Ole Miss Prepares For New York City, NIT Semifinal Matchup With Ohio State

NIT SEMIFINALS: No. 2 Ole Miss (24-10) vs. No. 1 Ohio State (22-13)
April 1, 2008  9 p.m. ET
New York, N.Y. Madison Square Garden (19,763)
 

MEDIA
Live TV: ESPN2 (Ron Franklin, play-by-play; Bill Raftery & Fran Fraschilla, analysts; Allen Hopkins, sideline reporter)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online; ESPN Radio (Marc Kestecher, play-by-play; Bob Valvano, analyst)

REBELS MAKE FIRST TRIP TO NIT FINAL FOUR
 One of the best seasons in Ole Miss hoops history will continue when the Rebels make the program’s first ever trip to the NIT Semifinals in New York City. On Tuesday, No. 2 seed Ole Miss will take on No. 1 seed Ohio State in historic Madison Square Garden for a chance to advance to the title game against the winner between No. 2 seeds Florida and UMass. Ole Miss earned a berth into the Final Four with an 81-72 victory at Virginia Tech Wednesday. Freshman Chris Warren dropped in a team-high 22 points and seniors Dwayne Curtis and Kenny Williams each posted a double-double in the win. Warren also eclipsed the school record for 3-pointers in a season, while the Rebels won their third road game of the year and moved to a perfect 17-0 against non-league foes.

RECORD-BREAKING SEASON
 Despite not reaching their goal of an NCAA Touranment berth, the Rebels have overcome 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 24 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 in Oxford.
 With four freshmen and two sophomores in the regular rotation, the Rebels have  advanced to the NIT Semifinals for the first time in school history and made back-to-back postseason berths for the first time since six straight from 1997-2002.

Team School Records
Most points, rebounds, field goals, FGs attempted, 3-
  point field goals and 3-pointers attempts in a season
Deepest run in the NIT (Semifinals)
13-0 start and 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 3-pointers in a season
Warren - Most points by a freshman (season)
Huertas - Most 3’s in an SEC tournament game
Gaskins/Warren - Most 3’s by a freshman (game)

SCOUTING THE BUCKEYES
 Last year’s NCAA Championship Runner-Up boasts a 22-13 record this season and went 10-8 in Big Ten Conference play. One of four NIT No. 1 seeds, the Buckeyes have beaten UNC-Asheville (84-66), California (73-56) and Dayton (74-63) to reach New York and the semifinals. Senior guard Jamar Butler, the lone returning starter from last year’s squad, tops the team with 14.8 points and has made a team-high 97 3-pointers. Freshman center Kosta Koufos chips in 14.2 ppg and a team-high 6.6 rebounds per contest. OSU averages 67.9 points as a team and allows just 61.3 per game. The team ranks in the top 25 nationally in points allowed and top 15 nationally in field-goal percentage defense (.389).

OLE MISS-OHIO STATE SERIES
 Tuesday’s NIT semifinal matchup is the second meeting between the two schools all-time. Ohio State defeated Ole Miss 67-62 on Dec. 23, 1998, in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic in San Juan. The Buckeyes do not count this win, however, as they vacated many of their records from 1998-2002 due to NCAA violations.

OLE MISS VERSUS BIG TEN
 Ole Miss owns a 1-6 all-time record against current members of the Big Ten Conference. The Rebels have played five of the 11 teams in the league, including Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State.

OLE MISS VERSUS REST OF FINAL FOUR FIELD
 Ole Miss owns a 42-56 all-time record against fellow SEC member Florida, while the Rebels have never faced Massachusetts. Ole Miss beat the Gators 89-87 in Oxford in their previous meeting this year. If the two SEC schools advance to the NIT championship game, it would mark the Rebels’ first postseason contest against a fellow conference member.
 
OLE MISS IN THE NIT
 The Rebels are in the midst of their second straight and eighth overall NIT appearance. Ole Miss has a 10-7 record in all NIT games. With three wins this season, the Rebels have advanced to the NIT semifinals for the first time in school history. Ole Miss is 3-0 in this year’s tournament and 4-1 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 losing 89-68 at Clemson. The best previous showings in the NIT were quarterfinal berths in 1983 and 2000.

OLE MISS IN THE BIG APPLE
 Ole Miss is playing in New York City for just the second time in program history and the first time in Madison Square Garden. The Rebels played at St. Johns in the first round of the NIT in 1989. On an interesting note, St. Johns went on to win the 1989 NIT, and had to get through the semifinals in MSG against a UAB squad led by then-sophomore Andy Kennedy.

NEXT ROUND
 Tuesday’s winners between Ole Miss-Ohio State and Florida-UMass will advance to Thursday’s NIT championship game. Tipoff for the title game is 7 p.m. ET. ESPN will carry the live broadcast.

SECOND REBEL TEAM TO 24 WINS
 This year’s Rebel squad has entered rare territory in the school’s hoops history. Wednesday’s win over Virginia Tech was the Rebels’ 24th of the season, the second-most in school history. The 2000-01 NCAA Sweet Sixteen team holds the program record with 27 victories. There have only been nine total 20-win seasons in the school’s history.

BACK-TO-BACK 20-WIN SEASONS
 At 24-10, 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 45 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 45-23 (.662 win pct.) at Ole Miss.

QUALITY WINS
 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 13 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, UC Santa Barbara and Virginia Tech this year.

PERFECT NON-CONFERENCE
 Ole Miss finished the regular season with a perfect 14-0 record against non-conference opponents and has made it 17-0 against non-league foes with three NIT victories. Technically, the only non-conference loss for Ole Miss this season was a first-round defeat to Georgia in the SEC Tournament. 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 84.6 points over their last seven games, breaking the 80-point mark in six 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 17 occasions. The Rebels entered the Virginia Tech game ranked third in the SEC and 18th in the nation with 79.6 points per contest on the season.

REBELS ON THE TUBE
 Tuesday’s Ohio State game in New York televised by ESPN2 is the 20th TV appearance of the year for Ole Miss. It marks the second appearance of the year on ESPN2 and fifth total on the ESPN family of networks. The 20 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.

KEEP ON PLAYING
 The Rebels’ NIT semifinal game with Ohio State will be the 35th contest of the season, which ties the school record for most games played in a season. The 2000-01 squad also played 35 games when it advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and finished with a 27-8 overall record.

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 +6.1. Ole Miss also leads the league with 15.18 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 31st in the country. Curtis also leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the nation with 4.35 offensive boards per game. Kenny Williams grabs 6.7 boards per contest, good for 11th in the league. The senior forward has posted six double-doubles this season, including 10 points and 11 boards at Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice helps out with 5.4 boards per game.

HE CAN'T MISS (MUCH)
 Hitting shots at an alarmingly high rate, senior center Dwayne Curtis enters the NIT semifinals leading the SEC and ranking fifth in the nation with a 64.3 field-goal percentage. He is on pace to shatter the Ole Miss career and season records for field-goal percentage, as shown in the charts below. Curtis has shot 80 percent or better from the field in nine games.
Ole Miss Career Field-Goal Percentage:
1. .587 Dwayne Curtis (501-853, 2006-08)
2. .561 Rahim Lockhart (474-845, 1998-2001)
3. .560 Roger Stieg (350-624, 1980-83)
Ole Miss Season Field-Goal Percentage:
1. .643 Dwayne Curtis (207-322, 2008)
2. .638 Marcus Hicks (162-254, 1999)
3. .628 Fred Cox (152-242, 1974)

DOUBLE-DOUBLE MACHINE
 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 17 double-doubles in all games and nine in league play. His 17 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 33 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.
Double-Doubles in a Season (Since 1957)
1. 19 Joe Gibbon (21 games, 1957)
2. 17 Dwayne Curtis (34 games, 2008)

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 semifinals, Curtis ranks seventh in Rebel annals with 759 career boards, needing seven more to tie Justin Reed for sixth place. Against Nebraska, Curtis eclipsed the school season record for rebounds and enters the NIT semifinals with 322. 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.
Ole Miss Career Rebounds:
1. 945 Walter Actwood (103 games, 1974-77)
2. 828 Elston Turner (113 games, 1978-81)
3. 827 Joe Gibbon (86 games, 1954-57)
4. 826 John Stroud (110 games, 1977-80)
5. 780 Rahim Lockhart (123 games, 1998-2001)
6. 766 Justin Reed (122 games, 2001-04)
7. 759 Dwayne Curtis (89 games, 2006-08)
Ole Miss Rebounds in a Season:
1. 322 Dwayne Curtis (34 games, 2007-08)
2. 306 Denver Brackeen (22 games, 1954-55)

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. His 17 points at Virginia Tech moved him from 19th to 18th in school history with 1,220 points, as he passed Walter Actwood (1,216 - 1974-77) on the all-time charts. 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 1,275 points in his college 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 BREAKS 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. With 4 3-pointers at Virginia Tech, the rookie eclipsed the Ole Miss season triples record of 96 set by Clarence Sanders last year. Warren enters the NIT semifinals with 98 3-point baskets. He also ranks second in school history with 254 three’s attempted this season. He has hit at least two three’s in all but six games this year.  The charts below show Warren’s rank in the Rebel record books:
3-Point Field Goals Made (Season):
1. 98 Chris Warren (34 games, 2008)
2. 96 Clarence Sanders (34 games, 2007)
3-Point Field Goals Attempted (Season):
1. 262 Clarence Sanders (34 games, 2007)
2. 254 Chris Warren (34 games, 2008)

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 semifinals with 535 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 15.7 points in all games and 17.1 points in league contests.
 The chart below shows Warren’s scoring mark against the all-time best freshmen in school history:
Points by a Freshman:
1. 535 Chris Warren (34 games, 2007-08)
2. 395 Joe Harvell (30 games, 1989-90)
3. 394 Tim Jumper (29 games, 1987-88)

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), free-throw pct. (80.2) and minutes played (31.3/game). Entering the NIT semifinals he ranks fourth in the SEC in free-throw pct., fifth in treys per game and fifth in assists. He ranks 11th in the league in scoring and ninth 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 16-of-34 contests. Warren has nine games with 20 or more points, including seven in league play and one in the NIT. He tallied a team-high 22 points and dished out six assists in the NIT quarterfinal win over Virginia Tech on Wednesday. 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 treys at Arkansas. He scored 25 points at Auburn and tied Trevor Gaskins’ 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. Over his last seven games, Huertas is averaging 16.1 points and 3.9 three’s while grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game during that span. He 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. 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 vs. UCSB, but he returned to score 15 points and post 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals against Nebraska and scored 9 points with 8 assists at Virginia Tech. 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 5.4/game) assists (8th at 4.0/game), steals (5th at 1.6/game) and assist-turnover ratio (6th at 1.78).
 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 1/30-2/16. In his six starts, Graham 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 second-round victory over Nebraska. 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 9.0 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 20 minutes over his last nine 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.


 

 

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