NIT QUARTERFINALS: No. 2 Ole Miss (23-10) at No. 1 Virginia Tech (21-13)
March 26, 2008 7 p.m. ET
Blacksburg, Va. Cassell Coliseum (9,847)
Call the Virginia Tech athletics ticket office at 800-828-3244 or visit hokiesports.com.
Live TV: ESPN2 (Ron Franklin, play-by-play; Stephen Bardo, analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online
Satellite Radio: N/A
REBELS TRAVEL TO BLACKSBURG FOR NIT QUARTERFINALS
With Monday night’s 85-75 overtime win over Nebraska, Ole Miss has advanced to the NIT quarterfinals for the third time in school history and first time since 2000. The second-seeded Rebels now take to the road to face top-seeded Virginia Tech Wednesday. Ole Miss is 2-7 in road games this season, while Virginia Tech is 14-2 at home. The winner will advance to the NIT Final Four at New York’s Madison Square Garden and face the winner of the Ohio State-Dayton game. The Nebraska win was Ole Miss’ 23rd of the season, the second-most in school history behind the 2000-01 NCAA Sweet Sixteen team’s 27. Ole Miss outscored Nebraska 15-5 in overtime, highlighted by 10 of freshman Zach Graham’s career-high 14 points.
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 23 wins, the second-most wins in school history, and back-to-back 20-win campaigns for only the fifth time. Kennedy is the first 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 made back-to-back postseason berths for the first time since six straight from 1997-2002 and advanced to the NIT quarterfinals for the third time in school history.
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)
Curtis - Most rebounds in a season
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 HOKIES
Virginia Tech advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT with wins over Morgan State and UAB in the first two rounds. The Hokies boast an overall record of 21-13 under the direction of ACC Coach of the Year Seth Greenberg and earned a No. 1 seed in the NIT following a strong finish to the regular season which saw them win four of their last five contests. Virginia Tech won its first-round ACC Tournament game over Miami before losing 68-66 to North Carolina in the second round. VT is 14-2 at home this season, with its lone losses to Duke and Miami. Junior forward and Puerto Rico native A.D. Vassallo tops the team with 16.9 points per game and has drained a team-high 81 3-pointers. Senior forward Deron Washington adds 12.8 ppg and 6.6 rebounds per contest, while freshman forward Jeff Allen chips in 11.9 ppg and a team-high 7.7 boards per game. The Hokies get over 35 percent of their scoring from freshmen. The team averages 70.1 ppg and allows 64.2 ppg.
OLE MISS-VIRGINIA TECH SERIES
Wednesday’s NIT matchup is the third meeting between the two schools all-time. They have split the first two encounters, with Ole Miss prevailing 70-66 in a holiday tournament in New Orleans in December 1980 and Virginia Tech earning a 61-59 victory in the 1982 NIT in Oxford, Ole Miss’ only home NIT loss ever.
OLE MISS VERSUS ACC
Ole Miss owns a 16-24 all-time record against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Rebels have played nine of the 12 teams, but not Boston College, Duke or Wake Forest. The most-played series is with Georgia Tech (Rebels are 8-11), but all of those games were played when Georgia Tech was a fellow member of the Southern Conference and the SEC.
OLE MISS IN THE NIT
The Rebels are in the midst of their second straight and eighth overall NIT appearance. Ole Miss is 2-0 in this year’s tournament and 3-1 under head coach Andy Kennedy. 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 a 9-7 record in all NIT games. This year’s quarterfinal appearance matches the Rebels’ best showing in their NIT history. They also reached the quarters in 1983 and 2000.The Rebels are 8-1 in NIT home games, but just 1-6 away from Oxford. They earned their lone NIT road win with a 53-49 victory over Clemson in 1982.
Wednesday’s winner will advance to the NIT Final Four, held April 1 and 3 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The winner will face the victor between No. 1 seed Ohio State and No. 3 seed Dayton. Tipoff for the April 1 game will be at 7 or 9 p.m. ET. It will be televised by ESPN2.
SECOND REBEL TEAM TO 23 WINS
This year’s Rebel squad has entered rare territory in the school’s hoops history. With Monday’s win over Nebraska, this year’s team became the second in school history to amass 23 wins in a season. The other was the 2000-01 NCAA Sweet Sixteen team, which finished with a school-record 27 victories.
BACK-TO-BACK 20-WIN SEASONS
At 23-10, Ole Miss has had consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since 2000-01 and 2001-02 and just the fifth time ever. Head coach Andy Kennedy directed the Rebels to a 21-13 record in his inaugural 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 44 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 44-23 (.657 win pct.) at Ole Miss.
PUERTO RICO CONNECTION
Ole Miss redshirt-sophomore guard David Huertas and Virginia Tech junior guard A.D. Vassallo share the distinction of being from the island nation of Puerto Rico. That’s not the only thing they share, though. Each has played for the Puerto Rico national team, moved to the U.S. to play high school and college ball, and both of their fathers (Armando Huertas and Daniel Vassallo) played for the Puerto Rico Professional League.
During the regular season, Ole Miss had one of the best marks in the nation with a 5-3 record against teams in the RPI top 50. The Rebels have 12 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, Nebraska, New Mexico and UC Santa Barbara this year.
Ole Miss finished the regular season with a perfect 14-0 record against non-conference opponents and has made it 16-0 against non-league foes with a pair of NIT victories. 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 six games, breaking the 80-point mark in five 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 16 occasions. The Rebels entered the week ranked third in the SEC and 18th in the nation with 79.6 points per contest on the season.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Wednesday’s NIT game at Virginia Tech televised by ESPN2 is the 19th TV appearance of the year. It marks the first appearance of the year on ESPN2 and fourth total on the ESPN family of networks. The 19 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 the postseason 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 15.15 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 9.4 boards per game, second-most in the SEC and 32nd in the country. Curtis also leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the nation with 4.3 offensive boards per game. Kenny Williams grabs 6.6 boards per contest, including nine in each of the last three games. The senior forward has posted five double-doubles this season. Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice helps out with 5.4 boards per game.
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 Virginia Tech game with 1,203 points at Ole Miss, 19th-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 15.0 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 1,258 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 Virginia Tech game, Curtis ranks eighth in Rebel annals with 748 career boards, needing six more to tie Coolidge Ball for seventh place. With 8 boards vs. Nebraska Monday, Curtis set the school season record for rebounds with 311. Curtis’ rebounding average of 9.4 is the highest season average for a Rebel since Walter Actwood grabbed 11.3 per game in 1974-75.
HE CAN'T MISS (MUCH)
Hitting shots at an alarmingly high rate, senior center Dwayne Curtis entered the week leading the SEC and ranking fifth in the nation with a 64.7 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.
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 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.
WARREN TWO SHY OF SCHOOL TREY RECORD
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 94 triples and 245 three’s attempted this season. He needs just two more treys to tie Clarence Sanders’ school record of 96 set last year. He has hit at least two three’s in all but six games this year.
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 Virginia Tech game with 513 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 (94) and 3-pointers attempted (245).
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 (31.1/game). Entering the week he ranked 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 in 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-33 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 six games, Huertas is averaging 16.2 points and 3.8 three’s while grabbing 5.0 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 returned to score 15 points and post 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals against Nebraska Monday. The Sarasota, Fla., native has put up big numbers in several columns of the stat sheet this year. He ranks among the SEC leaders in rebounds (25th at 5.5/game) assists (8th at 3.8/game), steals (8th at 1.6/game) and assist-turnover ratio (7th 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.
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. Graham tied a career high with 14 points, including 10 in overtime, to help Ole Miss to the NIT victory over Nebraska Monday. 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.
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 treys vs. Troy on 12/18/00 and Joe Harvell, who had six against Kentucky on 1/27/90.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Rodney Jones: Logged a career-high 22 minutes against UCSB in the 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 9.2 minutes per game in a reserve role behind Chris Warren. Has missed just two games this season. Made a pair of three’s in 17 minutes of action vs. Nebraska. 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 15 minutes over his last eight contests. DNP in 3 of the Rebels’ last 5 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.