GAME 6: Ole Miss vs. New Mexico
December 1, 2007 1 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,700)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online
Live Stats: OleMissSports.com
PAIR OF UNBEATENS CLASH IN OXFORD
An early showdown of unbeatens takes place in Oxford on Saturday as the 5-0 Ole Miss Rebels entertain the 7-0 New Mexico Lobos in the last of six straight Rebel home games to open the season.
Ole Miss, with the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense at 96.4 points per game, is 5-0 for the first time since 2000-01, when the Rebels reeled off 11 straight victories to open that season.
New Mexico remained perfect with a 57-48 win over Southern Utah on Wednesday. The Steve Alford-led Lobos are 7-0 for the first time since 1998-99 and have won six straight home games since opening the year with a victory at Colorado.
SCOUTING THE LOBOS
New Mexico, under the direction of former Iowa coach Steve Alford, is 7-0 for the first time since 1998-99. The Lobos have won six straight home decisions after opening the season with a road victory at Colorado. UNM’s balanced attack that has produced 78.1 points per game is led by former Kansas standout J.R. Giddens, who averages team highs of 13.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The Lobos rank among the top teams in the nation with 9.7 three-pointers per game, a field-goal percentage of .503 and three-point percentage of .425. All 10 Lobos on the active roster have seen action in each of the first seven games, with each player averaging more than 15 minutes per contest. Last year’s second-leading scorer, Tony Danridge, is out until mid-January after he broke his left fibula on Oct. 4.
OLE MISS-NEW MEXICO SERIES
The Lobos hold a 2-0 advantage over the Rebels in the all-time series. New Mexico prevailed 95-42 in the most recent contest on Nov. 19, 2005 in Albuquerque. The No. 16-ranked Lobos won 75-64 in the championship game of the 1996 Lobo Invitational also in Albuquerque.
REBELS NEAR TOP OF NATION IN SCORING
Five games into the season, Ole Miss is atop the SEC and ranks second nationally in scoring with 96.4 points per game. The Rebels also rank second in the SEC with a +25.0 scoring margin. Ole Miss topped 100 points for the second time this year with a 102-76 victory over Troy on Tuesday. It is the first time Ole Miss has topped the century mark twice in a season since the 1998-99 campaign. The 108 points in the Nov. 16 win over Lamar were the most in a game since Ole Miss beat Prairie View A&M 111-50 on Dec. 29, 1998.
The Rebels have used explosive spurts of firepower to rack up the points. They have scored 50 points in at least one half of every game thus far.
Kennedy’s style of "pressure basketball" paid tremendous dividends for the Rebels on the offensive side last season. The team averaged 73.1 points per game, a 7.9 raise from the year before, and the highest clip since scoring 77.0 per game in 1998-99.
WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE
When running an up-tempo style of offense, much of the success is determined by how many turnovers the defense can create and how few turnovers the offense gives up. Ole Miss has done an outstanding job in both facets through five games, as the Rebels rank second in the SEC with 18.4 turnovers forced, 12.2 turnovers committed and a +6.2 turnover ratio. Ole Miss also boasts the top assist-turnover ratio in the league at 1.67. The Rebels had a feast with Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, creating 31 Warhawk turnovers and giving up the ball just eight times.
SHARING THE LOAD
Ole Miss has displayed a variety of ways from up and down its roster to amass 96.4 points per game through five contests. Six different Rebels (and nearly seven) currently average in double figures, while no Rebel ranks in the top 30 in the SEC in minutes played. Five different Rebels have been the leading scorer for each contest, including Trevor Gaskins (21 vs. MVSU), Eniel Polynice (28 vs. South Alabama; 17 vs. ULM), Dwayne Curtis (19 vs. Lamar), David Huertas (17 vs ULM) and Chris Warren (23 vs. Troy).
The Rebels’ starting point guard in his first five collegiate games, super speedy Chris Warren has gotten off to a fabulous start to his Rebel career. The Orlando, Fla., native ranks 16th in the SEC with 14.6 points per game, while he is the league’s top assist man with 7.4 assists per contest. He also boasts the league’s fourth-best assist-turnover ratio at 2.64 (37 A, 14 TO). In his most recent contest, Warren put up career highs of 23 points and 10 assists vs. Troy for his first career double-double.
BANGING THE BOARDS
With three senior big men leading the way, Ole Miss has been a strong presence on the boards in the early season. The Rebels boast the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +11.8, ranking in a tie for first with 46.0 rebounds per game and fifth in allowing 34.2 opponent rebounds.
On the individual level, Kenny Williams (Miami, Fla.) tops the team and ranks second in the SEC with 9.2 boards per contest. Dwayne Curtis (Chicago, Ill.) is averaging 8.0 per game, which is good for a tie for fifth in the conference.
Curtis and Williams have each collected a pair of double-doubles, in wins over Lamar and Troy.
POLYNICE FILLING IT UP
Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice (Sarasota, Fla.) has put up big numbers in several columns of the stat sheet in the early season. He leads the team and ranks 14th in the SEC with 14.8 points per game. He also ranks among the league leaders in field goal percentage (9th at 56.4 pct), assists (13th at 3.6/game), steals (T-6th at 2.2/game), blocked shots (T-14th at 1.2/game) and assist-turnover ratio (9th at 1.80).
Polynice shattered several career highs with his stellar performance in the Nov. 13 win over South Alabama, including career bests of 28 points, seven 3-pointers and seven rebounds. He also brought down seven boards in the 102-76 win over Troy.
Through the first five games of the season, Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC in field-goal percentage, making baskets at a 51.9 percent clip. The Rebels shot over 50 percent from the floor in each of the first four contests.
Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an impressive 140-46 record (.753 winning percentage) versus non-conference opponents. Ole Miss has been particularly dominant against out of conference clubs at home. Ole Miss did not lose a non-conference battle at Tad Smith Coliseum last year and has only dropped five such games since 1995. The Rebels enter Saturday’s affair riding a 17-game win streak vs. non-conference foes at home.
Playing just 15.0 minutes per game, junior college transfer Terrence Watson (Detroit, Mich.) has proven to be a disruptive force on the defensive end. The 6-5 junior post man has used a 7-0 wingspan and tremendous leaping ability to swat 2.25 blocks per game, good for sixth-most in the SEC. He also averages 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds.
record-breaking debut for gaskins
One of several freshmen and newcomers expected to contribute for the Rebels this season, Trevor Gaskins (Alpharetta, Ga.) got off to a furious start to his Ole Miss career in the season opener.
Gaskins finished one 3-pointer shy of the school record with seven treys on 10 attempts, but did collect the freshman record previously held by Josh Hayes, who stroked six three’s against Troy State on Dec. 18, 2000 and Joe Harvell, who had six vs. Kentucky on Jan. 27, 1990. The Ole Miss record of eight was set by Keith Carter against Prairie View A&M on Dec. 29, 1998.
CURTIS TABBED PRESEASON ALL-SEC
Senior center Dwayne Curtis has established himself as one of the top post men in the Southeastern Conference and has been named to the preseason All-SEC second team by the media and league coaches. He was also rated the SEC’s “Most Underrated” by The Sporting News. The Chicago, Ill., native averaged 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds for last year’s SEC Western Division champions. At 6-foot-8 and 262 pounds, Curtis has been the Rebels’ top rebounder in each of his two years in Oxford. In his sophomore year he put up team highs of 13.6 points and 7.6 boards per game in garnering All-SEC honorable mention status from the Associated Press.
PACKING THE PAD
Over the last decade, the "Tad Pad" proved to be one of the toughest arenas in the nation for opposing teams to play, and second-year head coach Andy Kennedy has only added to that success. Ole Miss owns a 21-1 record at Tad Smith Coliseum since Kennedy took the reins last season. Last year’s 16-1 mark established an arena record for single-season wins. Kennedy’s club inspired a huge homecourt advantage during SEC play, averaging 8,241 fans and drawing a record crowd of 9,452 for the victory over No. 18 Alabama. Ole Miss has won 152 of its last 185 games (.822 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 387-180 (.683 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.
OLEMISSSPORTS.COM STREAMS LIVE GAMES
Rebel fans can catch the Ole Miss basketball teams in action on OleMissSports.com this season, as the Rebels’ official website will air live webcasts of four men’s games and six women’s games.
In addition, OleMissSports.com premium subscribers can view replays of all men’s and women’s home games on-demand. Replays will be available at 8 a.m. CST the following day per Southeastern Conference regulations.
Remaining on the live schedule of men’s games is the Alabama A&M contest on Jan. 2 and Presbyterian College on Jan. 11.
REBELS TOPPLE DELTA STATE 110-65 IN EXHIBITION
Ole Miss jumped out to a huge 36-point halftime lead and did not look back in a 110-65 exhibition win over Delta State last Friday night.
Six Rebels scored in double figures in the blowout, led by sophomore guard David Huertas’ 18 points. Freshman point guard Chris Warren poured in 17 points and nine assists. Sophomore Eniel Polynice, freshman Trevor Gaskins and freshman Zach Graham chipped in 13 points apiece, and senior Dwayne Curtis added 12.
The Rebels displayed a fast-pace attack and had major contributions from several of the newcomers that are looking to fill the void left by last year’s senior backcourt leaders Todd Abernethy, Bam Doyne and Clarence Sanders.
OLE MISS-USM ANNOUNCE 3-YEAR SERIES
TeleSouth Communications in conjunction with The Mississippi Department of Tourism recently announced a three-year, three-game men’s basketball series between Ole Miss and Southern Miss.
The series begins this year in Southaven at the Desoto County Civic Center on Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. CT. The rivalry will then move to Jackson’s Mississippi Coliseum on Dec. 27, 2008, and the final game will be staged in Biloxi at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum with the date yet to be determined.
Each game will be treated as a neutral court for each team with game officials from both Conference USA and the Southeastern Conference.
NEW TAD PAD VIDEO BOARDS ON DISPLAY
Among the recent improvements to C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum are colorful new video ribbon boards that were installed prior to the season opener.
The arena has been fitted with 360 total feet of the Sideline ProAd Video Plus Displays above the top row of seating. The two 180-foot strips run baseline-to-baseline parallel to each sideline.
The $2 million project, which also included ribbon video boards at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, was paid for by TeleSouth Communications and installed by Daktronics, Inc.
Other recent changes to Tad Smith include extending the student section bleachers to the top of the North end zone and a newly painted ceiling. Other alterations already in the works include renovations to the media work area, officials locker rooms and cheerleaders warmup area. Those projects are expected to be completed by the end of December.
Big shoes need to be filled in the backcourt as three productive senior guards must be replaced. Todd Abernethy, Clarence Sanders and Bam Doyne provided the bulk of the Ole Miss scoring and leadership in 2006-07.
A three-year Team Captain, Abernethy was a fixture as the Rebel floor leader from the second he stepped on campus and was arguably the SEC’s top point guard a year ago.
The leading candidates to grab the reins as primary ballhandler are a pair of true freshmen in Chris Warren (Orlando, Fla.) and Trevor Gaskins (Alpharetta, Ga.).
Warren is a 5-foot-10 speedster who proved to be an all-around leader in his prep career. The Orlando native directed Dr. Phillips to the Florida 6A state title game for the first time ever and holds school records in virtually every statistical category.
At 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, Gaskins provides a physical presence at the point. He too was a 20-point scorer in high school, and the Georgia native opted for Ole Miss over Tennessee and Florida State.
Helping facilitate the post-Abernethy era is fourth-year Rebel Brian Smith (Lexington, Ky.). The senior and son of Tubby Smith has provided key minutes and some big-game dramatics during his tenure in the Red and Blue.
Sanders and Doyne supplied an effective one-two scoring punch from the Ole Miss wings last year, averaging 16.1 and 14.9 points, respectively.
Sophomore transfer David Huertas (Humacao, Puerto Rico) sparred with that duo in practice everyday. The previous year, he battled with Lee Humphrey and Corey Brewer for playing time as a member of Florida’s 2006 national champion squad.
Another 6-foot-5 former Florida prep standout, Eniel Polynice (Sarasota, Fla.) saw action in every game with eight starts last year and is vying to be a full-time starting wing as a sophomore. Polynice posted four double-figure scoring games and helped energize several comeback rallies.
Stout competition for a starting role will come from freshman Zach Graham (Suwanee, Ga.), who was tabbed the No. 89 recruit in this year’s incoming class. The 6-foot-5, 220 pounder was a do-everything star athlete at Georgia’s Peachtree Ridge High School, where he holds nearly every basketball and football quarterback record.
Mississippi JUCO Player of the Year Wesley Jones and returning sophomore Rodney Jones provide further depth on the wings.
Ole Miss enjoys a wealth of experience and some serious upside in the frontcourt. Three seniors help make the blocks an area of strength for the Rebels.
Despite missing the first eight games of 2006-07, Dwayne Curtis (Chicago, Ill.) still amassed the most rebounds on the team and notched nine double-doubles, giving him 16 over his two seasons in Oxford. The 6-foot-8, 262-pounder was an all-conference honoree as a sophomore and is among the most seasoned big men in the SEC.
Kennedy’s first signee as Ole Miss mentor, Kenny Williams (Miami, Fla.) started 22 games and topped the club in field goal percentage and blocked shots. After a strong finish, Williams averaged 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Athletic forward Jermey Parnell (Gosnell, Ark.) has exhibited flashes of dominance over his three seasons, but long hours of conditioning in the spring and summer could have the 6-foot-8, 242-pounder poised for a breakout year.
These seniors will be fending off some talented youngsters for minutes. JUCO forward Terrence Watson (Detroit, Mich.) comes in prepared for immediate battle. The versatile forward from Michigan led his team to a national championship, earning All-America and conference Defensive Player of the Year accolades.
Malcolm White (Greensburg, La.) is one of the most highly touted signees in school history, rated as the nation's No. 64 recruit in the 2008 class before qualifying a year sooner. The 6-foot-9 Louisiana native averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks on Genesis One’s national prep school championship runner-up team.
Include 6-foot-10 Kevin Cantinol (Guadeloupe, French West Indies) and the Rebels have a pair of freshmen forwards waiting in the wings. Hailing from the French West Indies, Cantinol guided Florida’s Calvary Christian High School to its first Final Four appearance, garnering All-State honors.
SANDERS TAKEN IN NBA D-LEAGUE DRAFT
After breaking out as an All-SEC player for last year’s SEC West Champion Ole Miss Rebels, Clarence Sanders has a chance to take his game to the professional ranks after he was drafted by the Anaheim Arsenal in the seventh round of the NBA Development League Draft on Nov. 1.
A native of Phenix City, Ala., Sanders led Ole Miss and ranked fifth in the Southeastern Conference with 16.1 points per game last season en route to All-SEC second team honors from the league coaches.
Known for his ability to stroke one from behind the arc at any moment, Sanders set a school record with 96 three-pointers last season, as well as leading the SEC with 56 treys in league play.
Sanders is the third Rebel to play in the NBA D-League, which was formerly known as the NBDL. Rahim Lockhart was an All-NBDL performer in 2001-02, while Ansu Sesay was the NBDL’s Player of the Year that season.
MORE REBELS IN THE PROS
Ole Miss’ two other senior leaders from a year ago have also moved on to the professional ranks in recent months. All-SEC guard Todd Abernethy is a member of the Matrixx Magix in Holland, while Bam Doyne ranks second on his Falco KC-Szombathely team with 20.3 points per game after seven contests in the Hungary League.
Other Rebels currently playing professionally overseas include Derrick Allen (Germany), Keith Carter (Italy), Aaron Harper (Ukraine), Londrick Nolen (Uruguay), Ansu Sesay (Italy), Jason Smith (Romania) and LaTaryl Williams (England).
YEAR TWO OF KENNEDY ADMINISTRATION
After leading an underdog Ole Miss squad to the top of the SEC Western Division and an NIT second round appearance, 2007 SEC Coach of the Year Andy Kennedy has picked up where he left off by guiding his young Rebel squad, predicted for the second straight season to finish last in the West, to five straight wins to open the year.
Kennedy directed Ole Miss to a 21-13 record in 2006-07, which marked the most wins by a Rebel head coach in his first season at the helm. It was also the most wins by any Rebel team since the 2000-01 NCAA Tournament “Sweet Sixteen” squad.
Kennedy faces another daunting task this year as he mentors a team comprised of only two returning starters and 10 newcomers.
The Louisville, Miss., native was introduced as the 20th head men's basketball coach in the history of the University of Mississippi on March 24, 2006. He spent the 2005-06 season as the interim head coach at the University of Cincinnati, helping the Bearcats to a 21-13 record and NIT Quarterfinals appearance playing a schedule rated fifth-toughest in the nation amid difficult circumstances.