Rebels Welcome Redbirds For NIT First Round Wednesday

Andy Kennedy (AP photo)

March 12, 2012

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NIT FIRST ROUND: #2 Ole Miss (20-13) vs. #7 Illinois State (20-13)
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 | 8:30 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. | Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061)

Television: ESPNU (Clay Matvick, play-by-play; Joe Dean Jr., analyst).
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Keith Carter, analyst).
Live Video:
Live Audio: RebelVision


• The Rebels are making their 11th appearance in the NIT and fifth in the last six seasons.
Andy Kennedy is the first coach in school history to direct the Rebels to five postseason appearances.
• Ole Miss has a 13-10 record in NIT games, including 6-3 in the last three appearances and 7-4 under Kennedy.
• The Rebels have won 20 games for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
• Illinois State has a 2-0 record against Ole Miss and a 5-0 mark all-time against the SEC.
• The Rebels are 84-17 in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum during Kennedy's tenure, including 12-2 this year.
• Ole Miss boasts a 75-21 record against teams outside the SEC under Kennedy, including a 51-2 mark at home
• SEC coaches tabbed Terrance Henry All-SEC 2nd team and Reginald Buckner All-Defensive team.
• Kennedy has the 6th-most wins in SEC history (125) by a coach in his first six years in the league.
• Kennedy has the most overall wins (125) and SEC wins (46) by an Ole Miss coach in a six-year span.
• The Rebels rank 2nd in the SEC and 13th in the most recent NCAA rankings with 5.3 blocks/game.
• Ole Miss ranks third among SEC teams and 29th nationally in field-goal percentage defense (.399).
• The Rebels have a 19-10 record when Murphy Holloway (Blue Ribbon All-SEC 2nd team) plays the whole game.

After winning 20 games and making a run to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, the Ole Miss Rebels were selected as a No. 2 seed in the 75th version of the NIT. The winner between the Rebels (20-13) and No. 7 seed Illinois State (20-13) will advance to play the winner between No. 3 seed Stanford and No. 6 Cleveland State. If Ole Miss prevails over the Redbirds, the second-round game would also take place in Oxford on either Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

Tickets for the NIT game will be $10 for adults and $4 for students (college students and younger). For tickets, call the Ole Miss Ticket Office at 662-915-7167 or order online. Gates will open an hour and a half before game time. There will be general parking with no charge.

With a selection to this year's NIT, Ole Miss earned its fifth postseason berth in six seasons. Andy Kennedy is the first coach in school history to lead the Rebels to five postseason appearances. Ole Miss also made NIT appearances in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011, reaching the Final Four in New York in 2008 and 2010.

The Rebels have reached 20 wins for the fifth time in the last six seasons under Andy Kennedy. Ole Miss had seven 20-win campaigns in the 96 seasons prior to Kennedy's arrival in Oxford. He is just the sixth coach in SEC history to guide his teams to 20+ wins in five of his first six seasons. The others: Joe. B. Hall (Kentucky), Don DeVoe (Tennessee), Rick Pitino (Kentucky), Tubby Smith (Kentucky) and Bruce Pearl (Tennessee).

With his 125th win at Ole Miss (vs. Tennessee), Andy Kennedy passed future Hall of Famer Billy Donovan and has the sixth-most wins by an SEC head coach in his first six years in the league. He needs one more to match Mississippi State's Rick Stansbury at 126.
1. Rick Pitino (Kentucky) - 150
2. Bruce Pearl (Tennessee) - 145
3. Joe B. Hall (Kentucky) - 135
4. Wimp Sanderson (Alabama) - 127
5. Rick Stansbury (Mississippi State) - 126
6. Andy Kennedy (Ole Miss) - 125

The Rebels are making their 11th overall NIT appearance and fifth in the last six seasons. Ole Miss has a 13-10 record in all NIT games, including a 6-3 mark in its last three appearances. The Rebels boast an 11-1 record in NIT home games and have won 10 straight contests in Oxford dating back to the 1983 NIT.  The lone loss in an NIT home game was a 61-59 defeat to Virginia Tech in the 1982 second round. Ole Miss is 7-4 in NIT games under head coach Andy Kennedy.

A victory Wednesday would advance the Rebels to a second-round meeting with the winner between No. 3 seed Stanford and No. 6 Cleveland State (who play Tuesday night), which would also take place in Oxford on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Through the first three rounds of the tournament, the higher seed will host the lower seed. The semifinals and championship game of the NIT take place at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Illinois State is 20-13 on the season and went 9-9 in Missouri Valley Conference play. The Redbirds made a run to the MVC Tournament championship game by beating Northern Iowa and Wichita State, before falling 83-79 in overtime to No. 25 Creighton in the title game. Tim Jankovich's squad averages 68.3 ppg to its opponents' 64.4 (+3.9). The Redbirds average 8.0 3-pointers per contest, which ranks 31st in the NCAA. Junior F Jackie Carmichael leads the team with 13.8 ppg and 9.6 rpg (28th in NCAA), followed by junior G Tyler Brown at 13.1 ppg. Nic Moore tops the club with 3.7 apg.

The Rebels and Redbirds have met twice before. ISU won at home 76-72 on Dec. 23, 1978, and at a tournament in Milwaukee 70-52 on Nov. 16, 2004. Andy Kennedy is 1-0 in his career against the Redbirds. In his lone season as the Cincinnati head coach, he directed his team to a 76-59 home win in the second game of the 2005-06 season.

Ole Miss owns an 8-6 all-time record against teams that currently comprise the Missouri Valley Conference. The Rebels' most-played MVC opponent is Wichita State (Ole Miss leads 3-2). The most recent meeting with an MVC team was against Drake in the first round of this season's U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam (Ole Miss won 63-59).

Senior F Terrance Henry was voted to the All-SEC second team by the league coaches, and junior F Reginald Buckner was chosen to the SEC All-Defensive team, the league office announced on March 6. Henry, who averaged 13.0 ppg in conference play, receives the first All-SEC accolade of his career. Buckner makes the SEC All-Defensive team for the second straight year and is the only Rebel to make the team since its inception in 2008.

Winning at home has been a trademark of Andy Kennedy's squads since he took the reins in 2006-07. Ole Miss is 84-17 (.832 win pct.) in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum during Kennedy's tenure, including a 12-2 record this season. Ole Miss has won 215 of its last 264 games (.814 win pct.) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 448-196 (.696 win pct.) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.

The Rebels boast a 75-21 record (.779 win pct.) against teams outside the SEC since Andy Kennedy took over in 2006-07, including a 51-2 mark at home. The Rebels went 10-4 against non-league teams in the regular season.

With 20 wins this year, Andy Kennedy has the most overall wins by an Ole Miss head coach in a six-year span (125). With eight league victories this season, his total of 46 is also the most SEC wins over a six-year span. Kennedy already ranks third in Ole Miss career victories behind B.L. "Country" Graham (144 wins in 13 seasons) and Barnes (141 wins in 8 seasons).

Ole Miss will boast a sixth straight winning season in 2011-12. The last time the school had six straight winning campaigns was the 1996-97 to 2001-02 seasons. Andy Kennedy is only the second coach in school history to guide the Rebels to six straight winning seasons. The other was R.L. Sullivan (1920-25).

Ole Miss has established itself as one of the better defensive teams in the country this year. The Rebels rank third in the SEC (and 29th in the latest NCAA rankings) in field goal percentage defense at .399. Ole Miss is 15-3 when its opponent shoots below 40 percent from the field, which includes four of the last six games. Ten different times the Rebels have held their opponent below 60 points, including four times under 50 and a pair of games under 40.

Ole Miss had a five-game win streak snapped by eventual SEC Tournament champion Vanderbilt in the semifinals in New Orleans. The Rebels had five straight wins over SEC opponents for the first time since stringing together six straight during the 2001 season. During this streak, the Rebels out-scored their foes by an average of 10.8 points (70.8-60.0) and were +2.4 on the boards (41.0-38.6). Ole Miss shot 43.5 percent from the field and held opponents to an amazing 33.8 percent with its stellar defense.

Against LSU, senior F Terrance Henry eclipsed 1,000 career points to become the 33rd member of the 1,000-point club at Ole Miss. He became just the second player in school history to reach 1,000 points and 100 blocks, joining former All-American Rahim Lockhart (1,160, 132). Henry now has 1,074 points, needing 32 points to pass Fred Cox (1,105) for 27th place in school history. He ranks fifth in school history in blocked shots (112) and needs two more to tie Johnnie Rogers for fourth place (114).

Ole Miss may not be a great free-throw shooting team, but the Rebels have gotten to the line often during their last six games. Ole Miss has attempted more than 30 free throws in five of the last six contests, averaging 31.0 attempts per game. During this span, Rebel opponents have gone to line only 18.5 times per game.

Ole Miss has a 9-2 record this year when it scores at least 70 points, while the Rebels are 11-11 when they fail to reach the 70-point mark.

The court presence of junior F Murphy Holloway has been of measurable value for the Rebels this year. The second team All-SEC selection (Blue Ribbon) and All-SEC honorable mention pick (AP) was sorely missed after he sprained his ankle in the second half against Middle Tennessee (Dec. 21). The Rebels went on to drop that contest and two of the next three without him. He returned against Arkansas to score 19 points, grab 14 rebounds and effectively energize his teammates in leading the Rebels to victory. He has shined brightly of late, including a 13-point, 13-rebound effort in the first-round SEC Tournament win over Auburn and 14 points and 10 boards in the win over Tennessee. Ole Miss is 19-10 this year when Holloway plays the whole game.

Throughout his Rebel career, Reginald Buckner's presence and production has been key to the team's sucess. This year is no different, as Ole Miss has a 9-2 record when the junior forward has double-digit rebounds.

Ole Miss, which rates as the ninth-tallest team in the country (according to, is taking advantage of its significant height and length advantage against most of its opponents this year. No scholarship player on the roster is listed shorter than 6-4, while seven Rebels are listed at 6-7 or taller. Ole Miss ranks second among SEC teams with a rebounding average of 38.3, second in offensive rebounds with 13.0 and fourth with a rebounding margin of +2.7. In SEC play, Ole Miss led all teams with 38.1 rebounds per game and ranked third with a +3.0 rebounding margin. Individually, Murphy Holloway ranks third among SEC players and 45th in the nation in rebounding (9.1), while Reginald Buckner is fourth in the SEC and 81st nationally (8.1). The Rebels also block 5.3 shots per game, ranking second in the league and 13th in the NCAA. They are led by Buckner's 2.2 swats per game, which ranks him fifth in the SEC and 41st nationally.

Led by Reginald Buckner and a host of long-armed athletes, Ole Miss is approaching the school record for blocked shots in a season. The record of 184 blocks was set in the 2009-10 season. The Rebels enter the NIT with 174 swats as a team.

In just his third season at Ole Miss, junior F Murphy Holloway has broken into the school's top 10 for career rebounds. He enters the NIT with 737 boards, which is ninth-most in school history. He needs 18 more to pass Coolidge Ball (754) for eighth place on the Rebels' all-time chart. Holloway currently averages 9.1 boards per game. Since 1980, only one other Rebel has averaged 9.0 for a whole season (Dwayne Curtis - 9.6 in 2007-08).

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