No. 22 Ole Miss Takes Perfect Record Into Clash With Southern Miss in Southaven

GAME 12: #22/24 Ole Miss (11-0) vs. Southern Miss (8-4)
December 28, 2007  7 p.m. CT
Southaven, Miss.  DeSoto Civic Center

Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst). Listen Online 
XM Radio: Channel 199

 Ranked for the first time since the 2000-01 season, the No. 22/24 Rebels hope to claim sole possession of the school record for a start to the season when they take their 11-0 record into Friday’s neutral-site affair with Southern Miss at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Miss.
 Ole Miss is coming off a 3-0 weekend that saw them take the San Juan Shootout title with wins over DePaul, La Salle and previously unbeaten No. 15/15 Clemson.
 The Rebels look to make history against an 8-4 USM squad with a recent home loss to McNeese State that broke its five-game win streak.

 Southern Miss fell to 8-4 on the year after slipping up in a 63-57 loss at home to McNeese State, snapping a five-game win streak. It was also the Golden Eagles’ first home loss, as their three previous defeats came on the road at California, Alabama and South Alabama. USM is out-scoring its opponents by an average of 15.9 points per game, having averaged 79.7 versus its opponents’ 63.8. The Golden Eagles are also one of the best rebounding teams in the country, boasting the nation’s sixth-best average at 43.8 boards per contest. Jeremy Wise leads the team with a 19.5 scoring average, which ranks fourth among Conference USA players and 43rd in the nation. Gjio Bain is the team’s top rebounder with 9.3 per game, but he has missed the last three contests with a foot injury.

 The Rebels and Golden Eagles will be meeting for the 20th time in the history of the series, with Ole Miss holding a 15-4 advantage to date. The in-state rivals last met on the hardwood 12 years ago when Ole Miss won a 113-107 double-overtime decision on Dec. 19, 1995, in Oxford. The last USM win came a year earlier when the Golden Eagles prevailed 76-69 in Hattiesburg.

 Ole Miss freshman forward Malcolm White and Southern Miss freshman forward Brandon Cooks were teammates last year at Genesis One Christian Academy in Mendenhall, Miss., helping the team to a national runner-up finish. White averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Cooks contributed 19 points and nine boards per game. Both players actually hail from the state of Louisiana.

 With its 85-82 win over No. 15 Clemson to claim the San Juan Shootout title, Ole Miss tied the best start in school history with its 11th straight win to open the 2007-08 campaign. The 1936-37 and 2000-01 teams also reeled off 11 straight victories to open their seasons.
 As of Wednesday, Ole Miss is one of nine teams in the nation with a perfect record. The others are Kansas, Memphis, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Sam Houston State, Vanderbilt and Washington State.
 With a victory over Southern Miss, Ole Miss would also tie the school record for overall winning streak at 12, set in 1926.

 For the first time since the final poll in 2001, Ole Miss is among the nation’s top 25 ranked teams. The Rebels landed at No. 22 in the AP poll and No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll this week. Ole Miss is one of three SEC teams ranked this week, including No. 11/12 Tennessee and No. 15/15 Vanderbilt. Ole Miss had been receiving votes for the previous three weeks.
 The Rebels were last ranked in the final polls of 2000-01, when they appeared as high as No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today rankings following their NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance.

 Eleven games into the season, Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC and fifth nationally in scoring with 87.0 points per game. The Rebels also rank third in the SEC with a +14.8 scoring margin. The Rebels have scored 80+ points in eight of their first 11 contests. Ole Miss topped 100 points for the second time this year with a 102-76 victory over Troy on Nov. 27. 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.

 With wins over DePaul, La Salle and No. 15 Clemson, Ole Miss claimed the 2007 San Juan Shootout title this past week in Puerto Rico. The championship game vs. the previously unbeaten Tigers saw Ole Miss earn a victory over its first ranked foe of the season and move to 11-0. Freshman point guard Chris Warren was named the Tournament MVP with 19 points in each of the last two games. Senior center Dwayne Curtis also earned a spot on the All-Tournament team after averaging a team-high 18.0 points over three games.

 For the second time this season, Rebel point guard Chris Warren was named the SEC Freshman of the Week, as announced by the league office on Monday. The 5-foot-10 guard received San Juan Shootout MVP distinction after scoring 41 of his 49 points in the second half of the three Rebel wins in Puerto Rico. He poured in 19 points against both La Salle and Clemson, while adding nine assists and just two turnovers against the Explorers. In Saturday's 85-82 win over previously unbeaten No. 15 Clemson, Warren tallied eight of the Rebels' 10 points in the final four minutes to claim the tournament championship.

 After garnering SEC Player of the Week accolades last Monday, senior center Dwayne Curtis was honored as National Player of the Week this Monday by Curtis poured in 19 points and had nine rebounds in the final against No. 15 Clemson, and he put up 21 points and seven boards against DePaul and 14 and five against La Salle. Curtis shot 61 percent from the field and 88 percent from the free-throw line in the three games.

 Friday’s clash between the Rebels and Golden Eagles pits two of the nation’s best rebounding teams against one another. Southern Miss ranks sixth in the country with 43.8 rebounds per game, while Ole Miss stands at No. 9 with 42.4 boards per contest. The Golden Eagles are allowing just 31.8 rebounds per game to their opponents, while Rebel foes average just 34.5 boards.

 In non-SEC play, Conference-USA is Ole Miss’ most faced league. The Rebels have an all-time record of 73-96 (.432 winning percentage) against current members of Conference USA, which includes such frequent foes as Tulane (35-55) and Memphis (11-27).  Ole Miss has an 8-5 record versus current C-USA teams since the league was formed in the spring of 1995.

 In addition to being one of just two SEC squads with a perfect record (Vanderbilt), Ole Miss also ranks at or near the top of the conference in several statistical categories. The Rebels own the league’s top mark in rebounding (42.4/game) and offensive rebounds (16.27/game), while ranking second in scoring (87.0 ppg), rebounding  margin (+7.8) and turnover margin (+4.18). Individually, Chris Warren leads the league with 5.7 assists per game and Dwayne Curtis owns the top mark in offensive rebounds with 3.55 per contest.

 Ole Miss has displayed a variety of ways from up and down its roster to amass 87.0 points per game through 11 contests. Six different Rebels currently average 9 or more points, with Dwayne Curtis leading the way at 15.6. Nine Rebels average in double figure minutes, while only Chris Warren ranks in the top 30 in the SEC in minutes at 29th with 28.55.

 Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an impressive 146-46 record (.760 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. The Rebels currently own a streak of 18 straight wins vs. non-conference foes at home.

 Freshman point guard Chris Warren has been a tremendous addition to the Rebels this season as he tops the SEC in assists (5.7/game) and ranks 13th in the league in scoring (15.1 ppg). The Orlando native  is the only Rebel to have put up double figure points in every game this season, and he has dished out 5 or more assists in 8-of-11 contests. He has already earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors twice and was named the MVP of the San Juan Shootout.

 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 ninth nationally with 42.4 rebounds per contest, while also boasting the SEC’s second-best rebounding margin at +7.8.
 On the individual level, Kenny Williams tops the team and ranks third in the SEC with 8.7 boards per contest. The senior forward from Miami, Fla., has posted three double-doubles this season.
 Senior center Dwayne Curtis is averaging 8.0 boards per game, good for fourth in the conference. The Chicago native ranks second in the SEC with four double-doubles. He has notched 20 double-doubles in his Rebel career.

 When running an up-tempo style of offense, much of the success is determined by how many turnovers the defense can create and how few turnovers the offense gives up. Ole Miss has done an outstanding job in both facets through 11 games, as the Rebels rank third in the SEC with 17.5 turnovers forced, fourth with 13.3 turnovers committed and second with a +4.2 turnover ratio. Ole Miss also boasts the league’s fourth-best top assist-turnover ratio at 1.34. The Rebels had a feast with Louisiana-Monroe, creating 31 Warhawk turnovers and giving up the ball just eight times. Overall, Ole Miss has forced 20 or more turnovers three times and committed 10 or less on three occasions.

 Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice has put up big numbers in several columns of the stat sheet in the early season. He ranks 28th in the SEC with 11.8 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (29th at 4.8/game) assists (8th at 3.9/game) and steals (6th at 2.1/game).
 Polynice shattered several career highs with his stellar performance in the Nov. 13 win over South Alabama, including career bests of 28 points and seven 3-pointers. He has pulled down a career-high 8 rebounds in each of the last two games.

 One of several freshmen and newcomers contributing for the Rebels this year, guard Trevor Gaskins has made a big impact in the early season. The Alpharetta, Ga., native ranks fourth in the SEC  with a .472 3-point field goal percentage and eighth in the league with 2.27 three’s made per game.
 Gaskins got off to a furious start to his Ole Miss career in the season opener. He 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.

 After scoring 22 points with 11 rebounds and helping Ole Miss to a 76-71 win over Winthrop, senior center Dwayne Curtis was tabbed as the SEC Player of the Week last Monday.
 Curtis posted his fourth double-double in the last six games and collected season highs in points and rebounds vs. the Eagles. He finished three points shy of his career high and made good on 10-of-12 from the floor.
 It was the second weekly honor for a Rebel this season and the second career honor for Curtis, who was the SEC Player of the Week on Jan. 7, 2006 after leading Ole Miss to a win at Alabama with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

 Point guard Chris Warren earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors on Dec. 3 after averaging team highs of 19.5 points and 7.5 assists in 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.
 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.
Zach Graham: An “explosive scorer” according to Kennedy, the rookie from Suwanee, Ga., has proved that true by averaging 6.3 points in 11.6 minutes per game. Posted double figure points in back-to-back games vs. Lamar (12) and Louisiana-Monroe (13). Poured in all nine of his points at UCF in the first half.
David Huertas: The Puerto Rican had three of his best games as a Rebel while in San Juan, as he posted double figure points in all three games. Scored 14 points and grabbed 5 rebounds vs. La Salle and Clemson. The long-range threat made back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half to close a 7-point deficit to just one in the win over Winthrop. He scored a career-high 17 points vs. ULM.
Jermey Parnell: Started the first three games and has come off the bench since. Posted a career-high three blocked shots in a season-high 22 minutes played against La Salle. Season-high 12 points on 6-of-7 from the field vs. Troy.
Terrence Watson: A very long, athletic forward, Watson has 10 blocks in 9 games. The JC transfer earned the starting nod and logged a season-high 19 minutes vs. Lamar.
Malcolm White: Sensational freshman leaper saw most action with 14 minutes vs. Troy and put up 6 points and 6 rebounds. Had two huge dunks in that game and has scored 8 of his 18 points this season on dunks.

  Ole Miss has made two television appearance this 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.

 As part of their trip to the Mississippi state capital, the Ole Miss players, coaches and staff visited the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center while in Jackson for the Winthrop game. The Rebels played games and handed out posters and basketballs while visiting with kids at the hospital before their open practice and autograph session with fans later in the afternoon.



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