GAME NOTES: Rebels Face No. 5 'Nova For Tourney Title
GAME 5: Ole Miss (4-0) vs. #5/6 Villanova (4-0)
Sunday 11.22.09 | 9 p.m. AT
San Juan, Puerto Rico | Coliseo de Puerto Rico
REBELS TAKE ON NO. 5 VILLANOVA IN TITLE GAME
After wins over the Big Ten's Indiana and the Big 12's Kansas State, Ole Miss has advanced to Sunday's title game of the O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off and will face Big East favorite and No. 5-ranked Villanova ina 9 p.m. AT tilt on ESPN2. It's the second straight trip to Puerto Rico in which the Rebels have made the championship game, as they defeated No. 15 Clemson to win the San Juan Shootout title in 2007. Preseason All-SEC guards Chris Warren and Terrico White led the way in Friday's win over K-State with 27 and 25 points, respectively. Warren was the MVP of the San Juan Shootout as a freshman in '07. Villanova is the first top-5 ranked opponent for Ole Miss since No. 1 Florida in Jan. 2007. The Wildcats match the highest ranked non-league regular-season foe in program history.
- No. 5 Villanova matches the highest ranking of a regular-season non-conference foe in Ole Miss program history (No. 5 Memphis in 2007).
- The Rebels are making their second straight title game appearance in a Puerto Rican tournament.
- The 86 points scored against Kansas State was the lowest total of the year for Ole Miss (previous totals of 92, 90 and 89).
- Ole Miss is 4-7 against ranked teams under Andy Kennedy, including an 85-80 win over No. 24 Kentucky (1/27/09) in their last such outing.
- Ole Miss is receiving votes in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the second straight week.
- Ole Miss has a 42-10 record against non-conference opponents under Kennedy.
- The Rebels defeated Villanova 72-70 in the 1999 NCAA Tournament first round, the teams' only previous meeting. The Rebels are 7-8 all-time against current members of the Big East Conference.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Ranked No. 5 by the AP and No. 6 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, Villanova is 4-0 on the year after winning its first two games in San Juan over George Mason (69-68) and No. 18 Dayton (71-65). Jay Wright's Wildcats were the preseason favorite to win the Big East this year after their trip to the Final Four last season. They return two starters and nine lettermen off that 30-8 squad. Junior guard Corey Fisher tops four players who average double figures with his 15.3 ppg. Preseason All-Big East senior guard adds 12.0 ppg.
OLE MISS-VILLANOVA SERIES
The Rebels beat the Wildcats 72-70 in the first round of the 1999 NCAA Tournament in the teams' only previous meeting. Marcus Hicks had 21 points and current Ole Miss Radio analyst Keith Carter had 18 to lead the way. Current assistant coach Michael White had seven assists as the Rebels' point guard. Ole Miss would lose its second-round game to eventual national champion Michigan State.
OLE MISS VERSUS BIG EAST FOES
Ole Miss owns a 7-8 all-time record against current members of the Big East Conference. Villanova is the first of two Big East team's on this year's schedule. Ole Miss plays a Dec. 23 game at West Virginia, who was picked to finish second in the league behind Villanova.
REBELS VS. NATION'S TOP 5
Villanova is the first top-5 opponent for the Rebels since playing No. 1 Florida in January 2007. Villanova matches the highest ranked non-conference regular-season opponent in Ole Miss history. The Rebels previously lost to No. 5 Memphis 72-49 on Dec. 17, 2005. The last time Ole Miss defeated any top-5 opponent was a 73-69 win over No. 3 Kentucky on Jan. 11, 1997.
REBELS VS. RANKED FOES
The 5th-ranked Villanova Wildcats represent the first ranked opponent for the Rebels this season. Ole Miss is 4-7 against top-25 opponents in four years under head coach Andy Kennedy, including an 85-80 win in their most recent such contest against No. 24 Kentucky last year.
REBELS AT THE BEACH
Ole Miss is participating in a tournament in a sunny, beach locale for the third straight year. The Rebels had much success at the San Juan Shootout in December 2007, winning the Puerto Rican tourney title with three straight wins, including an 85-82 championship game triumph over No. 15 Clemson that put Ole Miss back on the national radar screen when the team's record improved to 11-0 at the time. The Rebels went 2-1 during last year's Glenn Wilkes Classic (Daytona Beach, Fla.).
BIG WIN OVER K-STATE PROPELS TEAM TO FINAL
Ole Miss used an 86-74 win over the Big 12's Kansas State Wildcats to advance to Sunday's title game of the O'Reilly Auto Parts Pueto Rico Tip-Off. Preseason All-SEC guards Chris Warren and Terrico White led the way with 27 and 25 points, respectively. Ole Miss made 22-of-27 free throws in the game, including 16-of-17 in the second half.
REBELS IN THE POLLS
Ole Miss is receiving votes in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. The last time the Rebels were ranked in the top 25 in one of those two polls was Jan. 28, 2008, when they were No. 24 and 22, respectively.
In four seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss has racked up a 21-2 record in November games, including a 4-0 mark this year entering the Villanova game.
Ole Miss boasts a 42-10 record against teams outside the SEC since Andy Kennedy took over in 2006-07. The 2007-08 Rebels finished the regular season with a perfect 14-0 record against non-league foes, becoming the second Rebel squad to accomplish that feat (1948-49). Last year, the team went 9-5 against teams outside the SEC.
REBELS' "D" TURNS UP THE HEAT
Ole Miss has proven itself as a high-pressure defensive squad this season. The Rebels rank second among SEC teams with a +5.8 turnover margin and third with 10.5 steals/game. The defensive intensity has also forced teams into a lot of bad shots, as the team has limited opponents to a 38.6 percent field-goal percentage.
PROLIFIC OFFENSE IN THE EARLY GOING
Fast-break buckets, slashing drives and a nice outside touch have been key components to Ole Miss averaging 89.2 points per game, which is third-highest among SEC teams. The team put up 90+ points in each of the first two contests before finishing with "only" 89 against Indiana and 86 vs. Kansas State. The Rebels have done it with balanced scoring, as six players average at least 8 ppg, led by Terrico White's 17.3 average.
SULTANS OF SWAT
There's a new strength on this year's team that the Rebels have not featured much in years past - the blocked shot. The intimidating presence of freshman Reginald Buckner, who leads the team and ranks second in the SEC with 3.8 blocks per game, has helped the Rebels swat 34 shots in four games. The 12 blocks against Indiana on Thursday were one shy of a school record.
POLYNICE FILLS UP THE STAT SHEET
Healthy for the first time since 2007-08, junior guard Eniel Polynice is back to doing what he does best - filling up every area of the stat sheet. He currently ranks 28th in the SEC in scoring (12.3), sixth in assists (4.8) and eighth in steals (2.3). Against Kansas State he put up 13 points, 5 boards and 2 steals. Against Indiana, he posted 10 points, 7 assists, 2 blocks and a steal, while against Alabama State, he had 17 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals and a block.
HOLLOWAY HAS CAREER NIGHT
Sophomore forward Murphy Holloway posted a career-high 26 points against Indiana on Thursday. He did what he does best by tipping in loose rebounds and finding a soft spot in the defense for Eniel Polynice to find him on several occasions. Holloway finished 12-for-18 from the floor and added seven rebounds in the win.
Holloway followed that up with 10 points and 10 rebounds against Kansas State on Friday, his second double-double of the year.
Expected to boast one of the top backcourts in the SEC, and perhaps the country, Ole Miss has already displayed its prowess among the guards, as Terrico White leads the team with 17.3 ppg and Chris Warren is right on his heels with 16.0 ppg. Eniel Polynice (12.3 ppg) and Zach Graham (8.0 ppg) have helped fill up the stat sheet in a number of areas.
The backcourt has been ranked as high as ninth in the country by one national preseason outlet (Lindy's) and best in the SEC by another (Blue Ribbon). Warren, White, Polynice and Graham have all been a full-time starter during the last two seasons, while Trevor Gaskins was an SEC All-Freshman team member with Warren in 2007-08 before Gaskins missed last season with an ACL injury.
CRANSTON LEADS TEAM TO BIG OPENING WIN
DeAundre Cranston scored a career-high 21 points to go with seven rebounds, and Ole Miss dominated UALR en route to a 92-64 win in the season opener. The Rebels got out to a 27-8 early lead and never looked back. Murphy Holloway also helped solidify the frontcourt play with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
ALL PLAYERS HEALTHY ENTERING 2009-10
After one of the most bizarre rashes of injuries one could imagine decimated the Ole Miss roster a year ago, all players are healthy and full-go entering the 2009-10 campaign. Sophomore guard Trevor Gaskins and junior guard Eniel Polynice, who missed all of last season with knee injuries, returned to action early in the summer. After tearing his ACL in the Rebels' 11th game last year, Chris Warren also returned to action during the summer. Zach Graham played through the last half of the season with a partially torn patella tendon, had surgery in April to repair the tear, and returned to action for preseason camp.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Tonight's Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game vs. Villanova on ESPN2 is the third of at least 21 Ole Miss games scheduled for live television this season, including all 16 regular-season conference games as part of the SEC's 15-year deals with CBS and ESPN. The Rebels had a school-record 22 games televised in 2006-07.
In addition to being picked to finish second in the SEC West in the SEC media poll, Ole Miss received a favorable outlook from a number of preseason publications. Among the highlights are FoxSports.com predicting the Rebels to win the SEC West and placing them at No. 25 in its preseason poll. Outlets that tabbed the Rebels as an NCAA Tournament team include Lindy's, Athlon, CBS Sports, FoxSports.com and Yahoo! Sports.
Terrico White was named a preseason All-American, as well as the nation's No. 4 scorer (Athlon) and No. 4 shooting guard (Lindy's), while Chris Warren was tabbed the nation's No. 9 floor leader (Athlon). The Rebel backcourt has been ranked as high as 9th-best in the country (Lindy's).
WHITE MAKES NAISMITH, WOODEN LISTS
The reigning SEC Freshman of the Year, sophomore guard Terrico White was named to the 2009-10 Naismith Preseason Watch List and a preseason candidate for the 2009-10 John R. Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year trophy before the season. White, who scored 18.4 ppg in league play last season, is one the nation's top 50 college basketball players on each list.
TWO REBELS PRESEASON ALL-SEC
Ole Miss sophomore guard Terrico White was a unanimous selection to the preseason All-SEC first team and junior guard Chris Warren was voted to the second team in the coaches preseason poll. They also received the same preseason All-SEC honors from the media. Ole Miss tied for the most preseason All-SEC selections among league schools. Warren was voted preseason All-SEC for the second straight year.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
- Reginald Buckner: Has swatted 15 shots in his first four collegiate outings ... Season-high 12 rebounds with 3 blocks vs. Indiana ... Posted 7 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks vs. Alabama State ... Had 4 blocks and 4 rebounds in collegiate debut vs. UALR ... He is the Tennessee high school record holder for career blocked shots.
- DeAundre Cranston: Shooting 80.0 percent from the field (12-of-15) ... Career-high 21 points (8-9 FGs, 3-4 3-pters) with 7 boards in season opener.
- Trevor Gaskins: Played in his first game since 2007-08 after missing last year with injury and scored 7 points with 3 boards and 3 assists in opener.
- Zach Graham: Scored 11 points in back-to-back games vs. Alabama State and Indiana ... Scored in double figures 12 times (10 times in SEC play) a year ago.
- Terrance Henry: Returned from injury to post 2 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in just 5 minutes of play in his first action of the season vs. Indiana ... Injured his hand slipping on stairs on campus and missed the first two games.
- DeAngelo Riley: Made his Rebel debut in the opener and had 5 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 10 minutes of action.
- Chris Warren: Season-high 27 points with 3 assists in win over Kansas State ... 16 points vs. Indiana.
- Terrico White: Season-high 25 points with 7 rebounds vs. K-State ... 9-point outing against Indiana snapped a string of 14 straight double-digit scoring games ... Led the team with 19 points vs. Alabama State.
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