GAME 6: Ole Miss (4-1) vs. Morgan State (2-4)
Saturday 11.29.08 | 1 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. | C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Keith Carter, analyst). Listen Online through RebelVision
Live Stats: Watch Live on OleMissSports.com
2008 NIT PARTICIPANTS LOCK HEADS IN OXFORD
A battle between two of last year’s National Invitation Tournament squads will take place in Oxford on Saturday when the Bears of Morgan State visit the Rebels for a non-league showdown. The game technically counts as part of the Glenn Wilkes Classic tournament that was played last weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla. Ole Miss went 1-1 in Florida with an 83-72 loss to Utah and a 82-78 win over Marshall. The Rebels returned to Oxford and used a big second half to beat UCF 78-46 on Wednesday. David Huertas paces the Rebels with 22.8 ppg, while Chris Warren contributes 17.8. The duo accounts for more than 52 percent of the team’s total points. Last year’s regular season MEAC champion, MSU went 1-2 in last week’s tourney, defeating Marshall (72-67) and dropping a pair of games to Utah (66-37) and Wisconsin-Green Bay (71-54).
INJURIES HIT REBELS HARD
It’s been more like an “injury elephant” than an “injury bug” in the early season for Ole Miss. In an 11-day stretch during the first two weeks of play, the Rebels lost two key members of its backcourt in sophomore Trevor Gaskins and junior Eniel Polynice with season-ending injuries.
The most recent news came on Tuesday, Nov. 18, hours prior to the Rebels’ game vs. South Alabama, when the team found out that Polynice’s arthroscopic surgery to his left knee revealed extensive cartilage damage and loose fragments that will put the Rebels’ most veteran leader on the shelf for four to six months of rehabilitation.
Eleven days earlier the team suffered a blow when Gaskins, a member of last year’s SEC All-Freshman team, would need to undergo season-ending surgery to his left knee after tearing his ACL.
Both Polynice and Gaskins were expected to be primary pieces of a Rebel backcourt touted by at least one preseason publication (Blue Ribbon Yearbook) as the best in the Southeastern Conference.
Polynice averaged 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 34 games last year, including 31 starts. Andy Kennedy has routinely called Polynice the team’s best perimeter defender and one of the toughest competitors on the squad. Gaskins was one of the team’s top long-range threats a year ago when he ranked third on the squad with 46 treys, while averaging 5.9 points per contest. Entering his sophomore year, he was considered one of the toughest competitors and an emotional leader of the team.
Remaining scholarship backcourt members are junior David Huertas, sophomores Chris Warren and Zach Graham and freshmen Will Bogan and Terrico White.
SCOUTING THE BEARS
Morgan State enters Saturday’s contest with a 2-4 reocrd, including a 1-2 mark at last weekend’s Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla. Head coach Todd Bozeman’s team is coming off a 22-11 campaign a year ago that saw the Bears go 14-2 to finish in first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and earn a trip to the NIT. A preseason pick by the MEAC coaches to defend its league title, this season’s squad is led by Marquise Kately and Reggie Holmes, who are both averaging a team-high 10.2 points per game. Kately also posts 5.8 rebounds per contest, while Holmes is the team’s top long-ball threat with 12 three-pointers in six games.
OLE MISS-MORGAN STATE SERIES
Ole Miss owns a 2-0 record all-time against Morgan State with a pair of home wins in the mid-1990s. The Rebels upended the Bears 90-68 on Dec. 1, 1994, and 91-57 on Dec. 31, 1996 for an average margin of victory of 28.0 points.
DEFENDING HOME COURT
Winning at home has been a trademark of Andy Kennedy’s squads since he took over the reins in 2006-07. With the 78-46 win over UCF on Wednesday, Ole Miss improved to 35-3 in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum over the last three seasons. The Rebels have won their last eight straight at home and 24 straight over non-league foes at the Tad Pad.
The Rebel men and women will be playing a home doubleheader Saturday, with the women taking on Nicholls State at 3:30 following the men’s game. The last time the Ole Miss hoops squads hosted a doubleheader was Feb. 2, 2000, when the men played Arkansas and the women took on Mississippi State.
Ole Miss boasts a 33-6 record against teams outside 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). The Rebels’ 83-72 loss to Utah last Friday was the first regular-season loss to a non-league foe since the 2006-07 season. Of the other losses, two came in the NIT (Clemson and Ohio State) and two more to a nationally ranked foe on the road (No. 19 UConn and No. 16 Memphis).
HUERTAS & WARREN SHOULDERING THE LOAD
Junior guard David Huertas and sophomore guard Chris Warren are playing the majority of minutes and scoring most of the points for the Rebels through four games. Each player is averaging over 33 minutes per game (Warren-33.4, Huertas-33.0), while the duo combines for 40.6 points per contest, 53 percent of the team’s 77.2 average. Entering the Morgan State game, Huertas ranks second in the SEC with a 22.8 average, while Warren is fifth at 17.8.
HUERTAS DOESN’T SKIP A BEAT
Picking up where he left off at the end of last season, David Huertas has had a hot shooting touch in the Rebels’ first five games, averaging a team-high 22.8 points, good for 2nd in the SEC. The junior guard has scored 20 or more points in four of the five contests, including a season-high 27 in the win over South Alabama. He ranks among the SEC leaders in points, three-pointers (3.6/game), field-goal percentage (50.0, 34-of-68) and minutes played (33.0/game) after five games. Against USA, he tied his career high with 7 three’s, which is tied for the second-highest single-game total in school history. Huertas was instrumental in the Rebels’ run to the NIT Semifinals last season, averaging 16.1 points, 5.0 rebs and 4.0 three’s over the final 8 games.
DEFENSE DOMINATES AGAINST UCF
The Rebel defense produced one of its best performances in several years in Wednesday’s 78-46 rout of UCF. The 46 points were the fewest allowed by an Ole Miss team since a 69-43 win over Nicholls State on Dec. 15, 2005, meaning it was also the fewest points allowed for an Andy Kennedy-coached Rebel squad. Ole Miss held UCF to a 30.6 field-goal percentage, the second-lowest allowed by a Rebel team in Kennedy’s three years (25.5 - Miss. Valley St. on Nov. 10, 2006).
For the season, Ole Miss is allowing just 66.0 points per contest, well below its average of 72.9 allowed to opponents last season.
WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE KEY
In each of the Rebels’ four wins, they have forced more turnovers than they have committed, while in their one loss they tied Utah with 16 turnovers apiece. In fact, Ole Miss has forced 15 or more turnovers in each game thus far, including a season-high 18 against Marshall on Sunday. Ole Miss enters the Morgan State game with a +2.6 turnover margin.
20-POINT SCORING GAMES
David Huertas and Chris Warren have made scoring 20 or more points commonplace in the early going this season. Huertas has cracked the 20-point mark four times in the first five games, while Warren had two straight 20+ outings in Daytona Beach. In fact, both players scored more than 20 in the Rebels’ win over Marshall (Warren 28, Huertas 21), becoming the first Rebel duo to accomplish that feat since Huertas (29) and Dwayne Curtis (26) in last year’s SEC Tournament first-round game vs. Georgia. For their career, Warren now has 11 20+ point outings, while Huertas has racked up five.
RECORDS THAT WERE MEANT TO BE BROKEN
In just their second season playing for the Red and Blue, Chris Warren and David Huertas are both moving up Ole Miss’ career three-point charts at a break-neck pace. With nine treys this year, Warren has moved into eighth place all-time with 112. Huertas has knocked down 18 from downtown and recently moved into sole possession of 10th place on the all-time chart.
OLE MISS CAREER THREE-POINT FIELD GOALS
1. 278 Aaron Harper (123 games, 2001-04)
2. 249 Keith Carter (117 games, 1996-1999)
3. 214 Joe Harvell (114 games, 1990-93)
4. 163 Jason Harrison (132 games, 1999-02)
5. 158 Todd Abernethy (122 games, 2004-07)
6. 131 Joezon Darby (81 games, 1996-98)
7. 127 Clarence Sanders (60 games, 2006-07)
8. 112 Chris Warren (40 games, 2008-present)
9. 107 Kendrick Fox (112 games, 2002-05)
10. 93 David Huertas (40 games, 2008-present)
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
WILL BOGAN: Freshman set season highs with 8 points and 2 three-pointers against Marshall.
DeAUNDRE CRANSTON: JUCO transfer set a season high with 12 rebounds along with 8 points vs. UCF ... Started his first game as a Rebel vs. Marshall ... Had 9 points and 5 rebounds vs. South Alabama ... Despite a wide, 6-9 frame, has the ability to connect from long range.
ZACH GRAHAM: Contributed 9 points and 5 boards off the bench vs. UCF ... Just hours after learning that junior guard Eniel Polynice would miss the remainder of the season, Graham stepped into Polynice’s spot in the starting lineup vs. South Alabama and responded with a career-high 16 points, including 3-for-4 from the field, 2-of-3 from downtown and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw stripe ... Made seven starts as a freshman last season and averaged 5.9 points in 35 appearances.
TERRANCE HENRY: Season-high 8 rebounds vs. UCF ... Earned a spot in the starting lineup for the first three games of his collegiate career ... Tallied 8 points and 7 rebounds vs. Utah ... Had 8 points and 6 boards against South Alabama.
MURPHY HOLLOWAY: Team’s top scorer off the bench with 7.4 points per game ... Scored 11 points with 6 rebounds against Utah ... Picked up 4 steals vs. Marshall.
MALCOLM WHITE: Has started all five games as a sophomore after playing in 26 contests with no starts his rookie season ... Tops the team in blocked shots (1.2/game).
TERRICO WHITE: Season-high 8 points and 2-of-4 from behind the arc in start vs. UCF ... Earned his first starting nod in the 82-78 win over Marshall, scoring 6 points and grabbing 5 rebounds ... Season-high 5 assists vs. South Alabama ... First Memphis signee for Kennedy’s program.
SCHOOL-RECORD FREE THROW PERFECTION
Ole Miss set a school record and tied the Southeastern Conference record with a perfect 22-for-22 performance from the free-throw line in last Tuesday’s 89-71 win over South Alabama. It was the first time a Rebel team has converted every attempt in a game with 20 or more chances, and only the fourth time in SEC history for a team to accomplish that feat. Sophomore guard Zach Graham led the way with 8-for-8 from the charity stripe, while Chris Warren, Terrance Henry and David Huertas were 4-for-4 and Murphy Holloway made both of his attempts. The performance was a far cry from last year’s Rebel squad that made just 65.1 percent of its free-throw attempts on the season.
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.
PACKING THE PAD
Over the last decade, the "Tad Pad" has proven to be one of the toughest arenas in the nation for opposing teams to play, and third-year head coach Andy Kennedy only added to that success. Ole Miss owns a 35-3 record at Tad Smith Coliseum since Kennedy took the reins in 2006-07.
The Oxford crowds have jumped on board, too. The 2007-08 season averages of 7,301 fans per game and 8,994 fans at each SEC contest both set school records. The LSU game saw the Tad Pad’s second-highest attendance ever with 9,328 fans and the Florida game crowd of 9,304 ranks sixth in arena annals. Six of last year’s crowds ranked among the top 20 in facility history.
Ole Miss has won 166 of its last 201 games (.826 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 401-182 (.688 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in 1965-66.
REBELS ON TV
At least 15 games will be televised this season, marking the 11th straight season that the Rebels will have played 10 or more TV games. Nationally televised contests include Dec. 18 vs. Louisville (ESPN), Jan. 27 vs. Kentucky (ESPN) and Feb. 7 at Vanderbilt (CBS). Ole Miss followed up a school-record 22 TV appearances in 2006-07 with 20 more last year.