5.5. Ole Miss also leads the league with 15.33 offensive boards per game, having grabbed 20+ offensive boards seven times. The Rebels have been out-rebounded just five times all year.
Individually, senior center Dwayne Curtis is averaging a team-high 9.3 boards per game, second-most in the SEC and 33rd in the country. Curtis also leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the nation with 4.3 offensive boards per game. Kenny Williams grabs 6.3 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, 24th-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 the SEC Tournament with 471 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 17.1 points in league contests. He also holds the Ole Miss freshman records for 3-pointers made (87) and 3-pointers attempted (227).
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 tied with Alabama’s Richard Hendrix for the SEC lead with nine double-doubles in league play and ranks second in the SEC with 15 in all games. His 15 double-doubles are tied for the most at Ole Miss since 1957. Curtis and Hendrix are the only players that averaged a double-double in league play, as Curtis posted 13.8 points and a league-high 10.1 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 last 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.
HE CAN'T MISS (MUCH)
Hitting shots at an alarmingly high rate, senior center Dwayne Curtis leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the nation with a 64.6 field-goal percentage. He is on pace to shatter the Ole Miss career and season records for field-goal percentage. 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.
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 SEC Tourney with 1,150 points at Ole Miss, 22nd-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 1,205 points in his college 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 the SEC Tournament, Curtis ranks ninth in Rebel annals with 717 career boards. He is just the third Rebel to amass 650 career rebounds in three years or less.
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 (4.5/game), three-pointers (2.9/game) and minutes played (31.2/game). He ranks fourth in the SEC in treys per game, while dishing out the fifth-most assists. He ranks 13th in the league in scoring and 10th with a 1.58 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-30 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 averaged a team-high 17.1 ppg in SEC contests, good for ninth in the league, while chipping in an astounding 18.9 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 87 triples and 227 three’s attempted this season. 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.
HUERTAS SCORING IN BUNCHES 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 is averaging 15.7 points over the last three games and scored a career high in back-to-back games with 18 versus Alabama and 19 against Arkansas. He has hit nine 3-pointers over the three-game span and also tied a career high with five assists vs. the Razorbacks. He has upped his rebounding over the past five games, averaging 6.4 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 (24th at 5.5/game) assists (8th at 3.7/game), steals (7th at 1.6/game) and assist-turnover ratio (9th at 1.64).
Polynice 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 in the Nov. 13 win over South Alabama, including 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-5 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. 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 vs. Troy State on Dec. 18, 2000 and Joe Harvell, who had six against Kentucky on Jan. 27, 1990.
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. Had his best game of the year with season highs of 13 points and 7 rebounds at Georgia Saturday. 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 9.1 minutes per game in a reserve role behind Chris Warren. Has missed just two games this season. Fifteen minutes and career-high five assists vs. Auburn. 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 13 minutes over his last seven 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.
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.