Ole Miss Opens 2005-06 Campaign At Jim Thorpe Classic

Nov. 17, 2005

Ole Miss begins the 2005-06 campaign at the Jim Thorpe Classic, this weekend in Albuquerque, N.M. The Rebels face Southern Utah Friday in the opener before taking on New Mexico and South Carolina State. Ole Miss knocked off Spring Hill College 91-70 in exhibition action Friday at Tad Smith Coliseum. The Rebels add seven newcomers to six returnees for the 2005-06 lineup. Ole Miss boasts one of its biggest teams in school history with six post players and a pair measuring 6-foot-9 in height. The Rebels are beginning their 96th basketball season dating back to 1908 with an all-time record of 1033-1128.

Rod Barnes is beginning his eighth season at the helm of the Ole Miss Rebel basketball program and took the bench for his 200th game as a head coach in 2004-05. The 2001 Naismith and CollegeInsider.com National Coach of the Year, Barnes has a 127-93 record. Barnes' 127 coaching victories in his first 220 games is the most of any Ole Miss coach over that span and is the second-most wins in school history. His .577 winning percentage is the highest of any Rebel coach of seven years or more.

In 2000-01, Barnes was the SEC Coach of the Year, and guided Ole Miss to a school-record 27 wins and the program's first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 berth. Another winning season and postseason tournament followed in 2001-02 -- both were the sixth straight for the Ole Miss program.

Barnes was hired as the Rebel head coach on April 9, 1998. A 1988 graduate of Ole Miss, Barnes served as an assistant under Evans from 1993-98. During his time as an assistant coach, the Rebels compiled a record of 76-63 and won back-to-back Southeastern Conference Western Division titles and received consecutive NCAA Tournament berths in 1997 and 1998. Barnes played at Ole Miss from 1984-88 and was an All-American honorable mention his senior season. He is the only person in SEC history to earn both All-SEC and SEC Coach of the Year honors.

Led by new center Dwayne Curtis, 10 Ole Miss players scored and three hit for double figures, as the Rebels knocked off Spring Hill College 91-70 in exhibition action last Friday at Tad Smith Coliseum. Curtis, a sophomore transfer from Auburn, posted 29 points and 18 rebounds in 23 minutes and shot 13-of-19 from the field. Sophomore Brandon Patterson dropped in 15 points, while junior transfer Clarence Sanders scored 11. Bam Doyne totaled 9 assists, 6 points and 4 boards. The Rebels never trailed in the contest and led by as much as 27. The Badgers pulled within one, 22-21, at the 10:00 mark of the first half, but Ole Miss followed with a 19-3 run and finished the period with a 50-32 halftime advantage.

Ole Miss has an overall record of 70-25 (.737 winning percentage) in season openers. The Rebels snapped a three-game skid in openers with last year's 64-52 win over South Carolina State at the BCA Classic. Ole Miss has a 42-53 overall mark (.442 winning percentage) in its first road game of the year (including neutral sites). Last season's SCSU victory also ended a three-game losing streak in road openers.

The Rebels have an all-time record of 56-55 (.505 winning percentage) in regular-season tournaments in their history. Last year, Ole Miss took part in the Black Coaches Association Classic at Milwaukee's Bradley Center. The Rebels wen 1-2 in the event, notching 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.

Southern Utah returns five lettermen and three starters from last year's 13-15 squad that finished eighth in the Mid-Continent Conference. Heading the list of returning Thunderbirds is senior forward Rand Janes, who tied for third on the team in scoring a year ago at 8.7 per game.

Also back is junior point guard Steve Barnes, who led SUU and ranked third in the Mid-Con in assists with a 4.54 average along with a 6.2 scoring clip. In his 14th season at Southern Utah, head coach Bill Evans is looking for his first winning season since his 2001 unit finished 25-6 and reached the NCAA Tournament.

Friday's season opener will mark the first ever meeting between the Rebels and Thunderbirds. In fact, Ole Miss has never faced a team from the state of Utah.

The Rebels have an all-time record of 12-7 (.632 winning percentage) versus current members of the Mid-Continent conference. Since 1992, Ole Miss is 8-1 against the Mid-Con, with the lone loss being the NCAA Tournament upset to Valparaiso in 1998. The Rebels' last MCC meeting came in 2003-04 with a 75-65 victory over Centenary, whom the Rebels host this year on Nov. 26. The following chart shows Ole Miss' all-time results versus teams from the Mid-Continent Conference:

Centenary             5-6
Chicago State         0-0
IUPUI                 1-0
UMKC                  0-0
Oakland               1-0
Oral Roberts          4-0
Southern Utah         0-0
Valparaiso            1-1
Western Illinois      0-0

Ole Miss adds seven new faces in 2005-06 to a Rebel squad that returns six letterwinners. The lone starter among that group is senior forward Londrick Nolen, who finished first on the team in blocks (0.6) last season, tied for first in rebounding (4.4), second in scoring (9.8) and third in steals (0.9).

After earning SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors a year ago, junior guard Todd Abernethy is expected to return to the starting lineup this season. The Carmel, Ind., native boasts career averages of 6.9 points and 2.7 assists with a 2.2/1 assist/turnover ratio.

Sophomore center Dwayne Curtis will see his first action with the Rebels this year after transferring from Auburn, where he played in 19 games starting five for the Tigers in 2003-04. Also joining the Rebels is an incoming class that was ranked as high as third in the nation by recruiting publications.

With 10 opponents that advanced to 2005 postseason play, Ole Miss faces another challenging basketball schedule in 2005-06. The slate boasts 17 home games and nine matchups set for TV.

The non-conference slate is highlighted by New Mexico at the seson-opening Jim Thorpe Classic as well as home encounters with Memphis, Saint Louis and two-time Southland Conference champion Southeastern Louisiana.

The Rebels are beginning SEC play on the road for the seventh time in Barnes' eight years at the helm, and will start the conference schedule against Alabama for the first time since the 1977-78 season. Ole Miss faces each Western Division opponent (Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State) twice on a home-and-home basis.

Ole Miss hosts SEC Eastern Division foes South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt, and travel to Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The SEC Tournament returns to Nashville's Gaylord Entertainment Center.

Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an 112-38 record (.747 winning percentage) versus non-conference opponents. Non-conference foes have found Ole Miss especially tough under head coach Rod Barnes (1998-99 through 2004-05), as the Rebels have an impressive 77-21 mark (.786 winning percentage) against out-of-conference teams. Ole Miss has been dominant against non-SEC clubs at home. The last December's loss to Florida State was only the Rebels' fourth non-conference home loss since 1995.

Throughout his Rebel tenure, defense has become a trademark of Rod Barnes' squads, and that was certainly evident a year ago. Ole Miss held its opponent in the 30s in shooting percentage seven times last season. The Rebels forced 12 opponents into 18 or more turnovers, including Mississippi State in Starkville with 19. The Rebels finished fourth in the SEC in scoring defense (64.1), and limited nationally-ranked Kentucky to 53 points -- 22.6 below their average at the time. Ole Miss held Alabama 14.8 points below their scoring average at 66. The Rebels limited two opponents under 50 points last season, making 27 times in Barnes' seven years at the helm that the opposition was contained below 50. The Rebels held 12 foes under 60 points.

The Rebels' 2004 signing class was tabbed as one of the nation's best. HoopScoop Online rated the class third in college basketball, while Rivals.com had it 16th-best in their ranking. Four different states are represented in the class.

Some people think they can do everything, and last year Londrick Nolen proved at times that he could. The senior forward started all 26 of the 31 games a year ago, and filled the stat line in the process. Nolen topped the team in blocks (19), tied for the team lead in rebounding (4.4), finished second in scoring (9.8) and third in steals (29). Nolen punched in double-figures in 16 games with three 20-point outings, including 21 at Auburn when he dropped in 18 second-half points. Nolen notched his first double-double in the Red and Blue with 19 points and 12 rebounds at Arkansas. Facing UL-Monroe, he notched a season-high 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-5 threes, with five assists. Nolen tallied a team-best 21 points and 5-of-7 treys at Arkansas State. sec sixth man of year

Todd Abernethy was the SEC Sixth Man of the Year last season. A sophomore guard and team captain, Abernethy became the first Rebel to receive the honor, which was first awarded by the conference last year. The Carmel, Ind. native started the first 34 games of his collegiate career, but moved to the sixth-man role against Memphis in December. In his 21 games off the pine, Abernethy provided Ole Miss with quality minutes at both point guard and shooting guard. As a reserve, he posted eight double-figure scoring outings and seven games with four or more assists.

Ole Miss strengthened both its frontcourt and backcourt last week, receiving national letters of intent from Solomon Bozeman, a 6-foot-1, 165-pound guard, and Herbert Terry, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward. Bozeman and Terry will attend Ole Miss beginning in the 2006-07 academic year.

The son of former Rebel assistant coach Eric Bozeman, Solomon was the Oxford Eagle Player of the Year in 2005, when he scored 25.1 points per game as a junior at Oxford High School. Bozeman also averaged 6.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 53 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range. Bozeman will finish his prep career this season at Magnolia High School in Magnolia, Ark., where his father is the head coach at Southern Arkansas. Eric Bozeman accepted the head position at SAU after seven years on Barnes' Ole Miss staff.

A native of Indianapolis, Terry averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds a game last year for Southport High School, where he also earned state track honors in the high jump. He transferred from Southport to Southside High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., for his senior season. Terry played summer ball with Fort Wayne-based Blessed IJN and dropped in over 30 points a game with 14 boards at the prestigious Hoosier Shootout in July.

Also new to the Rebel lineup in 2006-07 will be Justin Cerasoli, who transferred to Ole Miss from Seton Hall in July. The 6-foot-5, 180-pound guard is practicing with the team this fall but is ineligible for the 2005-06 season by NCAA transfer rules. Cerasoli may begin playing in the 2006-07 campaign with three years of eligibility remaining.

After a thrilling 53-52 opening-round win over South Carolina, Ole Miss advanced to the SEC Tournament second round in 2005 for the second time in three years and the sixth time in the last nine tourneys. The Rebels' season ended with the second-round loss to Alabama.

Todd Abernethy earned his second straight SEC Academic Honor Roll award in 2005. The junior guard is a Banking & Finance major with a 3.41 GPA. Abernethy was an SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll recipient in 2004, when he also earned SEC All-Freshman Team accolades.

Ole Miss was on the short end of some heartbreaking battles a year ago, particularly in conference play. The Rebels dropped 10 games by 11 points or less, including eight of the team's 12 SEC losses. Ole Miss either led or was within two possessions inside the final minute in seven of the 12 SEC defeats. The Rebels led eighth-ranked Kentucky until the final 3:41, and had two shot attempts to tie the game in the 53-50 heartbreaker. Ole Miss was on top of No. 22 Alabama by as much as eight points in the second stanza, and held a three-point edge over Arkansas with 1:15 remaining. The Rebels held double-digit leads in both games with Mississippi State and missed the game-tying three with 20 ticks left in Starkville. In the regular-season finale, Ole Miss led South Carolina by as much as 14 before falling in overtime.



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