SEASON OPENER: Ole Miss vs. Arkansas State
November 14, 2008 7 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst; Keith Carter, sideline reporter). Listen Online through RebelVision
Live Stats: OleMissSports.com
OLE MISS OPENS SEASON VERSUS RED WOLVES
Ole Miss tips off the 2008-09 regular season this Friday night at 7:00 against the Arkansas State Red Wolves. ASU coach John Brady will be coaching his first regular-season game on the Red Wolves bench after spending 10-and-a-half seasons as the top man at LSU. The Rebels are coming off a 2007-08 season that saw them record the second-most wins in school history (24-11) and advance to the program’s first NIT Final Four appearance. In his first two seasons, Andy Kennedy has compiled 45 wins, becoming just the fourth coach in SEC history to record that feat in his first two years at a league school. Preseason All-SEC first team point guard Chris Warren returns to lead the troops in his sophomore season. Ole Miss boasts a 73-25 all-time record in season openers and has earned a victory in each of the last four.
EXPECTATIONS BUILDING FOR REBEL PROGRAM
With Ole Miss coming off its second straight season of 20 or more wins, as well as an appearance in the 2008 NIT Final Four in New York’s Madison Square Garden, the programs expecatations continue to rise as Andy Kennedy and his staff enter their third year at the helm.
Kennedy is the fourth coach in league history to amass 45 or more wins in his first two seasons at an SEC school, and last year’s 24 wins were the second-highest total in Ole Miss history.
For the first time since Kennedy’s arrival two years ago, the Rebels were not predicted to finish in last place in the SEC’s Western Division. Instead, a poll of SEC and national media tabbed Ole Miss third in the West, and the Rebels received eight votes for first place in the division, while Alabama and LSU received 11 each. Despite being predicted last both years, the Rebels claimed the 2007 division title in Kennedy’s first year at the helm and finished third a season ago.
In various preseason publications, Ole Miss has been predicted to finish as high as first in the division (Blue Ribbon Yearbook) and is tabbed as an NCAA Tournament team by Athlon, ESPN.com Bracketology, Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News, among others.
Leading a potent returning backcourt is sophomore point guard Chris Warren, a preseason All-SEC second team pick by the media. He will be joined by juniors Eniel Polynice and David Huertas and sophomore Zach Graham off last year’s squad.
Sophomore Malcolm White is the lone returning big man. However, a talented group of three freshmen and a junior college transfer will join White in the frontcourt.
SCOUTING THE RED WOLVES
Following a 10-20 campaign a year ago, Arkansas State enters the 2008-09 with a new nickname (Red Wolves) and a new head coach (John Brady). Brady was named the school’s 15th head coach after spending the last 10-and-a-half years as the head coach of the LSU Tigers. Previously known as the Indians, ASU had a 10-20 overall record and 5-13 Sun Belt Conference mark under head coach Dickey Nutt last year. Nutt, a younger brother of current Ole Miss football head coach Houston Nutt, resigned from his post after 13 seasons in Jonesboro. ASU returns three starters and seven lettermen from last year’s squad, including Yima Chia-Kur (11.1 ppg) and leading rebounder Shawn Morgan (9.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg).
OLE MISS-ARKANSAS STATE SERIES
Ole Miss owns an 18-9 record against ASU in the all-time series, including a 14-2 mark in games played in Oxford. The Rebels earned an 85-78 home victory in the teams’ last meeting on Dec. 19, 2005, snapping a four-game losing skid to ASU that lasted from 1990-2004. In the last meeting, Bam Doyne paced the Rebels with 24 points, while Clarence Sanders added 20 in the Rebel win.
GASKINS OUT FOR SEASON WITH ACL INJURY
Ole Miss’ backcourt suffered a blow when the team learned last Friday that sophomore guard Trevor Gaskins will need to undergo season-ending knee surgery after sustaining an ACL injury to his left knee during practice on Thursday. He is expected to get a medical redshirt.
The Alpharetta, Ga., native looked to be a key component to a Rebel backcourt touted by Blue Ribbon Yearbook as the best in the SEC entering this season. Gaskins was voted by the league coaches to last year's SEC All-Freshman team after he averaged 5.9 points per contest. He played in all 35 games with eight starts and was third on the team with 46 three-pointers a season ago.
EXHIBITION GAME: OLE MISS 115, UNA 81
Seven Rebels scored in double-figures, as Ole Miss used a huge second half to blow out North Alabama 115-81 in a preseason exhibition this past Friday afternoon.
Rebel junior DeAundre Cranston paced the way for Ole Miss as he poured in 16 points, including two three-pointers. Malcolm White, Terrance Henry and Terrico White each chipped in with 14 points as every Rebel on the Ole Miss roster scored at least one point. Ole Miss broke the century mark in an exhibition contest for the third straight year. Ole Miss maintained at least an eight-point lead for the first 10 minutes of the second half before going on a 14-0 run to open up a 25-point advantage. Overall, the Rebels shot 61.5 percent in the second half and finished the Halloween special at 56.8 percent from the field.
David Huertas scored the Rebels’ first 10 points and helped Ole Miss to a 52-43 at halftime. Huertas paced the Rebels with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting (2-of-3 three-pointers), while Murphy Holloway added nine points and Cranston eight on 2-of-2 from downtown in the first period.
OLE MISS IN OPENERS
Ole Miss has an overall record of 73-25 (.745 winning percentage) in season openers. The Rebels have won their last four season openers, including last season’s 97-63 triumph over Mississippi Valley State. The last defeat in a season opener was a 74-69 loss to Arkansas State in 2003.
Ole Miss has an overall record of 78-13 (.857 winning percentage) in its first home game of the year, and has won 11 of the last 12 home openers.
Ole Miss boasts a 29-5 record against teams outside of the Southeastern Conference since Andy Kennedy took over the reins in 2006-07. Last year, the Rebels finished the regular season with a perfect 14-0 record against non-league opponents, becoming the second Rebel squad to ever accomplish that feat (1948-49 team was the other). Of the five losses, two came in the NIT (Clemson and Ohio State) and two to nationally ranked foes on the road during the regular season (No. 19 UConn and No. 16 Memphis).
OLE MISS VERSUS SUN BELT
Ole Miss owns a 51-22 record all-time against teams currently in the Sun Belt Conference. Arkansas State is the most frequent Sun Belt foe, and the Rebels hold an 18-9 edge in that series. Louisiana-Monroe is the next most frequent foe, with the Rebels owning a 13-4 record in that series. ASU is the first of three SBC opponents for Ole Miss this season, including South Alabama (Nov. 18) and New Orleans (Dec. 6).
WARREN NAMED PRESEASON ALL-SEC 1ST TEAM BY SEC COACHES
Ole Miss sophomore point guard Chris Warren has been named a first-team selection on the fifth annual men’s basketball coaches preseason All-SEC teams, the Southeastern Conference office announced Monday, Nov. 3. The honor is yet another on Warren’s growing list of preseason recognition, which includes a preseason All-SEC second team selection by the media, as well as numerous spots on preseason magazine lists for top players in the SEC and top point guards in the country.
MEDIA TAB OLE MISS THIRD IN SEC WEST, CHRIS WARREN PRESEASON ALL-SEC 2ND TEAM
A select panel of SEC and national media picked Ole Miss to repeat its third-place finish in the SEC West and tabbed Rebel sophomore Chris Warren second-team All-SEC in its preseason poll released Monday, Oct. 20. Ole Miss was picked third behind Alabama and LSU in a close battle for the SEC West title, while Tennessee took the top spot overall and in the East. The media predicted Ole Miss to finish last in the SEC West each of the last two years, but instead Andy Kennedy guided the Rebel program to a share of the 2007 division title in his first season and to a third-place finish and NIT Final Four berth a year ago.
CELEBRATING THE FIRST 100 YEARS
Ole Miss will promote a season-long celebration of the first 100 years of its hoops history during the 2008-09 campaign. Ole Miss Basketball began on Jan. 28, 1909, with a game against the Memphis Physicians, and has been an integral part of University life ever since. The Rebels have suited up and played games every year but 1918 and 1944, missing those due to World Wars I and II.
The 100 Years Celebration will include a special page on the official athletics web site, OleMissSports.com, as well as a series of honored guests and highlights from the past during home games, climaxed by a past player reunion at the Feb. 21 game vs. Georgia. Stay tuned to OleMissSports.com for more information as the season progresses.
SEC’S BEST BACKCOURT?
With the top five members of last year’s backcourt all returning, including last year’s leading scorer Chris Warren (15.8 ppg, 4.5 apg) and junior starters Eniel Polynice (10.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.1 apg) and David Huertas (10.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Ole Miss might have one of the SEC’s top sets of guards. At least one publication (Blue Ribbon Yearbook) rated the Rebels’ backcourt best in the SEC in its preseason magazine.
DREAMS OF A BIG DANCE
After coming tantilizingly close to an NCAA Tournament bid in each of Andy Kennedy’s first two seasons at the helm, the Rebels look to break into the “Big Dance” this season. Kennedy’s squad is now completely comprised of his own recruits, and the Rebels will try to build on the momentum of last year’s 24-win season and NIT Final Four appearance at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Ole Miss last earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2001-02. The NIT appearances of the last two years broke a string of four straight seasons without a postseason berth from 2003-06.
Ole Miss returns the majority of its backcourt from last season, but suffered “heavy” losses along the front line by the departure of three senior big men. Gone are 6-foot-8, 262-pound All-SEC center Dwayne Curtis, 6-foot-8, 240-pound starting forward Kenny Williams and 6-foot-8, 242-pound forward Jermey Parnell. The lone returning frontcourt member is sophomore Malcolm White, who averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in just 6.7 minutes per game last year. Ole Miss will therefore be relying on several young, but talented, newcomers to fill the big shoes left by those three seniors that helped Ole Miss rank second in the SEC and 12th nationally in rebounding.