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GAME 13: Ole Miss (10-2) vs. Alabama A&M (5-4)
December 22, 2006 7 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,700)
* FREE ADMISSION *
Live TV: SportsSouth (Bernie Genthner, play-by-play; Daymeon Fishback, analyst)
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, analyst; Richard Cross, analyst)
OLE MISS WRAPS UP FREE WEEK WITH A&M
The Rebels finish up their free two-game homestand with Alabama A&M tonight. As a holiday special, admission to the game is free. At 10-2, Ole Miss has matched its best start since the 2000-01 squad opened 11-1. The Rebels are coming off a 77-64 victory over UIC Tuesday in which they held the Flames to a pair of baskets in the final five minutes, breaking open a tight 61-59 game with a 16-2 surge. Clarence Sanders posted his fourth 20-point game of the year and scored 16 second-half points, including 13 in the decisive late run. Bam Doyne struck for 18 points, while Dwayne Curtis chipped in 13 for the Rebels and grabbed 12 rebounds in posting his second double-double in the last three games.
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS
Alabama A&M is off to a 5-4 start and coming off an 82-55 loss at Nebraska on Sunday. The Bulldogs are facing their second SEC foe of the year having suffered an 80-36 defeat at the hands of Georgia in Athens. In his 21st season at the A&M helm, L. Vann Pettaway has seven players back from last year’s 13-13 squad, although a pair of freshman guards are directing the Bulldog attack this season. Cornelius Hester has hit 21 3-pointers in just nine games and is posting 10.3 points per outing, while Trant Simpson is scoring 9.0 and dishing out 5.6 assists.
OLE MISS-A&M SERIES
This game will mark the second encounter between the Rebels and Bulldogs. The only other meeting was an 89-45 Ole Miss win in Oxford on Nov. 23, 1998. Marcus Hicks notched 17 points and 13 rebounds that day, while Jason Flanigan added 11 points and 5 boards.
Several members of the Rebel family call Alabama their “sweet home”. Senior guard Clarence Sanders is a native of Phenix City, sophomore forward Trey Hampton hails from Hoover, and junior guard Kiah Brown is from Haleyville. On the Rebel staff, assistant coach Torrey Ward and coordinator of operations Bill Armstrong are both from Birmingham, while operations assistant Robi Coker is from Skirum. In addition, Dwayne Curtis spent a season at Auburn University before arriving at Ole Miss, and head coach Andy Kennedy spent three years playing at UAB and later served assistant coaching stints for both the Blazers and the South Alabama Jaguars.
Andy Kennedy’s style of “pressure basketball” has paid some dividends for the 10-2 Rebels, particular on the offensive side. Ole Miss is averaging 77.7 points per game, a 12.5 raise from a year ago, and connecting on 39.3 percent of its 3-pointers, which is a 6.5 improvement and ranks third in the SEC. 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 80.5 per game in 1997-98.
The Rebels currently rank third in the SEC in free throw percentage at 71.5. 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 85.9, Todd Abernethy at 85.2 and Clarence Sanders at 82.1.
DOYNE IT ALL
Bam Doyne is among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking third in scoring (18.4), 12th in rebounding (6.3), 12th in field goal percentage (45.2), second in free throw accuracy (85.9) and ninth in minutes played (32.18). The senior guard has topped the team or tied for the team-lead in scoring in six games, including a career-high 28 in Saturday’s win at South Alabama. The USA performance marked his eighth 20-point game in the Red and Blue and fifth of the year, which includes at pair of 25-point outings against Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe. Doyne has also notched his first two career double-doubles this season with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Nicholls and 20 points and a career-best 12 boards against Fairfield. Doyne has led or tied the team-lead in rebounds five times.
With only four games under his belt, Dwayne Curtis is looking like his old self, notching two double-doubles and narrowly missing another. In his second game back, the preseason All-SEC honoree reached a double-double in less than 15 minutes into the contest and finishing with 16 points and 11 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. He nearly repeated that feat at South Alabama with 16 points and 9 boards, and against UIC Tuesday, he registered 13 points and 12 rebounds. Curtis suffered a stress fracture of the third metatarsal in his left foot in the third day of preseason practice and missed the first eight games of the year. He returned to the court at Memphis and saw 17 minutes of action, grabbing 6 rebounds and scoring 2 points.
In his first season in the Red and Blue, Curtis earned AP All-SEC honorable mention status and NABC All-District second team honors. He ranked among the league leaders in nine categories and topped Ole Miss in scoring (13.6), rebounding (7.6), steals (1.6), blocks (0.6) and field goal percentage (.568, which ranked second in the SEC). Curtis scored in double-figures in 21 games with six 20-point outings and seven double-doubles.
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 10 of the last 11 games and ranking 10th in the SEC at 15.3 points per game. He is also fifth in 3s per game (2.25) and sixth in the league in 3-point percentage (42.2). In Tuesday’s win over UIC, the senior guard connected on 4-of-6 treys in leading the Rebels with 20, marking his sixth career 20-point outing. Sanders his 4-of-7 treys in striking for 22 points against Louisiana-Lafayette, and he followed up with a team-high 21 against Fairfield and 20 against Nicholls. After posting a .357 shooting clip a year ago, Sanders boasts a .459 field goal percentage this season, which is 10th-best in the conference.
RAISING HIS GAME
Senior guard Todd Abernethy has raised his scoring average and assist total in each of his seasons as a Rebel, and this year, those figures are jumping again. He is averaging double-figure points for the first time and turned in the best offensive game of his career against Nicholls with 23 points, missing only two shots all night. Abernethy is the SEC leader in assist/turnover ratio (3.50) and ranks second in the SEC in assists per game (5.09). He equaled his career-best assist total at South Alabama with 9 handouts and he followed up with 8 against UIC Tuesday.
TRADING IN THE PADS
Greg Hardy is expected to suit up for his first game with the Rebel basketball team Friday against Alabama A&M. A freshman from Memphis who is also a member of the Ole Miss football team, Hardy began practicing with the team on Nov. 27, following the Rebels’ Egg Bowl victory over Mississippi State in the season finale on the gridiron. As a rookie 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.
Eniel Polynice has posted a pair of double-digit scoring performances and hit 6-of-9 3-pointers over the last five games. 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. 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.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Todd Abernethy: The senior guard missed the first game of his career against Louisiana-Lafayette. 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.
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.
Jermey Parnell: The junior forward is in the midst of the best offensive stretch of his career, scoring in double-figures in five of the last seven games and averaging 11.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 70.5-percent shooting over that span. 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: The junior forward recently 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.
IMPRESSIVE IN NON-CONFERENCE PLAY
Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an impressive 132-43 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.
REBELS ON THE TUBE
Ole Miss is making its seventh TV appearance of the year against Alabama A&M, as the game is available on SportsSouth. The Rebels are scheduled to make at least 18 television appearances in 2006-07, marking the ninth straight season that Ole Miss has played on TV 10 or more times. In one of five games on Fox Sports Net, the Rebels open league play with Kentucky in a Saturday night clash in Oxford on FSN South. Ole Miss and Mississippi State renew their bitter rivalry in Oxford with an ESPN “Super Tuesday” showdown. The Rebels are playing four games on Lincoln Financial Sports, four on SportsSouth, three on CSS and an ESPNU appearance at Connecticut. In addition, four early-season games were streamed live over the internet on OleMissSport.com’s premium site, OleMissSports.tv.
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 7-0 mark this year, Ole Miss has won 140 of its last 172 games (.814 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 374-179 (.676 winning percentage) at C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.
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.