OLE MISS LOOKS FOR FIFTH STRAIGHT WIN: Ole Miss continues a six-game homestand Tuesday against Alabama State. The Rebels ride in on a four-game win streak, including a 79-46 beating of Nicholls State on Sunday. It marked Ole Miss' largest margin of victory this season, and was due in part to the effort of junior forward Tommie Eddie. The transfer from Coffeyville Community College in Kansas turned in his finest game as a Rebel, recording team highs and career bests in points with 22 and rebounds with 10.
BARNES IN SIXTH SEASON AS REBEL MENTOR: Rod Barnes is in the midst of his sixth season at the helm of the Ole Miss Rebel basketball program. The 2001 Naismith and CollegeInsider.com National Coach of the Year, Barnes has a 106-64 record (.624 winning percentage). The 100 wins in his first five seasons is the most by a Rebel coach in that span of time in Ole Miss history. In 2000-01, Barnes was the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, guided Ole Miss to a school-record 17 wins and the program's first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 berth. Another winning season and postseason tournament followed in 2001-02 - both were the sixth straight for the Ole Miss program.
Barnes was hired as the Rebel head coach on April 9, 1998. A 1988 graduate of Ole Miss, Barnes served as an assistant under Evans from 1993-98. During his time as an assistant coach, the Rebels compiled a record of 76-63 and won back-to-back Southeastern Conference Western Division titles and received consecutive NCAA Tournament berths in 1997 and 1998. Barnes played at Ole Miss from 1984-88 and was named All-SEC his senior season. He still ranks on the Ole Miss career charts in scoring (18th; 1,201 points), assists (2nd; 456) and steals (7th; 154).
TIME CHANGE: The Ole Miss-East Carolina game on Jan. 3 has been moved to a newly-schedule time of 7 p.m. CT at Tad Smith Coliseum. The game was previously set for 2 p.m.
SCOUTING ALABAMA STATE: Alabama State skids into Tuesday's matchup on a three-game losing streak. The Hornets are coming off a Dec. 21 loss to UC-Santa Barbara, 63-53, at the Dodge Holiday Classic in Reno, Nevada. Senior guard Malcolm Campbell posted 15 points against UCSB and is leading the Hornet attack with a 13-per-game average. The Kansas City native has also knocked down 21-of-48 from behind the three-point arc (.438 percent). In his eighth year at the helm, ASU head coach Rob Spivery returns five players from last year's 14-15 squad, which tied for third in the SWAC.
OLE MISS-ALABAMA STATE SERIES: Tuesday's game marks the fifth meeting between the two schools, with Ole Miss winning all four previous encounters with Alabama State. Last year, four Rebels scored in double-figures, including Aaron Harper and Justin Reed with 12 apiece, in a 74-58 Ole Miss victory at Tad Smith Coliseum. Including the other matchups in 1983, 1998 and 1999, Ole Miss has beaten the Hornets by an average margin of 20.5.
BIG SCORER: The biggest man on the Rebel roster was the team's biggest offensive weapon against Nicholls State Sunday. Starting in place of ill forward Justin Reed, 6-foot-7, 260-pound Tommie Eddie exploded for game highs and career bests in points (22) and rebounds (10). Those numbers nearly doubled the junior forward's totals (30 points and 14 boards) through the season's first eight games. After a slow start to his debut campaign as a Rebel, Eddie has energized Ole Miss during its current four-game win streak, averaging 12.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and shooting 60.7 percent.
PROTECTING THE BALL: The Rebels have been among the SEC's best this season in the turnover category. Ole Miss tops the SEC and ranks top 15 in the nation in fewest turnovers per game (12.4). The Rebels are also second in the conference in TO margin (+3.8). Leading the charge is freshman point guard Todd Abernethy, who is the SEC's leader in assist/turnover ratio (4.3/1). In addition, the Rebels have forced 16 or more turnovers in six of the nine games, and induced 23 takeaways against Nicholls State Sunday. Nine different players collected at least one steal, including four by Aaron Harper, as Ole Miss snatched 15 against the Colonels. The Rebels also tallied 12 steals against Louisiana-Monroe, led by Cavadas Nunnery and Justin Johnson with five apiece. Harper heads the team and is seventh in the SEC in steals per game (1.9).
HARPER CONTINUES HOT STREAK: After some tough games to start the season, Aaron Harper has cranked out the offense of late and led the Rebels during their current win streak. Harper tallied 17 points and five threes at Evansville, and knocked down 4-for-4 treys in the second-half game-winning rally. The senior forward also topped the team in rebounds with seven and assists with six against the Aces. He followed up by leading Ole Miss past Louisiana-Monroe with a team-high 19 points. Sunday, Harper scorched Nicholls State for 19, hitting 3-of-5 threes and posting five rebounds and four steals. During Ole Miss' four straight wins, Harper is averaging 17.3 points and shooting 42.9 percent from the arc (12-of-28 threes). He has scored in double-figures in eight of nine games this season and Sunday, became one of the Rebels' top 20 career scorers. Harper's 19 points moved him past Ken Turner (1967-69) and Rahim Lockhart (1998-2001) for 19th on the scoring list with 1,176 career points.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Against Nicholls State, the Rebels displayed the defensive prowess that has become a trademark of Rod Barnes' squads. Ole Miss forced the Lions into 25.5 percent shooting on the day and 18.5 percent in the second half. The Rebels limited the Colonels to 46 points, marking the second time this season and the 21st time in Barnes' six years at the helm that Ole Miss held their opponent under 50 points.
REED NEARING ELITE CLUB: With just 28 more rebounds, Justin Reed will enter an elite Ole Miss category. The senior forward would become only the fifth Rebel to rank top 10 in both career points and rebounds. Despite battling a virus, Reed tallied eight points against Nicholls State Sunday to pass Eric Laird (1982-85) in 10th and tie Sesay for ninth on the Ole Miss career scoring chart with 1,428 points. With 643 rebounds in the Red and Blue, Reed is also nearing the top 10 in boards. He is currently 11th in Rebel career rebounding and 28 short of tying Jason Smith (1996-99) for 10th all-time.
REBELS VERSUS THE SWAC: The Rebels have never lost to the SWAC, posting an all-time record of 22-0 versus current members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
TOUGH ON NON-CONFERENCE FOES: Over the last 11 years, the Rebels have posted an 101-34 record (.748 winning percentage) versus non-conference opponents. Non-conference foes have found Ole Miss especially tough under head coach Rod Barnes (1998-99 through 2003-04), as the Rebels have an impressive 66-17 mark (.795 winning percentage) against out-of-conference teams. Ole Miss has been dominant against non-SEC clubs at home. The loss to Memphis was only the Rebels' third non-conference home loss since 1995.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: The Rebel will enjoy the cozy confines of the Tad Pad all throughout the holiday season. Of Ole Miss' first 14 games, 12 are in Oxford, including the Southeastern Conference opener with Mississippi State on Jan. 7. The Rebels turned in a 10-6 home record in 2002-03, and has won 102 of its last 116 games (.880 winning percentage) at home, including homecourt winning streaks of 15 and 29 games. In the past 10 seasons (1992-93 through 2003-04), Ole Miss has an overall home record of 127-26 (.830 winning percentage).
RALLY TIME: From Nov. 29 through Dec. 20, Ole Miss turned in five straight impressive comebacks. Down 18 with 14:15 remaining at Florida State, the Rebels narrowed the gap to four with three minutes left before coming up short. Despite losing to Memphis, Ole Miss trimmed the Tigers' 17-point, second-half advantage to six, hitting seven straight shots at one point - five three-pointers and two dunks. The Rebel comebacks finally resulted in a victory at Evansville, as Ole Miss rallied from 13 down in the second frame to earn a 69-66 road win over the Aces. The Rebels connected on 9-of-13 second-half threes, including Fox's game-winner with four seconds remaining. Ole Miss also trailed by as much as 11 late in the first half to Louisiana-Monroe before reversing its fortunes for the 66-64 win. In the second half of those five games, Ole Miss made 27-of-50 (54 percent) from behind the three-point arc.
REED'S INCREDIBLE START: Justin Reed jumped out to one of the greatest season starts in school history, leading the Rebels in points and rebounds in each of the team's first five games and posting four 20-point efforts over that stretch. The senior forward's career-high 28 points vs. Centenary tied the most by an Ole Miss player since Marcus Hicks' 31 in 1999-2000. A native of Jackson, Miss., Reed also matched his career high for blocks with four against the Gents. Reed's career-high 19 rebounds against Southeastern Louisiana equaled the most by a Rebel since Walter Actwood's 20 in 1975. He also nailed a pair of game-clinching free throws against the Lions with 10 seconds left. Prior to the Florida State game, Reed had notched 20 or more points in five straight games, dating back to last season, and is the first Rebel to manage that feat since Keith Carter in 1998-99. Reed now boasts 14 career double-doubles and 16 20-point games.
AMONG SEC'S TOP TANDEMS: With Justin Reed and Aaron Harper back, the Rebels have an advantage enjoyed by few others. Ole Miss is one of only two teams in the Southeastern Conference to return its top two scorers from last year, with Arkansas being the other club. The senior duo of Reed and Harper, who is currently averaging over 17 and 14, respectively, was voted among the top tandems in college hoops by Basketball News. Reed and Harper have spent the majority of their basketball lives together, having teamed up at Provine High School in Jackson, Miss., before arriving in Oxford.
HARPER RISES UP CHARTS: Aaron Harper, who joined the 1,000-point club and 200 three-pointer club a year ago, further made his imprint on the Rebel record book early this season. The 6-foot-7 swingman cracked the 20-point barrier against Centenary for the ninth time in his career, totaling 24, and knocked down a three-pointer to move into second on the Ole Miss career list for treys. Harper hit 65 threes in 2002-03, which is the fourth-most for a single season in Ole Miss history.
REED PILES UP PRESEASON HONORS: Justin Reed is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of Rebel basketball, and the awards continued to pour in this preseason. The senior forward earned Preseason All-SEC first team status from Athlon Sports, Basketball News, Lindy's, Street & Smith's and Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook. Athlon's ranked him the No. 5 "inside-out player" in college basketball. Reed was also rated the 11th-best power forward in the nation by Lindy's and the 14th-best by The Sporting News. Reed has earned All-SEC honors each of his three collegiate seasons, and was a preseason Wooden Award candidate each of the last two seasons. He is the only player from the state of Mississippi to ever be nominated twice.
GOOD OMEN: The Ole Miss Rebels were picked to finish in sixth in the Southeastern Conference Western Division in a vote by media members at the annual conference media day Oct. 29 in Birmingham, Ala. The last time the Rebels were picked so low was prior to the 2000-01 season, when Ole Miss claimed the SEC West crown en route to a school-record 27 wins and a Sweet 16 appearance. LSU was picked to win the Western Division crown, while Kentucky was selected to win the Eastern Division championship and the SEC overall title.
BARNES TOPPLES CENTURY MARK: With the Rebels' victory over South Carolina in the 2003 Southeastern Conference Tournament first round, Rod Barnes recorded the 100th win of his career. His record currently stands at 106-64. The 106 victories are second most in Ole Miss history, trailing only B.L. "Country" Graham's (1950-62) 145 wins. Barnes is the only coach in the program's history to average 20 wins per season.
FUTURE REBELS: The future of Ole Miss hoops got even brighter mid-November as the Rebels added three new players for the 2004-05 season. Ole Miss received national letters of intent from Arkansas natives Jeremy Parnell, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward/center from Gosnell, and Brandon Patterson, a 6-foot-6, 180-pound swingman from Altheimer, and Jackson's Bobby Clark, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound guard.
An All-State first team pick a year ago, Parnell averaged 20 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks as a junior at Gosnell High School, where he was coached by Len Whitehead. Included in his 2002-03 campaign was a triple-double performance against Senath (Mo.), tallying 21 points, 11 boards and 10 blocks.
Patterson helped guide Altheimer High School to a 34-1 mark and a 2A state championship as a junior a year ago, earning state tournament MVP honors along the way. For the season, he averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Clark is a two-time All-State selection at nationally-ranked Lanier High School, where he has attended the last two years. At Lanier, Clark averaged 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists during his sophomore campaign, and last year, he posted 15 points, seven boards and seven assists per game as a junior.