NIT FIRST ROUND: No. 2 Ole Miss (21-10) vs. UC Santa Barbara (23-8)
March 19, 2008 7 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,910)
Live TV: ESPNU (Rich Waltz, play-by-play; Daymeon Fishback, analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online
Satellite Radio: N/A
TICKETS ON SALE FOR WEDNESDAY'S GAME
Tickets are available for Wednesday's 7 p.m. game against UC Santa Barbara. Adult tickets are $15 and student tickets are $4. Ole Miss students must show a valid school ID. For tickets, call the Ole Miss Ticket Office at 662-915-7167 or order online through OleMissSports.com. No tickets will be mailed, so they must be picked up at the ticket office beginning at noon on Wednesday. There will be general parking with no charge.
REBELS GET SECOND STRAIGHT NIT BID
For the second straight year, Ole Miss has received a postseason berth into the NIT and will host UC Santa Barbara in the first round on Wednesday at Tad Smith Coliseum. Already with back-to-back 21-win seasons, the Rebels are looking to amass 22 or more victories for just the fourth time in school history. To accomplish that, they will have to get by a 23-8 Gaucho squad that captured the regular-season Big West Conference title with a 12-4 league record. Ole Miss dropped its first-round SEC Tournament game to eventual tourney champ Georgia by a 97-95 margin on a last-second bank shot by Dave Bliss in overtime. Rebel sophomore guard David Huertas pumped in a career-high 29 points in the defeat, while senior center Dwayne Curtis scored a career-high 26 points.
Despite not reaching its goals of an NCAA Touranment berth, the Rebels overcame the odds to record one of the best seasons in school history. Picked in the preseason to finish in last place in the SEC Western Division, Andy Kennedy has led Ole Miss to 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.
Despite all five scholarship backcourt members being freshmen or sophomores, the Rebels have earned back-to-back postseason berths for the first time since making six straight from 1997-2002.
Team School Records
Most 3-point field goals in a season
Most rebounds in a season
13 consecutive victories
14-0 regular-season record in non-league play
Most points in an SEC tournament game
Individual School Records
Curtis - Highest career FG percentage (on pace)
Curtis - Highest season FG percentage (on pace)
Warren - Most points by a freshman (season)
Warren - Most 3’s by a freshman (season)
Huertas - Most 3’s in an SEC tournament game
Gaskins/Warren - Most 3’s by a freshman (game)
SCOUTING THE GAUCHOS
UC Santa Barbara earned an automatic bid into the NIT after claiming the Big West Conference regular-season title. The Gauchos are 23-8 on the season and were upset by UC Irvine in the semifinals of the Big West tourney in their last contest. UCSB went 12-4 in league play to share the league title with Cal State Northridge and eventual tourney champ Cal State Fullerton, but the Gauchos earned the top spot based on their 3-1 record versus the other two. The NIT berth is the first postseason bid of any kind for UCSB since an NIT appearance in 2003.
The Gauchos are led by Big West Co-Player of the Year Alex Harris, who pours in 20.2 ppg and shoots 80.5 percent from the charity stripe, making 173-of-215 from the line. Chris Devine and James Powell chip in 12.2 and 12.1 points apiece, respectively.
UCSB is known for its stingy defense, allowing just 63.9 points per game. The Gauchos also shoot at high percentages from all areas of the court, making 45.5 percent of all field-goal attempts, 41.3 percent from three and 75.0 percent from the free-throw line.
OLE MISS-UCSB SERIES
Wednesday’s NIT game will mark the first meeting between the two schools, which are located 1,966 miles from each other, according to Google Maps.
OLE MISS VERSUS BIG WEST
Ole Miss has only played three games against current members of the Big West Conference, all in early-season tournaments. The Rebels are 1-1 against Long Beach State (L in 1972, W in 1982) and 1-0 vs. Pacific (1981).
A GAUCHO FROM OXFORD, MS
A very non-regional matchup between schools from California and Mississippi will be a homecoming for one member of the UCSB squad. Junior forward Beau Gibb is an Oxford, Miss., native and helped Oxford High School to the 2001 state title as a sophomore. Since graduating from OHS, he has attended The Hill Prep School in Pottstown, Pa., and Robert Morris University (Pittsburgh, Pa.) prior to arriving in Santa Barbara.
OLE MISS IN THE NIT
The Rebels are making their second straight and eighth overall National Invitation Tournament appearance. Ole Miss won 73-59 over Appalachian State in the first round last year before dropping an 89-68 decision at Clemson.
In its seven NIT appearances, Ole Miss has a 7-7 record. The Rebels have a 6-1 record in home games in the NIT, and have won five 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.
The Rebels’ best showing in the NIT is the quarterfinals, which they reached in 1983 and 2000.
Wednesday’s winner will advance to face the winner between No. 3 seed Nebraska and No. 6 Charlotte, which would take place on either March 21, 22 or 24. The quarterfinals are scheduled for March 25, 26 or 27. The host school for each round is based on the higher seed. The NIT Final Four is April 1 and 3 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
BACK-TO-BACK POSTSEASON BERTHS
Ole Miss has earned consecutive postseason berths for the first time since making it six straight years from 1997-2002. Ole Miss also advanced to the postseason four consecutive seasons from 1980-83.
BACK-TO-BACK 20-WIN SEASONS
At 21-10, 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 needs one more victory to record the fourth season with 22+ wins in school 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 10 wins over teams that advanced to postseason play, including NCAA Tournament squads Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Mississippi Valley State, South Alabama and Winthrop. Ole Miss also has defeated NIT teams Florida and New Mexico this year.
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 42-23 (.646 win pct.) at Ole Miss.
THREE REBELS EARN SEC POSTSEASON AWARDS
Senior center Dwayne Curtis has been voted All-SEC second team by the league coaches and the Associated Press, while guards Chris Warren and Trevor Gaskins represent Ole Miss on the SEC Coaches All-Freshman team.
Curtis, who ranks second in the SEC in rebounding (9.3) and second on the team in scoring (15.1), earns All-SEC honors for the second time in his career. He was an All-SEC honorable mention pick by the AP 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.
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. Including the 97-95 loss to Georgia in the first round of the SEC tourney, the Rebels have averaged 84.8 points over the last four 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, while the 95 points against Georgia were the most in an SEC tourney game in school history. Ole Miss has six games of 90+ points this season and has amassed 80+ points on 14 occasions. The Rebels rank third in the SEC and 20th in the nation with 79.5 points per contest on the season.
OLE MISS KNOCKED OFF BY UNLIKELY DOGS
This year’s SEC Tournament will be remembered for a long time by some of the most bizarre circumstances possible, including a change of venues from the tornado-damaged Georgia Dome to Georgia Tech and a tournament championship by the last-place Georgia Bulldogs (which included them winning twice in one day, a first for the league tourney). But UGA’s improbable tourney run began with a knockdown, dragout with Ole Miss in a first-round game the Rebels lost 97-95 on a last-second bank shot by Bulldog Dave Bliss in overtime. The game, which ended around 12:30 a.m., featured 16 lead changes and almost 200 points. Ole Miss got career-high performances from David Huertas (29 points) and Dwayne Curtis (26 points) and made three straight clutch free throws not once but twice during the stretch run, but it was not enough to overcome whatever magic Georgia was using to start their run to the Big Dance.
CURTIS MAKES ALL-DISTRICT TEAM
Senior center Dwayne Curtis was recently named All-District 6 second team by the NABC and is one of 150 student-athletes from 15 districts that are now eligible for the NABC All-America teams to be announced on April 5. 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.
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.
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.
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 this season. 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.
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 64.8 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 (25 points) against South Carolina.
CURTIS BECOMES 30TH REBEL TO 1,000 POINTS
Senior center Dwayne Curtis became the 30th member of the Rebels’ 1,000-Point Club when he scored 25 points against South Carolina on Feb. 2. He enters the NIT with 1,176 points at Ole Miss, 20th-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 15.1 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 1,231 points in his college career.
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 40.6 rebounds per game, while boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +5.4. 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 35th in the country. Curtis also leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the nation with 4.3 offensive boards per game. Kenny Williams grabs 6.4 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, 24th-most in the SEC.
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 NIT, Curtis ranks ninth in Rebel annals with 724 career boards. He is just the third Rebel to amass 650 career rebounds in three years or less.
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 NIT with 479 points on the year. The Orlando native broke Joe Harvell’s 18-year-old record in four less games (26) than Harvell used (30) in 1990. Warren averages a team-best 15.5 points in all games and 17.1 points in league contests. He also holds the Ole Miss freshman records for 3-pointers made (88) and 3-pointers attempted (233).
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 (15.5 ppg), assists (4.5/game), three-pointers (2.8/game) and minutes played (31.2/game). He ranks fifth in the SEC in treys per game, while dishing out the fifth-most assists. He ranks 14th in the league in scoring and 10th with a 1.55 assist-turnover ratio.
The Orlando native has scored in double figures in all but five games. He has dished out five or more assists in 14-of-31 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 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 88 triples and 233 three’s attempted this season. He has hit at least two three’s in all but six games this year. If the Rebels make a run in the NIT, Warren still has a chance to break Clarence Sanders’ school record of 96 treys set last year.
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 poured in a career-high 29 points in the first-round SEC Tournament loss to Georgia, making seven 3-pointers to tie for second in school history in a game and tops in school history for an SEC tourney game. Huertas is averaging 19.0 points over his last four games. He has hit 16 3-pointers over that span and also tied a career high with five assists vs. Arkansas. He has upped his rebounding over the past six games, averaging 6.2 boards in 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 3.8/game), steals (8th at 1.6/game) and assist-turnover ratio (6th at 1.75).
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 6 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 9 rebounds at Arkansas. He scored 9 points against both Vanderbilt and Arkansas. He scored 8 points vs. Georgia in the SEC Tournament.
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. 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. Had 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 9.0 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 and vs. Georgia in SEC tourney. 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.