GAME 7: Ole Miss (6-0) at UCF (4-3)
December 8, 2007 7 p.m. ET
Orlando, Fla. UCF Arena (10,000)
Live TV: CSS (Matt Stewart, play-by-play; Jan van Breda Kolff, color analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online
XM Radio: Channel 199 (Ole Miss broadcast)
REBELS TAKE FIRST ROAD TRIP OF SEASON
Ole Miss will play away from the friendly confines of the Tad Smith Coliseum for the first time in the regular season when the Rebels visit Central Florida of the Conference USA on Saturday.
The Rebels, who boast the nation’s second-highest scoring offense at 94.5 points per game, are off to a 6-0 start after defeating New Mexico 85-77 in their most recent contest. It is the best start since the 2000-01 squad reeled off 11 straight wins en route to a school-record 27 W’s and an NCAA “Sweet Sixteen” appearance.
UCF is 4-3 on the year after a loss to USF in the Knights’ first true road game of the season.
SCOUTING THE KNIGHTS
UCF has turned a challenging schedule into a 4-3 record to open the season. The Knights won their opening game against Nevada. After dropping games to nationally ranked Villanova and Kansas State squads at the Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the Knights upended Penn State 70-59 to close out the tourney. UCF most recenlty lost to USF 75-67 in its first true road game of the year. The Knights average 71.0 points per game, led by junior guard Jermaine Taylor’s 17.4 ppg. The team plays in the brand new UCF Arena that holds 10,000. Kirk Speraw is in his 15th year as the head coach of the Knights and has guided them to an average of 21 wins over the past five years. He has also led the team to four NCAA Tournaments (94, 96, 04, 05).
OLE MISS-UCF SERIES
The Rebels and Knights will be meeting for the first time on the hardcourt.
REBELS NEAR TOP OF NATION IN SCORING
Six games into the season, Ole Miss is atop the SEC and ranks second nationally in scoring with 94.5 points per game. The Rebels also rank third in the SEC with a +22.2 scoring margin. The Rebels have scored 80+ points in each of their six contests. Ole Miss topped 100 points for the second time this year with a 102-76 victory over Troy last 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.
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.
REBELS IN THE POLLS
Ole Miss is receiving four votes in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 Poll. The last time the Rebels received votes was Jan. 16, 2006, when Ole Miss was the third of six SEC vote getters with seven. The Rebels were last ranked in the top 25 in the final polls of 2000-01, when they appeared as high as No. 9 in the USA Today/ESPN rankings.
HOMECOMING FOR SEVERAL REBELS
Ole Miss has a very strong Sunshine State presence with five players that either hail from or played high school in the state of Florida. Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice is a Sarasota native, while senior forward Kenny Williams is from Miami and played two seasons at St. Petersburg Junior College, and freshman point guard Chris Warren hails from Orlando. A pair of Caribbean natives played high school ball in Florida, including sophomore Puerto Rican David Huertas (Arlington Country Day HS - Jacksonville; University of Florida) and freshman Kevin Cantinol (Calvary Christian HS - Clearwater) from the island of Martinique in the French West Indies.
Ole Miss has won six straight to open the 2007-08 campaign, the best start since the 2000-01 team reeled off 11 straight victories en route to a school-record 27 wins and an NCAA Tournament “Sweet Sixteen” Appearance. The last time Ole Miss won six or more games in a row was Dec. 19, 2005-Jan. 14, 2006 when the Rebels won seven straight.
SHARING THE LOAD
Ole Miss has displayed a variety of ways from up and down its roster to amass 94.5 points per game through six contests. Five different Rebels (and nearly seven) currently average in double figure points, with Chris Warren leading the way at 14.8. Eight Rebels average 15+ minutes, while none rank in the top 30 in the SEC in minutes. The Rebels have had five different leading scorers in six games.
REBELS VERSUS CONFERENCE USA
In non-SEC play, Conference-USA is Ole Miss’ most faced league. The Rebels have an all-time record of 72-96 (.429 winning percentage) against current members of Conference USA, which includes such frequent foes as Tulane (35-55) and Memphis (11-27). Ole Miss has a 7-5 record versus current C-USA teams since the league was formed in the spring of 1995.
WARREN REIGNING SEC FRESHMAN OF WEEK
Rebel point guard Chris Warren turned in a pair of strong performances last week to earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors, announced Monday by the league office. The Orlando native who has started all six games at the point this year, averaged team highs of 19.5 points and 7.5 assists in the two contests. The speedy rookie set career highs with 23 points and 10 assists for his first career double-double in the 102-76 win over Troy. He hit 5-of-9 from behind the arc and directed a 25-0 run at the beginning of the second half to put the game out of reach. He also contributed 16 points, five assists and three steals, with just two turnovers, in a game-high 35 minutes of action in the 85-77 victory over UNM.
Warren tops the SEC and ranks in the top 10 nationally with 7.0 assists per game and leads Ole Miss with 14.8 points per contest. He ranks 13th in the league in scoring and also boasts the league’s fourth-best assist-turnover ratio at 2.63 (42 A, 16 TO). He is the first Rebel to earn a weekly honor from the conference this season and the first since Bam Doyne was SEC Player of the Week on Nov. 27 last year.
BANGING THE BOARDS
With a pair of senior big men leading the way, Ole Miss has been a strong presence on the boards in the early season. The Rebels rank first in the SEC and fourth nationally with 44.3 rebounds per contest, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +10.5.
On the individual level, Kenny Williams tops the team and ranks second in the SEC with 9.0 boards per contest. The senior forward from Miami, Fla., has posted a pair of double-doubles this season.
Senior center Dwayne Curtis is averaging 8.3 boards per game, good for sixth in the conference. The Chicago native ranks second in the SEC with three double-doubles, all posted in the last four games. He has notched 19 double-doubles in his Rebel career.
POLYNICE FILLING IT UP
Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice has put up big numbers in several columns of the stat sheet in the early season. He ranks 18th in the SEC with 14.3 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in field goal percentage (9th at 55.0 pct), assists (8th at 3.8/game), steals (T-10th at 1.8/game), blocked shots (T-15th at 1.0/game) and assist-turnover ratio (13th at 1.77).
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 six games of the season, Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC and eighth in the country in field-goal percentage, making baskets at a 51.8 percent clip. The Rebels have shot over 50 percent from the floor in five of the first six contests.
Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an impressive 141-46 record (.754 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. On Saturday, the Rebels extended their streak to 18 straight wins vs. non-conference foes at home.
Playing just 15.0 minutes per game, junior college transfer Terrence Watson 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. He also averages 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds.
RECORD-BREAKING DEBUT FOR GASKINS
One of several freshmen and newcomers contributing for the Rebels this season, Trevor Gaskins 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.
Gaskins, who hails from Alpharetta, Ga., earned his first starting nod this Saturday vs. New Mexico and ranks second in the SEC with a .567 3-point field goal percentage and fourth in the league with 2.83 three’s made per game.
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.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Zach Graham: An “explosive scorer” according to Kennedy, the rookie from Suwanee, Ga., has proved that true by averaging 7.5 points in 12.2 minutes per game. Posted double figure points in back-to-back games vs. Lamar (12) and Louisiana-Monroe (13).
David Huertas: After starting the first five games, Huertas came off the bench in the 85-77 win over New Mexico. Despite putting up 9.5 ppg, the sophomore transfer from Florida has struggled from behind the arc in his first games as a Rebel, making 7-of-28 three’s at a 25.0 percent clip. He scored a career-high 17 points vs. ULM, and interestingly #33 has brought down 3 rebounds in five straight games.
Jermey Parnell: Started the first three games and has come off the bench since. Season-high 12 points on 6-of-7 from the field vs. Troy.
Malcolm White: Slowed by knee problems in the first part of the season. Saw most action with 14 minutes vs. Troy and put up 6 points and 6 rebounds. The athletic leaper had two huge dunks in that game.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Ole Miss is making its first television appearance of the year after seeing a school-record 22 games televised a year ago. Ole Miss is slated to play at least 14 games on TV this year, which will mark the 10th straight season that the Rebels played 10 or more TV games. Saturday’s game will be televised by CSS, which is slated to also show the Winthrop game on Dec. 13.
In addition, four total games will be streamed live over the web on OleMissSports.com.
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 on Nov. 2.
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.
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.
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.
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).