No. 18 Ole Miss Returns To Oxford

GAME 13: #18/18 Ole Miss (12-0) vs. Alabama A&M (3-6)
January 2, 2008  7 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss.  Tad Smith Coliseum (8,700)

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 After six straight games away from Oxford, the No. 18 nationally ranked Rebels return to the friendly confines of Tad Smith Coliseum when they take on Alabama A&M at 7 p.m. Wednesday night.
 Ole Miss is looking to extend its school-record start of 12-0 that was set with Friday’s 78-58 win over Southern Miss in Southaven, Miss. A win over the Bulldogs would also break the school record for consecutive wins overall. The Rebels are currently tied with the 1926 squad at 12 straight victories.
 Alabama A&M marks the final tune-up for Southeastern Conference play, which begins next Wednesday with a trip to No. 8 Tennessee.

 Alabama A&M of the Southwestern Athletic Conference owns a 3-6 record on the year. The Bulldogs lost 67-56 at Auburn in their last game. They score 64.4 points per game and allow 69.8 points per contest to opponents. The Bulldogs do, however, own a 40.2-39.4 rebounding edge over their foes. Senior center Mickell Gladness, last year’s NCAA leader in blocked shots, ranks second in the nation this year with 5.8 swats per game. He also puts up 7.4 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds per contest. Junior guard Evan Hilton tops the Bulldogs with 14.0 points per game. Head coach Vann Pettaway is in his 22nd year with Alabama A&M and is three years removed from leading the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in 2005.

 This game will mark the third encounter between the Rebels and Bulldogs. Ole Miss was victorious in last year’s meeting by an 81-57 margin in Oxford. Dwayne Curtis scored a career-high 25 points and added 13 rebounds in that contest, while Clarence Sanders added 23 points. The only other meeting was an 89-45 Rebel win in Oxford on Nov. 23, 1998. Marcus Hicks notched 17 points and 13 rebounds that day.

 Several members of the Rebel family call Alabama their “sweet home”. Assistant coach Torrey Ward and coordinator of operations Bill Armstrong are both from Birmingham, while operations assistant Jake Headrick is from Hamilton. 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.

 With its 78-58 win over Southern Miss on Friday, Ole Miss set a new mark for the best start in school history with its 12th straight win to open the 2007-08 campaign, surpassing the 1936-37 and 2000-01 teams that reeled off 11 straight victories to open their seasons.
 The Rebels also matched the school record for overall winning streak at 12, which was set in 1926. A win over Alabama A&M would give this year’s Ole Miss team sole possession of both records.

 After a pair of national upsets on Saturday, Ole Miss is one of just six remaining unbeaten teams in the country. The others are Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina, Vanderbilt and Washington State. All six are currently ranked in the top 25.

 Ole Miss jumped up from No. 22/24 in last week’s polls to No. 18 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll this week. Ole Miss is one of three SEC teams ranked this week, including No. 8/9 Tennessee and No. 15/15 Vanderbilt. Ole Miss had been receiving votes for three weeks prior to their first ranking.
 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.

 Twelve games into the season, Ole Miss ranks third in the SEC and ninth nationally in scoring with 86.25 points per game. The Rebels also rank third in the SEC with a +15.2 scoring margin. The Rebels have scored 80+ points in eight of their first 12 contests, but only two of their last six.
 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.

 At No. 8 in the latest simulated RPI (ratings percentage index) rankings, Ole Miss is doing pretty well for a team that was predicted to finish as low as No. 143 in the nation by one preseason publication.
 The Rebels range anywhere from eighth to 13th in various simulated RPI polls this week.

 Ole Miss enters Wednesday’s contest versus Alabama A&M with a perfect 27-0 record against teams that currently comprise the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
 The Rebels have faced every SWAC school except Texas Southern, while having played Prairie View A&M the most times at six, followed by five contests with Alabama State and four against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

 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 (43.1/game), rebounding margin (+8.3) and offensive rebounds (16.42/game), while ranking second in turnover margin (+3.92) and defensive rebounds (26.67/game). Individually, Dwayne Curtis leads the league in offensive rebounds with 3.7 per contest and ranks second with a .676 field-goal percentage, while Chris Warren ranks second with 5.6 assists per game and Kenny Williams is second with 8.6 rebounds per contest.

 With a pair of senior big men leading the way, Ole Miss has established itself as one of the top rebounding teams in the nation. The Rebels rank first in the SEC and eighth nationally with 43.1 rebounds per contest, while also boasting the SEC’s top rebounding margin at +8.3.
 On the individual level, Kenny Williams tops the team and ranks second in the SEC with 8.6 boards per contest. The senior forward from Miami, Fla., has posted three double-doubles this season.
 Senior center Dwayne Curtis is averaging 8.1 boards per game, good for fourth in the conference.  The Chicago native also leads the SEC with 3.7 offensive boards per game and ranks second with four double-doubles. He has notched 20 double-doubles in his Rebel career.

 Freshman point guard Chris Warren has been a tremendous addition to the Rebels this season as he ranks second in the SEC in assists (5.6/game) and 13th in the league in scoring (15.3 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-12 contests. He is averaging 18.3 ppg over the last three contests after efforts of 19, 19 and 17. He has already earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors twice and was named the MVP of the San Juan Shootout.

 Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an impressive 147-46 record (.762 winning percentage) versus non-conference opponents. In the last two years under Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss has produced a stellar 25-5 record (.833 pct.) against non-conference foes.
 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.

 Ole Miss has displayed a variety of ways from up and down its roster to amass 86.2 points per game through 12 contests. Six different Rebels currently average eight or more points, with Dwayne Curtis leading the way at 15.6 and Chris Warren nipping at his heels at 15.3. Nine Rebels average in double figure minutes, while only Chris Warren ranks in the top 30 in the SEC in minutes at 26th with 28.58.

 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 commits. Ole Miss has done an outstanding job in both facets through 12 games, as the Rebels rank second in the SEC with 17.3 turnovers forced, fifth with 13.4 turnovers committed and second with a +3.9 turnover ratio. Ole Miss also boasts the league’s fourth-best assist-turnover ratio at 1.35.
 Overall, Ole Miss has forced 20 or more turnovers three times and committed 10 or less on three occasions. The Rebels have lost the turnover battle just twice this season, 16-15 in a win over South Alabama and 21-20 in a win over New Mexico. The Rebels had a feast with Louisiana-Monroe, creating 31 Warhawk turnovers and giving up the ball just eight times.

 Sophomore guard Eniel Polynice has put up big numbers in several columns of the stat sheet this season. He ranks 29th in the SEC with 12.0 points per game and also ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (22nd at 5.5/game) assists (8th at 4.3/game), steals (7th at 2.0/game) and assist-turnover ratio (14th at 1.49).
 Polynice had an outstanding game against Southern Miss Friday with a near triple-double of 14 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and a career-high nine assists. He also 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.

 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 .463 3-point field goal percentage and 10th in the league with 2.08 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.

 Junior forward Wesley Jones has left the Ole Miss team for personal reasons and is expected to transfer. The junior college transfer from Beatrice, Ala., played in two games and scored five points in a Rebel uniform.

Zach Graham: An “explosive scorer” according to Kennedy, the rookie from Suwanee, Ga., has proved that true by averaging 6.4 points in 11.8 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. Scored eight points with four free-throws vs. USM.
David Huertas: The Puerto Rican seems to have found a rhythm after a tough start as he has posted double figure points in each of his last four games. Scored 14 points and grabbed 5 rebounds vs. La Salle and Clemson. Had 12 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals against Southern Miss.  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.
Brian Smith: Senior point guard is averaging 10.2 minutes per game in a reserve role behind Chris Warren. Made two big three-pointers to help extend a Rebel lead in the win over Southern Miss. Season-high 17 minutes and 3 assists vs. South Alabama.
Terrence Watson: A very long, athletic forward, Watson has 10 blocks in limited action in 10 games. The JC transfer earned the starting nod and logged a season-high 19 minutes vs. Lamar. Swatted four shots against Louisiana-Monroe.
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. Chipped in four points and three rebounds vs. La Salle.

 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 last 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 on Dec. 17, senior center Dwayne Curtis was honored as National Player of the Week this past 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.

 With wins over DePaul, La Salle and No. 15 Clemson, Ole Miss claimed the 2007 San Juan Shootout title. 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.

 Rebel fans can catch the Ole Miss basketball teams in action on this season, as the Rebels’ official website will air live webcasts of four men’s games and six women’s games.
 In addition, premium subscribers can view replays of all men’s and women’s home games on-demand. Replays will be available at 8 a.m. CST the following day per Southeastern Conference regulations.
 Remaining on the live schedule of men’s games is the Alabama A&M contest on Jan. 2 and Presbyterian College on Jan. 11.

 Over the last decade, the "Tad Pad" proved to be one of the toughest arenas in the nation for opposing teams to play, and second-year head coach Andy Kennedy has only added to that success. Ole Miss owns a 22-1 record at Tad Smith Coliseum since Kennedy took the reins last season. Last year’s 16-1 mark established an arena record for single-season wins. Kennedy’s club inspired a huge homecourt advantage during SEC play, averaging 8,241 fans and drawing a record crowd of 9,452 for the victory over No. 18 Alabama. Ole Miss has won 153 of its last 186 games (.823 winning percentage) in Oxford dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Rebels have an all-time record of 388-180 (.683 winning percentage) at Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.

 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 on Dec. 17. 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 POW 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.
  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 later that day.

 Senior center Dwayne Curtis has established himself as one of the top post men in the Southeastern Conference and has been named to the preseason All-SEC second team by the media and league coaches. He was also rated the SEC’s “Most Underrated” by The Sporting News. The Chicago, Ill., native averaged 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds for last year’s SEC Western Division champions. At 6-foot-8 and 262 pounds, Curtis has been the Rebels’ top rebounder in each of his two years in Oxford. In his sophomore year he put up team highs of 13.6 points and 7.6 boards per game in garnering All-SEC honorable mention status from the Associated Press.



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