Game 10: Ole Miss (7-2) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (4-5)
December 12, 2006 7 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,700)
Live TV: SportsSouth (Bernie Guenther, play-by-play; Daymeon Fishback, color analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst)
Sirius Channel: 128
REBELS RETURN HOME FOR ULM
The Rebels return to the Tad Smith Coliseum Tuesday to host the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. Ole Miss is coming off an 82-70 loss to Memphis Saturday at the FedEx Forum. Trailing by as much as 13 early, the Rebels narrowed the deficit to three at the break, 32-29, but could not hold off the 16th-ranked Tigers. Clarence Sanders totaled 18 points and 5 assists, while fellow senior guard Todd Abernethy posted 16 points and 5 assists. Despite the setback, the Rebels have equaled their best start since 2000-01.
SCOUTING THE WARHAWKS
Louisiana-Monroe is off to a 4-5 start and is facing its fourth SEC Western Division foe, having dropped encounters at LSU, Alabama and Auburn. The Warhawks knocked off William Carey 76-57 last time out. Entering his second season at the helm, Orlando Early returns eight players, including three starters, from last year’s 10-18 squad. Among the starters back is sophomore guard Tony Hooper, who leads four players averaging double-figures this season at 14.8 points per game. Junior transfers Jonas Brown and Jordan Payne are each scoring 11 per game, while junior guard Lance Brashear is adding 10 points and 5 rebounds.
OLE MISS-ULM SERIES
Tuesday’s game will be the 16th meeting between the two schools, with Ole Miss holding an 11-4 all-time edge and winning the last eight encounters with Louisiana-Monroe, formerly Northeastern Louisiana. The Rebels have prevailed by an average margin of victory of 20.3 points during the streak, which has occurred with all the games played in Oxford over the last eight years. Led by Bam Doyne’s game-high 16 points, Ole Miss prevailed 59-43 in last year’s battle.
Andy Kennedy’s style of “pressure basketball” has paid some early dividends for the 7-2 Rebels, particular on the offensive side. Ole Miss is averaging 76.2 points per game, a 11.2 raise from a year ago, and connecting on 38.6 percent of its 3-pointers, which is a 5.8 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.
Ole Miss junior center Dwayne Curtis returned to the court Saturday for the first time this season. The Rebels’ top scorer a year ago, the All-SEC honoree suffered a stress fracture of the third metatarsal in his left foot in the third day of preseason practice. Curtis saw 17 minutes of action at Memphis, grabbing 6 rebounds and scoring his first 2 points of the campaign.
The Rebels currently rank third in the SEC in free throw percentage at 71.1. That figure is over 8
points better than last year’s 63.0 percentage and would be the highest since firing at a 72.6 clip in 2002-03. The Ole Miss seniors are leading the charge with Bam Doyne at 85.2, Todd Abernethy at 82.6 and Clarence Sanders at 80.8.
Eniel Polynice has come into his own over the last two games, posting consecutive double-digit scoring performances and hitting 6-of-8 3-pointers. The freshman guard had his best game as a Rebel against New Orleans, knocking down 4-of-4 3-pointers in totaling 15 points, 3 assists and 3 steals. Polynice dropped in 12 of his points in the second half in helping Ole Miss rally from 7 down early in the stanza. He followed up with 10 points in a career-high 29 minutes at Memphis Saturday. Down 12-3 early, Polynice came off the bench to score three of the next four Ole Miss baskets to help ignite a 21-11 Rebel run.
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.
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 seven of the last eight games and ranking 11th in the SEC at 15.3 points per game. He is also among the league leaders in 3-pointers per game (6th at 2.11) and 3-point percentage (7th at 37.3). 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 .430 field goal percentage in the season’s early goings.
BACK IN THE SWING
After missing the first game of his career against Louisiana-Lafayette, senior guard Todd Abernethy has bounced back strong, averaging 12.7 points and 4.8 assists in 33.3 minutes in the seven 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 second in the SEC in assist/turnover ratio (3.27) and ranks sixth in the SEC in assists (4.50 per game). He is also shooting 53.7 percent from the field.
DOYNE IT ALL
Bam Doyne is among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking fifth in scoring (16.7), 10th in rebounding (7.1), third in free throw accuracy (85.2) and ninth in minutes played (31.89). 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.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Trey Hampton: After missing two games with sickness, the sophomore forward returned to the court against New Orleans 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: Prior to Saturday’s game at Memphis, the junior forward averaged 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. Against New Orleans, 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.
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: Prior to Saturday’s game at Memphis, the junior forward averaged 14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 65.5-percent shooting over a three-game span. Williams hit for 15 points and 6 boards against New Orleans and 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.
TOUGH AT THE TAD PAD
Over the last decade, the “Tad Pad” proved to be one of the toughest arenas in the nation for opposing teams to play. With a 5-0 mark this year, Ole Miss has won 138 of its last 170 games (.812 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. Included during this run are homecourt winning streaks of 29 and 15 games. The Rebels have an all-time record of 372-179 (.675 winning percentage) at C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.
IMPRESSIVE IN NON-CONFERENCE PLAY
Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an impressive 129-43 record (.750 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.
In UL-Monroe, Ole Miss gears up for its fourth of six games against schools from Louisiana this year. The Rebels have already knocked off UL-Lafayette, Nicholls and New Orleans and still face two SEC bouts against LSU. Ole Miss is 178-189 all-time against Louisiana schools including such frequent foes as Tulane (35-55) and conference rival LSU (77-112).
REBELS ENTER KENNEDY ADMINISTRATION
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.