GAME 7: Ole Miss (5-1) vs. West Virginia (4-1)
Wednesday 12.03.08 | 8 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. | C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061)
Live TV: FSN South (Dave Neal, play-by-play; Barry Booker, analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Keith Carter, analyst). Listen Online through RebelVision
Live Video: ESPN360.com (Free on-campus viewing at all U.S. colleges and universities)
XM Radio: Channel 199
Live Stats: Watch Live on OleMissSports.com
KENNEDY, HUGGINS REUNITE IN NON-LEAGUE SHOWDOWN
Ole Miss is riding three straight wins and will cap a three-game home stand with a marquee non-conference showdown against BIG EAST foe West Virginia on Wednesday at 8 p.m. CT. The game will be a reunion for the team’s head coaches. Rebel coach Andy Kennedy was an assistant under WVU coach Bob Huggins for four successful seasons at Cincinnati from 2001-02 to 2004-05. The Rebels are coming off a 78-70 home win over Morgan State in which Chris Warren and David Huertas again led the way with 25 and 22 points, respectively. It was the second game this season when both have topped the 20-point mark. Huertas paces the Rebels with 22.7 ppg, while Warren contributes 19.0. The duo accounts for more than 53 percent of the team’s total points.
OLE MISS COLLECTING SHOES FOR KENYA
In an effort to help less fortunate athletes in Kenya race after their dreams, the Ole Miss Student-Athlete Advisory Council has established the “Rebel Reruns” Shoe Project, which will annually assist underprivileged Kenyan athletes in preparing for their athletic careers.
SAAC members will be collecting shoes prior to the West Virginia game at Tad Smith Coliseum. Fans are asked to bring new and slightly used shoes and donate them to this worthwhile effort. Serving as co-project manager is Kaplong, Kenya native Barnabas Kirui, an SEC and NCAA champion senior on the Rebel track team.
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.
SCOUTING THE MOUNTAINEERS
West Virginia comes into this week’s contest with a 4-1 overall record after suffering its first defeat of the year with a 54-43 loss to Kentucky in the championship game of the Las Vegas Inviational on Saturday. Despite the low-scoring affair, Bob Huggins’ squad still averages 76.8 points per game and allows just 53.0 to opponents. Alex Ruoff leads three Mountaineers in double-figure scoring with a 15.8 average. The senior guard/forward also tops the squad with 16 three-pointers and 12 steals. Da’Sean Butler adds 12.4 points per game and Darryl Bryant 10.6. The Mountaineers out-rebound opponents 35.6-27.4 (+8.2 rebounding margin), while they have forced 112 turnovers and committed just 68 (+8.8 turnover margin). Huggins’ team fell just short of an Elite Eight berth in his first season at the helm when WVU dropped a 79-75 overtime decision to Xavier in last year’s Sweet Sixteen, after beating Arizona and Duke in the first two rounds. They finished with a 26-11 record and 11-7 mark in BIG EAST play.
OLE MISS-WEST VIRGINIA SERIES
The Rebels and Mountaineers are meeting for the first time.
Wednesday’s game features a reunion of head coaches Andy Kennedy and Bob Huggins, who spent four successful season together at the University of Cincinnati. With Kennedy as a top assistant and recruiting coordinator under Huggins from 2001-02 to 2004-05, the Bearcats won 24.5 games per year and made four NCAA tournament appearances along with a pair of Conference USA regular-season and tournament titles. When Huggins left Cincinnati prior to the 2005-06 season, Kennedy took over as UC’s interim head coach and led an injury-riddled squad to a 21-13 record and NIT berth.
Ole Miss boasts a 34-6 record against teams outside the SEC 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 foes, becoming the second Rebel squad to ever accomplish that feat (1948-49). The Rebels’ 83-72 loss to Utah in Daytona Beach was the first regular-season loss to a non-league foe since 2006-07. Of the other losses, two came in the NIT (Clemson and Ohio State) and two to a ranked foe on the road (No. 19 UConn and No. 16 Memphis).
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 78-70 win over Morgan State on Saturday, Ole Miss improved to 36-3 in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum over the last three seasons. The Rebels have won their last nine straight at home and 25 straight over non-league foes at the Tad Pad.
REBELS VS. BIG EAST
Ole Miss sports a 7-6 all-time record against current members of the BIG EAST Conference. West Virginia is the first of two scheduled games against a BE opponent for the Rebels this season, including a Dec. 18 date with Louisville at the SEC/BIG EAST Invitational in Cincinnati. Listed below are records against BIG EAST foes:
Cincinnati 0-1 Notre Dame 1-1
Connecticut 0-1 Pittsburgh 0-1
DePaul 1-1 St. John’s 0-1
Georgetown 1-0 USF 1-0
Louisville 2-0 Villanova 1-0
FREE-THROW LINE SUCCESS
Ole Miss leads all Southeastern Conference teams and ranks fourth in the nation with an 82.2 free-throw percentage. The Rebels set a school-record with a 22-for-22 performance at the line against South Alabama and shot 93.8 percent (15-of-16) from the stripe against Morgan State. Chris Warren leads the league with his 91.2 percent free-throw shooting (31-of-34), while David Huertas ranks fifth at 86.5 (32-of-37). It is a marked improvement from a year ago, when the Rebels made just 65.1 percent of their attempts.
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 six games. Each player is averaging over 33 minutes per game (Warren-34.3, Huertas-33.7), while the duo combines for 41.7 points per contest, 53.9 percent of the team’s 77.3 average. Entering the West Virginia game, Huertas ranks second in the SEC with a 22.7 average, while Warren is fourth at 19.0.
HUERTAS TAKES GAME TO A NEW LEVEL
David Huertas has had a hot shooting touch in the Rebels’ first six games, averaging a team-high 22.7 points, good for 2nd in the SEC. The junior guard has scored 20 or more points in five of the six contests, including each of the last three. Against South Alabama, he notched a season-high 27 points and tied his career high with 7 three’s, which is tied for the second-highest single-game total in school history. Huertas’ production was kick-started by his finish last year, when he was instrumental in the Rebels’ run to the NIT Semifinals, averaging 16.1 points, 5.0 rebs and 4.0 three’s over the final 8 games. Entering the week, he ranks among the SEC leaders in several categories this year, as listed below:
Huertas’ SEC ranks (AS OF 12/1)
Category SEC/NCAA Rank Statistic
Points 2nd/13th 22.7/game
Rebounding T-26th 5.0/game
FG Percentage 6th 51.9
FT Percentage 5th 86.5
3-pt FG Percentage 3rd 45.5
3-pt FGs Made 1st/38th 3.33/game
Minutes Played 5th 33.67/game
WARREN DOING SOME OF EVERYTHING
Following up a sensational rookie campaign, sophomore point guard Chris Warren has become an even more well-rounded player this season. Entering the week, he ranks fourth in the SEC with 19.0 points per game, while he is also the league’s leader in free-throw percentage and steals and ranks among the top SEC players in several other categories, as listed below:
Warren’s SEC ranks (AS OF 12/1)
Category SEC/NCAA Rank Statistic
Points 4th 19.0/game
Assists T-6th 4.33/game
FT Percentage 1st/44th 91.2
Steals 1st/27th 2.83/game
3-pt FGs Made 10th 2.17/game
Assist-Turnover Ratio 4th 2.36
Minutes Played 4th 34.33/game
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 five times in the first six games, while Warren has done so three times. In fact, both players scored more than 20 in Rebel wins over Marshall (Warren 28, Huertas 21) and Morgan State (Warren 25, Huertas 22). For their career, Warren now has 12 20+ point outings, while Huertas has racked up six.
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 13 treys this year, Warren has moved into eighth place all-time with 116. Huertas has knocked down 20 from long range 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. 116 Chris Warren (41 games, 2008-present)
9. 107 Kendrick Fox (112 games, 2002-05)
10. 95 David Huertas (41 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 9 points (including 3-of-3 from FT line) vs. Morgan State ... 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 7.3 points per game ... Had 7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks vs. Morgan State ... Scored 11 points with 6 boards vs. Utah ... Picked up 4 steals vs. Marshall.
Malcolm White: Has started all six games as a sophomore after playing in 26 contests with no starts his rookie season ... Tops the team in blocked shots (1.3/game).
Terrico White: 7 points with season-high 6 rebounds vs. Morgan State ... Season-high 8 points and 2-of-4 from behind the arc vs. UCF ... Earned his first starting nod in the 82-78 win over Marshall, scoring 6 points and grabbing 5 boards ... Season-high 5 assists vs. South Alabama ... First Memphis signee for Kennedy’s program.
DEFENSE DOMINATES AGAINST UCF
The Rebel defense produced one of its best performances in several years in last 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 66.7 points per contest, well below its average of 72.9 allowed to opponents last season.
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 an 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.
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.