Ole Miss Makes First Trip to Connecticut for HCF Classic

Ole Miss (2-0) vs. Fairfield (0-3)
November 17, 2006 5:30 p.m. ET
Hartford, Conn.   Hartford Civic Center (16,294)

 Ole Miss makes its first ever trip to Connecticut this weekend, competing in the Hispanic College Fund Classic. The Rebels open with Fairfield in the road opener before taking on Central Arkansas and tournament host UConn.
 With Tuesday’s 69-54 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, Ole Miss is off to its first 2-0 start since beginning the 2000-01 season 11-0. Through two contests, Bam Doyne leads the club, averaging 15.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists. Fellow senior guard Clarence Sanders is scoring 15.0 per game, and struck for a team-high 22 Tuesday
 The Rebels' first two games of this weekend's tourney will be televised live in a free webcast. The video can be seen on OleMissSports.com and will feature the Ole Miss Radio Network call.

 On March 24, 2006, Andy Kennedy was introduced as the 20th head men's basketball coach in the history of the University of Mississippi. A Louisville, Miss., native, Kennedy spent the 2005-06 season as the interim head coach at the University of Cincinnati.
 With less than three months to prepare and shorthanded on staff and scholarship players, Kennedy had to lead a shaken Bearcat program that was preparing for its debut season in the BIG EAST. Despite the obstacles, he directed Cincinnati to a 21-13 record, defeating 12 foes ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI and playing a schedule rated fifth-toughest in the nation. Kennedy's Bearcats narrowly missed an NCAA Tournament bid and had their season end in the NIT quarterfinals.
 Kennedy proved himself both as an astute strategist and a top-notch recruiter in more than a decade of coaching in the college ranks. Athlon named him one of the nation's top 10 assistant coaches, and Rivals.com listed him among the top 20 college basketball recruiters. In addition to Cincinnati, Kennedy was also an assistant at his alma mater UAB and South Alabama.

 A new era begins this season for Fairfield as Ed Cooley takes over the program. Cooley joins the Stags after spending the last nine seasons as an assistant coach at Boston College, and the last 10 years working with Head Coach Al Skinner. Cooley has seven letterwinners and two starters back from a Stags squad that was 9-19 in 2005-06. This year’s starting lineup features three freshmen, including 6-foot-7 forward Greg Nero. The New Yorker is pouring in 18.3 points per game and hung 23 on Holy Cross. Fellow underclassmen Anthony Johnson (Fr., F) and Jonathan Han (So., G) are each adding 8 points per contest.

 This will mark the first ever meeting between Ole Miss and Fairfield. In fact, the Rebels have never previously faced a school from the state of Connecticut.

 Ole Miss has a 43-53 overall mark in its first road game of the year (including neutral sites). The Rebels have won their last two road openers and both of which were in regular-season tournaments. Ole Miss knocked off Southern Utah at the Jim Thorpe Classic last year and South Carolina State at the BCA Classic in 2004-05.

 The Rebels have an all-time record of 58-56 (.509 winning percentage) in regular-season tournaments in their history, and are competing in one for the third straight season. Last year, Ole Miss posted a 2-1 mark at the Jim Thorpe Classic at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. The Rebels defeated Southern Utah (69-62) and South Carolina State (71-47) and lost to host New Mexico (95-42).
 In 2004-05, Ole Miss took part in the Black Coaches Association Classic at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center. The Rebels went 1-2 in the event, collecting an opening win over South Carolina State (64-52) but falling to Air Force (60-36) and Illinois State (70-52).
 In 2001-02, the Rebels placed fourth at the BP Top of the World Classic, notching wins over Wichita State (80-68) and host Alaska-Fairbanks (75-58) but falling to Bowling Green (82-78) in the opener.
 In 2000-01, Ole Miss placed second at the Yahoo! Sports Invitational (formerly Pearl Harbor Invitational). The Rebels defeated Southern Illinois (70-66) and Southern Cal (84-83, OT), but came up short against Iowa State (73-68) in the championship game.
 In 1999-2000, Ole Miss won the inaugural SoCon Holiday Hoops Tournament in Greenville, S.C., defeating Wisconsin-Green Bay, 57-53 in the title game. Prior to that tournament title, the Rebels' previous regular-season tournament crown came in the 1993-94 season, a 78-74 victory over Southern Mississippi in the Cellular South/Mississippi Beach Shootout (one-game tournament). The previous time Ole Miss won a two-day tournament title was in the 1988-89 campaign when the Rebels claimed the Bayou Classic championship with wins over Southern (90-88) and Nicholls State (74-53).
 The Jim Thorpe Classic will be only the ninth three-day tournament for the Rebels in their history. The last three-day tournament came a year ago at the BCA Classic. The Rebels' other three-day tournaments were at the BP Top of the World Classic in 2001-02, the Yahoo! Sports Invitational in 2000-01, the SoCon Holiday Hoops Tournament (Greenville, S.C.) in 1999-2000, Puerto Rico Holiday Classic (San Juan, Puerto Rico) in 1998-99, All-College Tournament (Oklahoma City, Okla.) in 1972-73, Gulf South Tournament (Shreveport, La.) in 1960-61 and All-American City Tournament (Owensboro, Ky.) in 1954-55.

 Senior guard Todd Abernethy is listed as probable for the Fairfield game. He was injured three minutes into the season opener after his head collided with an opposing player’s shoulder on a screen. Abernethy suffered a slight concussion and had five stitches over his right eye. He did not play the rest of the way but did return to the bench for the second half. The three-time Team Captain missed the first game of his career Tuesday against Louisiana-Lafayette.
 Ole Miss is without junior center Dwayne Curtis after the preseason All-SEC honoree fractured the third metatarsal in his left foot in the third day of preseason practice. Midway through last week, Curtis moved from crutches to a walking boot, and is expected to be wearing the boot for at least an additional two weeks. The foot will be x-rayed at that point, and Curtis may begin full workouts with the team.

 Bam Doyne has led the team or tied for the team lead in rebounding and assists in each of the first two games, posting 6 boards and 4 dimes in each contest. For the young season, the senior guard also leads the squad in scoring at 15.5 per game, and dropped a team-high 19 on Mississippi Valley State in the opener. He is also a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe.

 Clarence Sanders has found his stroke at this season’s start. In the Louisiana-Lafayette win, the senior guard connected on 4-of-7 3-pointers in posting his third career 20-point outing with a team-high 22. After posting a .357 shooting clip a year ago, Sanders boasts a .464 field goal percentage in the season’s early goings.

 After making no starts as a rookie, sophomore forward Xavier Hansbro has received the starting nod in each of the first two games. In his first career start in the season-opening win over Mississippi Valley State, the Trezevant, Tenn., native responded with his second double-digit scoring outing as a Rebel, dropping in 11 points along with 6 rebounds. Coincidentally, Hansbro’s only other double-figure game was in last year’s season opener, when he hit 4-of-6 3-pointers for 12 points against Southern Utah.

 With starting point guard Todd Abernethy leaving with injury in the game’s opening moments, junior guard Brian Smith stepped in admirably in the season opener, helping lead the Rebels to the 72-49 victory over Mississippi Valley State. Smith played 21 minutes and recorded career highs of 10 points and 4 rebounds. He connected on 4-of-7 field goals, including 2-of-4 treys. The 5-foot-11 guard earned his first career start against Louisiana-Lafayette and saw 17 minutes of action.

 Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an impressive 124-41 record (.750 winning percentage) versus non-conference opponents. Ole Miss has been particularly dominant against out of conference clubs at home. Last year’s loss to No. 5 Memphis was only the Rebels’ fifth non-SEC home loss since 1995. 



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