Rebels host winless Alcorn tonight in Oxford

Todd Abernethy

Ole Miss (8-3) and Alcorn State (0-8) tangle in men's basketball action today at 7 p.m., the first of the final two non-conference games for the Rebels. Ole Miss hosts Western Carolina Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Ole Miss (8-3) vs. Alcorn State (0-8)

Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst)

SIRIUS Satellite Radio: NA

Gametracker: www.OleMissSports.com

REBELS RETURN TO ACTION AGAINST BRAVES: After a nine-day break for Christmas, Ole Miss resumes its seven-game homestand Friday against Alcorn State. The Rebels are 4-1 on the current homestand after a 68-62 come-from-behind victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 21. Sophomore center Dwayne Curtis posted a career-high 23 points with 9 rebounds. Junior swingman Bam Doyne scored 11 of his 15 points as part of the second-half rally.. Sophomore guard Brian Smith hit 2 clutch 3-pointers in the final 3:33 against the Lions, and for the second straight game, matched his career-high of 8 points. Winners in four of the last five, Ole Miss is off its best start since the 2002-03 squad opened at 9-2.

BARNES IN EIGHTH SEASON AS REBEL MENTOR: Rod Barnes is in his eighth season at the helm of the Ole Miss Rebel basketball program and is 10 victories away from reaching B.L. "Country" Graham's school record for coaching wins (145). The 2001 Naismith and CollegeInsider.com National Coach of the Year, Barnes has a 135-96 record. Barnes' 135 coaching victories in his first 231 games is the most of any Ole Miss coach over that span and is the second-most wins in school history. His .584 winning percentage is the highest of any Rebel coach of eight years or more. In 2000-01, Barnes was the SEC Coach of the Year, and guided Ole Miss to a school-record 27 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 an All-American honorable mention his senior season. He is the only person in SEC history to earn both All-SEC and SEC Coach of the Year honors.

SCOUTING THE BRAVES: The Braves are waiting for their first victory as well as their first home game of the year. Alcorn State is coming off a West Coast road trip that saw losses to USC 76-53 and New Mexico 87-75 in its last action on Dec. 20. The Braves are losing by an average margin of 15.4 and are shooting 40.2 percent from the field. Junior guard Delvin Thompson was the team's leading scorer a year ago and continues his offensive output, averaging 15.6 points per game. Off the bench, junior transfer forward Clif Douglass is providing 13.4 points and 46.7 percent shooting from behind the arc (28-of-60). Junior forward Almaad Jackson is the team's leading rebounder at 7.1 boards to go with a 10.4 scoring clip. Jackson had not scored more than 13 points in a game this year before breaking out for 33 against the Lobos last time out. Samuel West is in his fourth season at the Alcorn State helm and is working with six returnees, including two starters, from last year's 7-22 squad.

OLE MISS-ALCORN SERIES: Friday's meeting will mark the third meeting all-time between the two Mississippi schools. Ole Miss enjoys a 2-0 edge, having knocked off Alcorn State 76-70 in 1985-86 and 111-67 in 1991-92. The 1985 encounter was staged in Jackson and saw current Rebel head coach Rod Barnes total 7 points and 2 rebounds.

D.C. PRESIDES OVER REBEL CHARGE: In his first season in the Red and Blue, Dwayne Curtis has been a force for the Rebels this year. The 6-foot-8, 290-pound center has turned in seven games scoring in double-figures with three 20-point performances. Curtis has posted two double-doubles, tallying 10 points and 12 boards against Louisiana-Monroe and coming up with 18 points and 12 rebounds against South Carolina State. The Chicago native lit up Centenary for 21 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals and returned home to Chicago to hang 20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocked shots on UIC. Curtis had his best game last time out against Southeastern Louisiana with 23 points, on 10-of-15 shooting, and 9 rebounds. He leads Ole Miss in scoring (12.2), rebounding (7.0) and blocks (11). He is tied for the team-lead in steals (15) and is third in assists (25).

VIVA LA BAM: After two years in a lesser role, Bam Doyne has moved into the forefront as a key cog in the Rebel attack this season. The junior swingman is one of the club's top defenders but is also punching in the offense. Doyne has notched double-figures five times in the last eight games and topped Ole Miss in scoring three times. He recorded a new scoring career high for the third instance this season with his 24-point performance against Arkansas State, in which he notched 6 rebounds, 4 assists and drilled 4-of-4 free throws in the final 41 seconds. He followed up that game with another clutch performance against Southeastern Louisiana, scoring 11 of his 15 points as part of the Rebels' game-winning, second-half rally. Doyne is averaging 19.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in his last two games. Despite a 1.0 career rebounding average, the Little Rock native is grabbing 4.8 boards this year, and his 2.7 assists per game leads the team.

PLAYER NOTES

• Junior guard Todd Abernethy is shooting 45.2 percent (19-of-42) from behind the arc this year. The Carmel, Ind., native drilled 4-of-6 against Centenary and connected on 3-of-4 vs. Nicholls and Southern Utah. Battling sickness Monday, Abernethy hit 2-of-4 treys against Arkansas State and finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 25 minutes.

• After starting his first six career games, freshman forward Trey Hampton has come off the bench the last four. Hampton's first game as a reserve turned out to be his best yet. The Hoover, Ala., native dropped in a career-high 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting against Saint Louis, including 2-for-2 in 3-pointers. He followed up with an 8-point showing against No. 5 Memphis.

• After shooting 45.2 percent from the free throw line as a freshman, sophomore Jermey Parnell is an impressive 15-for-17 (.882) from this stripe so far this year.

• Making only his second start in the Red and Blue, junior guard Clarence Sanders had his best game as a Rebel against Arkansas State with 20 points, 4 3-pointers and 5 assists. It was the third high-scoring output of the year for the Phenix City, Ala., native, as he hung 16 on Centenary and 17 at UIC. Sanders is tied for third on the team in scoring at 9.2 ppg.

• Sophomore guard Brian Smith hit 2 clutch 3-pointers in the final 3:33 to clinch the Rebel win over Southeastern Louisiana. For the second straight game, Smith matched his career-high of 8 points and was 2-for-2 from behind the arc.

CURTIS AMONG SEC LEADERS: In his first season as a Rebel, sophomore center Dwayne Curtis is ranking among the SEC leaders in a few categories. Here is how the transfer from Auburn stacks up in the league: Scoring: 19th (12.2), Rebounding: 9th (7.0), Field goal percentage: 2nd (.604), Offensive rebounds: 5th (3.09)

"O"-RRIVAL: The Ole Miss offense has shown some major signs of improvement at the season's start. The Rebels are currently averaging 70.1 points per game, which is 6.3 higher than last year's team scoring clip and would be the highest since posting 71.3 in 2000-01. Ole Miss has also raised its field goal percentage from 44.8 to 46.4. The Rebels topped the 100-point plateau against Centenary, 107-67, for the first time since a 105-71 victory over Alabama in 2001 and only the second time since 1998. The Rebels have shot 50 percent or better in five games and in the 60s twice, including a 60.9 clip against Arkansas State.

DE-FENSE, DE-FENSE: Throughout his Rebel tenure, defense has become a trademark of Rod Barnes' squads, and that was certainly evident in the win over Nicholls. Ole Miss limited the Colonels to 43 points, making the third time this season and 30th instance in Barnes' eight years at the helm that the opposition was contained below 50. The Rebels also held Nicholls to 32.7 percent shooting in registering the third opponent of the year to be held in the 30s from the field. ULM was limited to 31.1 percent shooting and 1-of-19 from 3-point range. Ole Miss held Memphis 17 points below their scoring average. The Rebels currently rank fourth in the SEC in 3-point percentage defense (.341). Ole Miss is also forcing 16.7 turnovers per game. The Rebels pressured South Carolina State into 25 turnovers, Centenary into 23 and Nicholls into 21. Ole Miss totaled 13 steals against Arkansas State.

TOUGH ON NON-CONFERENCE FOES: Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an 120-41 record (.745 winning percentage) versus non-conference opponents. Non-conference foes have found Ole Miss especially tough under head coach Rod Barnes (1998-99 through 2005-06), as the Rebels have an impressive 85-24 mark (.780 winning percentage) against out-of-conference teams. Ole Miss has been dominant against non-SEC clubs at home. The Dec. 10 loss to No. 5 Memphis was only the Rebels' fifth non-conference home loss since 1995.

BULKING UP: The new big bodies in the Rebel lineup have paid some dividends in the early season. After being outrebounded a year ago, Ole Miss enjoys a rebounding edge this year and has outrebounded 7-of-11 opponents. The Rebels are also averaging 4.0 blocked shots per game, a considerable increase from last year's 2.0 average.

DECEMBER GIFTS: Over the last nine seasons, Ole Miss has been receiving plenty of wins in December. The Rebels enjoy a 60-16 record (.789 winning percentage) in December games since 1996-97. Ole Miss was 7-2 during the holiday month last year and is 4-2 so far this season.

"TAD PAD" SWEET "TAD PAD": The "Tad Pad" has proven to be one of the toughest arenas in the nation for opposing teams to pay. With a 6-1 mark this year, Ole Miss has won 118 of its last 145 games (.814 winning percentage) at home, including homecourt winning streaks of 29, 20 and 15 games. The Rebels have an all-time record of 360-174 (.674 winning percentage) at C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season. In head coach Rod Barnes' era, the Rebels have a home record of 90-26 (.776 winning percentage), including a 35-21 homecourt record against SEC foes (.625 winning percentage).

YOUTH IS SERVED: The Rebels boast a young roster this year with five freshmen and five sophomores wearing the Red and Blue. In fact, Ole Miss is the third-youngest team in the SEC and 25th in the nation, based on the players' class athletically.

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