NIT 2ND ROUND: No. 2 Ole Miss (22-10) vs. No. 3 Nebraska (20-12)
March 24, 2008 8 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,910)
Live TV: ESPNU (Dwayne Ballen, 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
FREE TICKETS FOR FIRST 1,000 OLE MISS STUDENTS COURTESY OF COACH AK
To show his appreciation for the support of the Ole Miss student body, Rebel head basketball coach Andy Kennedy has donated $4,000 to pay the admission for the first 1,000 students to Monday’s NIT game.
OIe Miss students can visit the Ole Miss athletics ticket office on Monday to reserve their ticket with a valid student ID. The office is located at the front of Tad Smith Coliseum and opens at 8:30 a.m.
REBELS AND HUSKERS MEET IN NIT 2ND ROUND
Ole Miss has advanced to the second round of the NIT for the second straight season. The second-seeded Rebels host No. 3 seed Nebraska on Monday at Tad Smith Coliseum, with the winner moving on to play the winner of the Virginia Tech-UAB game in the quarterfinals. Ole Miss collected its 22nd win of the season with an 83-68 first-round victory over UC Santa Barbara, marking the fourth 22-win season in school history. All-SEC senior Dwayne Curtis led the way with 17 points and tied a career high with 16 rebounds for his 16th double-double of the season. Chris Warren added 16 points, David Huertas scored 15 (on 5 3-pointers) and Kenny Williams had 13 points and 9 rebounds. Nebraska advanced to the second round with a 67-48 victory over Charlotte.
Despite not reaching its goals of an NCAA Touranment berth, the Rebels overcame many 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 fourth 22-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 points, rebounds, field goals, 3-point field goals
and 3-point attempts 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 CORNHUSKERS
Nebraska enters Monday’s game with a 20-12 overall record after finishing seventh in the Big 12 Conference with a 7-9 league record. The No. 3 seed Huskers won their first-round matchup in Lincoln with a 67-48 decision over sixth-seeded Charlotte. Nebraska advanced to the second round of the Big 12 Tournament before losing 64-54 to eventual champion Kansas. The team’s leading scorer and rebounder is senior All-Big 12 second team pick Aleks Maric, a 6-foot-11 Australian center. Maric ranks seventh in the league in scoring (15.7) and third in rebounding (10.2). The Huskers start four guards with Maric and bring three more guards off the bench as the primary back-ups. While the team puts up just 66.8 points per game on offense, the Husker defense ranks in the top 15 nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 59.9 points per contest.
OLE MISS-NEBRASKA SERIES
Monday’s NIT second-round matchup is the third meeting all-time between the two schools. The Rebels lost 80-70 in Lincoln in 1977, but earned a 70-67 victory over the Huskers in Biloxi, Miss., in 1978.
OLE MISS VERSUS BIG 12
Ole Miss owns a 12-18 all-time record against current members of the Big 12. The Rebels have played 10 of the 12 teams, with the most appearances being 14 against Texas. They have not faced Colorado or Missouri.
OLE MISS IN THE NIT
The Rebels are making their second straight and eighth overall National Invitation Tournament appearance. Ole Miss won its first-round game 83-68 over UCSB on Wednesday. The Rebels went 1-1 last year, with a 73-59 win over Appalachian State in the first round before dropping an 89-68 decision at Clemson.
Ole Miss has an 8-7 record in NIT games. The Rebels are 7-1 in NIT home games, and have won six 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.
Monday’s winner will advance to the NIT quarterfinals to face the winner between No. 1 seed Virginia Tech and No. 5 UAB on Wednesday night, with the higher seed hosting. The NIT Final Four is April 1 and 3 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
BACK-TO-BACK 20-WIN SEASONS
At 22-10, Ole Miss has had consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since 2000-01 and 2001-02 and just the fifth time ever. With their 22nd victory in the 83-68 win over UCSB Wednesday, the Rebels have amassed 22 or more wins for the fourth time in school history. Another victory would make this year’s squad just the second in Rebel history with 23 wins, joining the 2000-01 team that went 27-8. 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 seasons.
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.
KENNEDY BREAKS REBEL COACHING RECORD
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy’s 43 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 mark of 43-23 (.652 win pct.) at Ole Miss.
Ole Miss has one of the best marks in the nation with a 5-3 record against teams in the RPI top 50. The Rebels have 11 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, New Mexico and UC Santa Barbara this year.
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 31-3 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 7,427 fans per game and 8,994 fans at each SEC contest are both on pace to set school records.
Ole Miss has won 162 of its last 197 games (.822 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 397-182 (.686 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.
Ole Miss finished the regular season with a perfect 14-0 record against non-conference opponents and made it 15-0 against non-league foes with Wednesday’s NIT win over UC Santa Barbara. 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.
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. Since then the Rebels have averaged 85.2 points over their last five games, breaking the 80-point mark in four of those contests. 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 15 occasions. The Rebels entered the NIT ranked third in the SEC and 20th in the nation with 79.5 points per contest on the season.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Monday’s NIT game vs. Nebraska televised by ESPNU is the 18th TV appearance of the year and second straight on ESPNU. The 18 appearances mark the 10th straight season that the Rebels have played 10 or more TV games. The Rebels saw a school-record 22 games televised a year ago.
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 entered postseason play ranked 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 9.5 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 4.4 offensive boards per game. Kenny Williams grabs 6.5 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 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.
HE CAN'T MISS (MUCH)
Hitting shots at an alarmingly high rate, senior center Dwayne Curtis entered postseason play leading the SEC and ranking 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 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 Nebraska game, Curtis ranks eighth in Rebel annals with 740 career boards. Curtis also needs just three boards to tie the school season record and four to establish a new Rebel standard. Curtis’ rebounding average of 9.5 is the highest season average for a Rebel since Walter Actwood grabbed 11.3 per game in 1974-75.
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 16 in all games. His 16 double-doubles are the most by an Ole Miss player since 1957. Curtis and Hendrix were 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 32 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.
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 Nebraska game with 1,193 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 1,248 points in his college career.
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 Nebraska game with 495 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 (91) and 3-pointers attempted (240).
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 91 triples and 240 three’s attempted this season. He needs just five more treys to break Clarence Sanders’ school record of 96 set last year. He has hit at least two three’s in all but six games this year.
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 (31.8/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 15-of-32 contests. Warren has eight games with 20 or more points, including seven in league play. Against UCSB, he poured in all 16 of his points in the second half to lead the Rebels to the NIT victory. He 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, 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.
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 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. Over his last five games, Huertas is averaging 18.2 points and 4.2 three’s while grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game during that span. He also tied a career high with five assists vs. Arkansas.
POLYNICE FILLING IT UP
A knee injury caused sophomore guard Eniel Polynice to miss his first game of the season this past Wednesday, but he 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 and 8 more in a start against UCSB in the first round of the NIT.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Rodney Jones: Logged a career-high 22 minutes against UCSB in Wednesday’s first-round NIT game, scoring 5 points and grabbing 3 rebounds. He had played just 20 minutes all season prior to that contest. 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. 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 in 3 of the Rebels’ last 4 games. 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.