Ole Miss Renews Mid-South Rivalry at No. 16 Memphis Saturday

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Game 9: Ole Miss (7-1) vs. #16/17 Memphis (6-2)
December 9, 2006 Noon CT
Memphis, Tenn. FedEx Forum (18,400)

Live TV: CSS (Tom Hart, play-by-play; Sonny Smith, color analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst; Richard Cross, analyst)

 Ole Miss faces its second top-25 opponent of the year Saturday in Mid-South rival Memphis. The Rebels have won four of the last seven games with the Tigers and notched a 12-point victory in their only previous meeting at the FedEx Forum.
 Following a perfect 3-0 homestand, Ole Miss is off to its best start since 2000-01. Before taking a week off for final exams, the Rebels posted an 85-77 win over New Orleans. Bam Doyne and Jermey Parnell scored 16 points apiece, while Kenny Williams and Eniel Polynice added 15. Doyne has led or tied for the team-lead in scoring four times and ranks third in the SEC at 17.9 ppg.

 The Ole Miss basketball team is taking a break from its trip to Memphis to visit St. Jude Children’s Hospital on Friday afternoon.
 At 3 p.m., Ole Miss players and coaches will take part in a meet and greet with patients in the lobby before splitting up and touring the hospital.
 The Rebels will be sharing and taking photographs with the children and their families, and at least one patient has expressed to being a long-time, loyal Ole Miss basketball fan.
 “We want our players to understand the impact they can have on young people,” said Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy. “It’s exciting for our program to give back to such a great cause.”

 Memphis is facing a second straight SEC rival and struggled with the first, falling to cross-state foe Tennessee Thursday 76-58 in Knoxville. In their only other loss, the Tigers surrendered a 16-point lead in a 92-85 defeat to No. 19 Georgia Tech at the Maui Invitational. After posting a 33-4 mark and reaching the NCAA Elite Eight a year ago, Memphis has risen as high as 11th in the national rankings this season. Four players are scoring in double-figures, including sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts at 15.3 ppg. Sophomore forward Robert Dozier is averaging 12.8 points and 7.0 rebounds, and senior guard Jeremy Hunt is coming off the bench with 11.6 points and 34.6-percent 3-point shooting (16-of-44). Junior forward Joey Dorsey is totaling 9.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per outing. Memphis is 3-3 against Ole Miss under head coach John Calipari.

 Saturday's game will be the 38th overall meeting between the two schools, and will mark the ninth-straight year that the two teams have faced on the hardwood. The Tigers lead the overall series 26-11, although the Rebels have taken four of the last seven meetings. Fifth-ranked Memphis prevailed 72-49 in last year’s encounter in Oxford, despite 13 points from Clarence Sanders.
 The Tigers enjoy an 18-3 edge when playing in Memphis, but are 0-1 vs. Ole Miss in the FedEx Forum. On Dec. 11, 2004, the Rebels fired on all cylinders in a 65-53 road win at Memphis. Led by Tommie Eddie’s 18 points, the Ole Miss offense had one of its highest post outputs of the year with a 38-18 advantage in points in the paint. Eddie was one of five players in double-figure and one of four players with four or more assists, as Ole Miss enjoyed a 21-7 edge in dimes. The Rebels also had a 31-28 lead on the boards in turning in one of their most memorable victories of the 2004-05 season.

 With only 82 miles separating the two campuses, Ole Miss and Memphis have developed a heated regional rivalry, particularly since the series renewed in 1998-99. After a seven-year drought, the series reconvened with a Memphis overtime win in 1998, and Ole Miss has won four of seven games since.

 Ole Miss junior center Dwayne Curtis returned to the practice floor on Nov. 27 for the first time since fracturing the third metatarsal in his left foot in the third day of preseason practice. Curtis’ status is considered day-to-day.

 Andy Kennedy’s style of “pressure basketball” has paid some early dividends for the 7-1 Rebels, particular on the offensive side. Ole Miss is averaging 77.0 points per game, a 12.0 raise from a year ago, and connecting on 38.4 percent of its 3-pointers, which is a 5.6 improvement. The Rebels’ 100-80 victory over Nicholls marked only the second time since 2001 for the team to reach the century mark in points. Ole Miss’ current scoring clip is the highest since averaging 77.0 per game in 1998-99.

 The Rebels currently rank third in the SEC in free throw percentage at 71.9. That figure is nearly 9 points higher than last year’s 63.0 percentage and would be the highest since firing at a 73.8 clip in 2001-02. The Ole Miss seniors are leading the charge with Bam Doyne at 85.5, Todd Abernethy at 82.6 and Clarence Sanders at 79.2.

 With the absence of All-SEC center Dwayne Curtis, the Rebels have relied on junior forwards Jermey Parnell and Kenny Williams to fill the offensive void on the blocks. After combining for only 2 points in the loss at UConn, the frontcourt duo has caught fire since, together posting 29.0 points and 13.6 rebounds over the last three games. Over those three contests, Parnell averaged 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 75.0-percent shooting, while Williams added 14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 65.5-percent from the floor.

 Ole Miss has been a strong second-half team this season, outscoring the opposition by an average of 9.0 points after intermission this year and 16.7 over the last three games. In all of the last three contests, the Rebels rallied from halftime deficits to claim victories.

 Ole Miss leads the conference in fewest turnovers at 10.1 per contest. The Rebels have been in single-digit giveaways in five of the eight games. Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC in assist/turnover ratio (1.35) and third in turnover margin (+4.75).

 Bam Doyne is among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking third in scoring (17.9), eighth in rebounding (7.6), 10th in field goal percentage (.449), second in free throw accuracy (.855) and eighth in minutes played (32.50). The senior guard has topped the team or tied for the team-lead in scoring in four games, including a career-high 25 in the win over Tennessee Tech. He recorded his sixth 20-point game in the Red and Blue with 20 against Nicholls. Doyne also tallied 11 boards in the win over the Colonels in registering his second double-double. His other came earlier this season against Fairfield with 20 points and a career-best 12 boards. Doyne has led or tied the team-lead in rebounds five times.

 After missing the first game of his career against Louisiana-Lafayette, senior guard Todd Abernethy has bounced back strong, averaging 12.2 points and 5.0 assists in 33.0 minutes in the six games since his return. He was injured three minutes into the season opener after his head collided with an opposing player’s shoulder on a screen. He suffered a slight concussion and had five stitches over his right eye. After sitting out the ULL game, the three-time Team Captain returned to the Ole Miss starting lineup with 13 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds against Fairfield. He exploded against Nicholls with a career-high 23 points, missing only two shots all night. Abernethy is currently the SEC leader in assist/turnover ratio and ranks sixth in the SEC in assists at 4.43 per game. He is also shooting 51.2 percent from the field.

 After a streaky first season in the Red and Blue, Clarence Sanders has been a steady point provider for the Rebels this year, scoring in double-figures in six of the eight games and ranking 10th in the SEC at 15.0 points per game. He is also among the league leaders in 3-pointers per game (T7th at 2.13) and 3-point percentage (11th at 37.0). In the Louisiana-Lafayette win, the senior guard connected on 4-of-7 treys in leading the Rebels with 22 points. He followed up with a team-high 21 against Fairfield and turned in his fifth career 20-point outing with 20 against Nicholls. After posting a .357 shooting clip a year ago, Sanders boasts a .420 field goal percentage in the season’s early goings.

Trey Hampton: After missing two games with sickness, the sophomore forward returned to the court against New Orleans last time out and added 5 points and 4 boards ... Hampton enjoyed his best game of the year against Central Arkansas. With Kenny Williams slowed by a sprained ankle, Hampton earned his first start of 2006-07 and posted season highs in minutes (25), points (8), rebounds (5) and assists (2). He was also 2-of-4 from behind the arc.
Xavier Hansbro: After making no starts as a rookie, the sophomore forward received the starting nod in the season’s first two games. In his first career start in the opening win over Mississippi Valley State, the Trezevant, Tenn., native responded with his second double-digit scoring outing as a Rebel, dropping in 11 points along with 6 rebounds. Coincidentally, Hansbro’s only other double-figure game was in last year’s season opener, when he hit 4-of-6 3-pointers for 12 points against Southern Utah.
Greg Hardy: Hardy began practicing with the team on Nov. 27, following Ole Miss’ Egg Bowl victory over Mississippi State in the football season finale. He has yet to dress for a game. As a freshman on the football team, Hardy played in all 12 games on the defensive line, tying for the team-lead in sacks (3.0) and ranking fifth in total tackles (49). His four fumble recoveries also tied for third in the SEC, and against MSU, he saw his first action at wide receiver and hauled in a 23-yard touchdown.
Shay Hodge: Hodge began practicing with the team on Nov. 27, following Ole Miss’ Egg Bowl victory over Mississippi State in the football season finale. He has yet to dress for a game. With the Rebel football team, Hodge played wide receiver in all 12 games this fall and was third on the club in receptions with 16 for 193 yards.
Jermey Parnell: After a tough outing at UConn, the junior forward has rebounded over the last three games, averaging 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 75.0-percent shooting. In the win over Tennessee Tech, Parnell tallied 14 points and 8 rebounds, and he followed up with 13 points and 4 boards against Nicholls. Last time out, the Gosnell, Ark., native established a career high in scoring with 16 points, going 5-for-5 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw stripe.
Eniel Polynice: The big freshman guard had his best game as a Rebel last time out, knocking down 4-of-4 3-pointers in totaling 15 points, 3 assists and 3 steals off the bench. Polynice dropped in 12 of his points in the second half in helping Ole Miss rally from 7 down early in the stanza ... Polynice also sparked Ole Miss to victory against Central Arkansas in the HCF Classic. With Ole Miss clinging two a two-point advantage midway through the second half, Polynice scored 8 points in 2:18 to push the lead up to 10. The Sarasota, Fla., native drilled a pair of 3-pointers in recording that career-high point total.
Brian Smith: With starting point guard Todd Abernethy leaving with injury in the game’s opening moments, junior guard Smith stepped in admirably in the season opener, helping lead the Rebels to the 72-49 victory over Mississippi Valley State. Smith played 21 minutes and recorded career highs of 10 points and 4 rebounds. He connected on 4-of-7 field goals, including 2-of-4 treys. The 5-foot-11 guard earned his first career start against Louisiana-Lafayette and saw 17 minutes of action.
Kenny Williams: The junior forward is averaging 14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 65.5-percent shooting over the last three games. Last time out, Williams hit for 15 points and 6 boards against New Orleans. He had his best game as a Rebel against Nicholls with his first double-double, posting career highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Those numbers bested his strong totals in the previous game against Tennessee Tech when he struck for 13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals ... Williams also stood out in the win over Louisiana-Lafayette, posting 12 points and 8 boards.

 Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an impressive 129-42 record (.754 winning percentage) versus non-conference opponents. Ole Miss has been particularly dominant against out of conference clubs at home. Last year’s loss to No. 5 Memphis was only the Rebels’ fifth non-SEC home loss since 1995. 

 On March 24, 2006, Andy Kennedy was introduced as the 20th head men's basketball coach in the history of the University of Mississippi. A Louisville, Miss., native, Kennedy spent the 2005-06 season as the interim head coach at the University of Cincinnati.
 With less than three months to prepare and shorthanded on staff and scholarship players, Kennedy had to lead a shaken Bearcat program that was preparing for its debut season in the BIG EAST. Despite the obstacles, he directed Cincinnati to a 21-13 record, defeating 12 foes ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI and playing a schedule rated fifth-toughest in the nation. Kennedy's Bearcats narrowly missed an NCAA Tournament bid and had their season end in the NIT quarterfinals.
 Kennedy proved himself both as an astute strategist and a top-notch recruiter in more than a decade of coaching in the college ranks. Athlon named him one of the nation's top 10 assistant coaches, and Rivals.com listed him among the top 20 college basketball recruiters. In addition to Cincinnati, Kennedy was also an assistant at his alma mater UAB and South Alabama.
 Kennedy is 0-1 vs. Memphis as a head coach, having a dropped a 91-81 early-season result with Cincinnati last year at Fifth Third Arena.




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