Rebs ready for exhibition opener tonight

Tonight's the night. Andy Kennedy's first Ole Miss team will play somebody other than itself. The University of North Alabama, a Division II school in Florence, Ala., will provide the competition tonight at 7, while Monday at 7 it's D-II's Delta State of Cleveland.

The Rebels are a hungry bunch to face someone other than their teammates each day. The Lions of UNA will be their first opportunity.

"We've prepared like this is any other game," said senior guard Todd Abernethy. "We don't know what to expect with how things will be in a game under Coach Kennedy. So it will be exciting. It's nice to play another team than ourselves."

Abernethy said that while the veterans have had many gamedays in Oxford, this will all be new for the freshmen and transfers.

"We need to get the new guys some experience," Abernethy said. "They will know more after these two exhibitions, but so will we. They will be good for everybody."

Senior guard Bam Doyne says he's ready for tonight.

"I think the exhibition games are great," he said. "It will be the first time for a lot of them to suit up, and that will be good. Just playing against different people should show us what we need to work on and some adjustments we need to make. These will be great for helping us in a lot of areas."

Doyne says it doesn't matter if it is a game that doesn't count.

"A game is a game," he said. "I'll be ready. It will be great to play against another team."

Senior guard Clarence Sanders said he's ready for year two as a Rebel, and he believes things will be better for him the second time around.

"I've matured, and tonight is the start of my last go-round," Sanders said. "I plan on playing basketball after I leave Ole Miss. This is a real important year for me."

Exhibition game or not, Sanders says he and his teammates are ready to bring it.

"We're going into every game, exhibition or not, and do the best we can to win," he said. "North Alabama, Delta State, I know we'll be ready. The season is here and we're excited about that."

Gamenotes for Ole Miss-North Alabama from Kyle Campbell of UM athletics media relations:

EXHIBITION: Ole Miss vs. North Alabama

November 3, 2006 • 7 p.m. CT

Oxford, Miss. • C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,700)

OLE MISS HOSTS FIRST EXHIBITION

Fans can get an early glance of the Andy Kennedy's 2006-07 Ole Miss basketball team Friday night, as the Rebels host North Alabama in an exhibition at 7 p.m. CT at Tad Smith Coliseum. Ole Miss continue exhibition play with Delta State Monday at 7 p.m. before tipping off the regular season next weekend. The Rebels face Mississippi Valley State in the opener Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Tad Pad. That encounter can be seen live on OleMissSports.tv.

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 scholarships 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.

SCOUTING NORTH ALABAMA

A Division II school in Florence, Ala., UNA is coming off an 18-11 season and a third-place finish in the Gulf South East Division. The Lions return six letterwinners, including three senior starters. Guard Milton Nance averaged 14.8 points last year, while 6-foot-10 center Esmir Guzonjic posted 12.4 points and 6.3 rebounds.

OLE MISS-UNA SERIES

Ole Miss and UNA have never previously played.

REBEL-LION TIES

The Ole Miss roster features three players from the state of Alabama, and junior transfer guard Kiah Brown is from Haleyville, less than 50 miles south of UNA's Florence campus. For the Lions, Josh Whitson will be returning to his home state Friday, as the junior guard hails from Booneville.

OLEMISSSPORTS.TV TO STREAM LIVE GAMES

Rebel fans can catch the Ole Miss basketball teams in action on OleMissSports.tv this season, as the premium site for OleMissSports.com will air live webcasts for seven home games. Included in the schedule is the season opener with Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 10 and the Louisiana-Lafayette game on Nov. 14. The slate also includes Tennessee Tech, Nicholls State, Louisiana-Monroe, UIC and Alabama A&M. OleMissSports.tv offers interviews and features with the teams, live streaming of coaches' press conference, video of great games in Ole Miss history, and more. The site showcases the coaches' weekly TV and radio shows as well as live video coverage of select live home and road Rebel sporting events.

CURTIS OUT WITH INJURY

Ole Miss is without junior center Dwayne Curtis after the preseason All-SEC honoree fractured the third metatarsal in his left foot in the third day of preseason practice.

PRESEASON HONORS

Dwayne Curtis earned some notoriety from the college basketball preview magazines, picking up preseason All-SEC third team accolades from Lindy's. The publication also rated the junior the 17th-best center in the nation. Also garnering preseason honors was sophomore guard Justin Cerasoli, who was listed among the nation's top 25 transfers by Athlon. The 6-foot-5 Chicago native sat out last year after transferring from Seton Hall.

REBELS FACE CHALLENGING SCHEDULE

Ole Miss takes on four of last year's NCAA Elite Eight teams, including two of the last three national champions as part of the 2006-07 schedule. The Rebels are facing two-time national champ UConn as part of the Hispanic College Fund Classic in Hartford, Conn. The non-conference slate is also highlighted by the renewal of the Mid-South rivalry with Memphis at the FedEx Forum. Other road opponents include Saint Louis and South Alabama. The always challenging SEC schedule features home-and-home battles with the five Western Division rivals, including Final Four participant LSU. The Rebels also match up with all six SEC East foes and travel to Gainesville for a date with 2006 NCAA Champion Florida.Ole Miss is slated to make at least 13 television appearances this season. 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. In addition, the Rebels are set to play four games on Lincoln Financial Sports, two on CSS and a first-ever ESPNU appearance at Connecticut.

"TAD PAD" SWEET "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 an 11-6 mark last year, Ole Miss has won 132 of its last 164 games (.805 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 366-179 (.672 winning percentage) at C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened in the 1965-66 season.

CURTIS AMONG SEC LEADERS

In his first season as a Rebel, center Dwayne Curtis ranked among the SEC leaders in several categories. Here is how the transfer from Auburn stacked up in the league in 2005-06:

Scoring: 14th (13.6)

Rebounding: 5th (7.6)

Field goal percentage: 2nd (.573)

Offensive rebounds: 2nd (3.52)

Scoring (SEC play): 15th (13.5)

Rebounding (SEC play): 6th (7.9)

Field goal pct. (SEC play): 4th (.535)

Steals (SEC play): 9th (1.64)

Offensive rebounds (SEC play): 2nd (3.93)

DECORATED SENIOR

Senior guard Todd Abernethy has garnered a house full of awards in his three years in Oxford. On the hardwood, the Carmel, Ind., native started every game at point guard in his debut campaign was named to the 2004 SEC All-Freshman Team. As a sophomore, Abernethy moved into a reserve role and thrived, picking up 2005 SEC Sixth Man of the Year accolades. It was his only year off the bench, as he returned to the starting lineup in 2005-06 and served as Team Captain for the second straight year. Off the court, Abernethy maintains a 3.44 GPA in Banking and Finance and has been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll all three seasons. Last year, he was selected to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 6 first team, as voted on by the College Sports Information Directors of America. He was also honored on the 2006 SEC Good Works Team.

NON-CONFERENCE FOES

Since the 1993-94 season, the Rebels have posted an impressive 122-41 record (.748 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.

DE-FENSE, DE-FENSE

In recent years, strong defense has been a trademark of the Rebels and that was evident in 2005-06. Ole Miss limited three opponents in the 40s in scoring last season, making 34 instances over the last decade that the opposition was contained to 50 or less. Nationally-ranked Memphis was held 17 points below its then scoring average. The Rebels contained Alabama to 38.2 percent shooting, South Carolina to 34.5 and LSU to 35.6, making seven opponents last season to be held in the 30s from the field. The Gamecocks were also limited to 2-of-19 (.105) from 3-point range, while Arkansas was held to 3-of-16 (.188) from the arc. The Rebels finished No. 1 in the SEC in 3-point percentage defense in league play at .323 and was third overall at .333. In addition, the Rebels pressured South Carolina State into 25 turnovers, Centenary into 23 and Nicholls into 21. Ole Miss totaled 13 steals against Arkansas State, 12 against Vanderbilt and 11 at Alabama.

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