Rebel hoops in Daytona Beach for tourney

It will be a homecoming of sorts for several Ole Miss men's basketball players as the Rebels participate in the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday and Sunday.

Friday at 5:30 p.m. (Central time), Ole Miss, 2-0, and Utah, 1-0, meet for the first time ever in men's basketball. Then on Sunday, the Rebels play Marshall at 3 p.m. (Central time). That series is 1-1 with both previous encounters being played back in the 1970s.

Chris Warren is from Orlando, while DeAundre Cranston is also from Orlando and played junior college basketball in Daytona Beach. Eniel Polynice is from Sarasota. David Huertas and Kevin Cantinol have Florida connections.

There should be quite a few fans in the stands cheering for the Rebels at The Ocean Center.

"There's no telling how many will be there," Warren said. "I'm still getting calls from people back home asking me what time the game is, where it is. So I'm expecting a lot of fans to be cheering for us. I'm looking forward to seeing family and friends."

Kennedy quipped it will be a lot like last year when the Rebels played in Puerto Rico and Huertas was responsible for much of a contingent of Rebel fans when Ole Miss beat DePaul, LaSalle, and Clemson.

"We've got a lot of Floridians on our team," the third-year UM head coach said. "Maybe it will be like going to San Juan last year when we had a lot of people cheering for us. It's two games against good conferences which, if you've done your work, these have weight at the end of the year because of the RPI."

Kennedy believes Utah and Marshall will test his team in a lot of ways.

"They'll be very competitive games," Kennedy said. "Utah presents a number of challenges, and a lot of people believe this will be the best Utah team in several years. They've got a 7-footer that will cause some problems. These are the type games that test you early. It's why we put them on the schedule."

The Rebels are still trying to work through a lot of aspects of losing a starter and a key sub for the season. With Eniel Polynice and Trevor Gaskins both out with knee injuries and surgeries, the players continue to step up and fill voids.

"Those are two huge losses for us, and it's tough," said Huertas, who has scored 24 and 27 points in the Rebs' first two games. "We just have to deal with it, and every player has to step up."

Zach Graham stepped up and scored 16 points in the Rebels' last game.

"I felt good out there, and I thought we played a good game," he said of the Rebels' 89-71 win over South Alabama. "We shared the ball and hit 22-of-22 free throws, so we played well."

The following are Joey Jones' game notes from Ole Miss athletics media relations.

GAME 3: Ole Miss (2-0) vs. Utah (1-1)

Friday 11.21.08 | 6:30 p.m. ET

Daytona Beach, Fla. | Ocean Center

MEDIA

Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (Eli Savoie, play-by-play; Keith Carter, analyst). Listen Online through RebelVision

OLE MISS HEADS TO DAYTONA BEACH TOURNEY

Ole Miss will take its 2-0 season start down to the beach this weekend. The Rebels will face Utah on Friday (6:30 p.m. ET) and Marshall on Sunday (4 p.m. ET) during the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla. Ole Miss responded well to the news of a second season-ending injury to a key player with a resounding 89-71 victory Tuesday night over 2008 NCAA Tournament team South Alabama. The Rebels learned earlier in the day that junior team leader Eniel Polynice would be done for the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to his left knee. This news came 11 days after losing Trevor Gaskins to an ACL. Junior guard David Huertas has aptly filled the scoring void with two straight games of 20+ points to begin the year, including 27 in the win over USA. The Rebels also set a school record by going 22-for-22 from the free-throw line.

INJURIES HIT REBELS HARD

It's been more like an "injury elephant" than an "injury bug" in the early season for Ole Miss. In an 11-day stretch during the first two weeks of play, the Rebels lost two key members of its backcourt in sophomore Trevor Gaskins and junior Eniel Polynice with season-ending injuries.

The most recent news came early Tuesday afternoon prior to the Rebels' game vs. South Alabama, when the team found out that Polynice's arthroscopic surgery to his left knee revealed extensive cartilage damage and loose fragments that will put the Rebels' most veteran leader on the shelf for four to six months of rehabilitation.

Eleven days earlier the team suffered a blow when Gaskins, a member of last year's SEC All-Freshman team, would need to undergo season-ending surgery to his left knee after tearing his ACL.

Both Polynice and Gaskins were expected to be primary pieces of a Rebel backcourt touted by at least one preseason publication (Blue Ribbon Yearbook) as the best in the Southeastern Conference.

Polynice averaged 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 34 games last year, including 31 starts. Andy Kennedy has routinely called Polynice the team's best perimeter defender and one of the toughest competitors on the squad. Gaskins was one of the team's top long-range threats a year ago when he ranked third on the squad with 46 treys, while averaging 5.9 points per contest. Entering his sophomore year, he was considered one of the toughest competitors and an emotional leader of the team.

Remaining scholarship backcourt members are junior David Huertas, sophomores Chris Warren and Zach Graham and freshmen Will Bogan and Terrico White.

SCOUTING THE RUNNIN' UTES

Utah bounced back after a season-opening defeat to Division II Southwest Baptist (80-79) with a victory Tuesday night over Wisconsin-Green Bay (79-60) to move to 1-1 on the young season. The Utes are led by a tall, powerful group of posts that has helped the team to 79 ppg, a 47.1 field-goal percentage and a rebounding margin of +13 (41.5 to 28.5). Head and shoulders above the rest is 7-foot-2 Australian senior center Luke Nevill, who has tallied 24.0 ppg and 14.0 rpg after the first two contests. Luke Drca has helped with 12.0 ppg, Lawrence Borha with 11.0 and Carlon Brown with 10.5. Last year, the Utes finished above .500 for the first time since 2004-05 with an 18-15 record in the first year under coach Jim Boylen. They finished 7-9 in the Mountain West Conference and advanced to the second round of the CBI postseason tournament.

OLE MISS-UTAH SERIES

The two squads will be meeting for the first time.

OLE MISS TO FACE MARSHALL ON SUNDAY

In addition to Friday's matchup with Utah, Ole Miss will face Marshall on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET in its second game of the Glenn Wilkes Classic. The Thundering Herd trounced West Virginia Tech in its season opener Sunday by a score of 110-57. Shaquille Johnson led five MU players in double figures with 19 points. Head coach Donnie Jones took over a struggling program and guided Marshall to a respectable 16-14 overall record and 8-8 C-USA mark in his first year at the helm last season.

The all-time series with the Herd is tied at 1-1. The teams met twice in the 1970s, with the Rebels earning a 65-63 win in a neutral-site game in Toledo in 1976 after dropping a 118-98 road decision in 1970.

SEVERAL REBELS RETURN HOME TO FLORIDA

With Ole Miss making a trip to Daytona Beach, Fla., for the Glenn Wilkes Classic, several members of the team will be closer to their hometowns in the Sunshine State. Sophomore point guard Chris Warren and junior forward DeAundre Cranston both hail from Orlando, while Cranston spent the past two years at nearby Daytona Beach Community College. A pair of Caribbean natives played high school ball in Florida, including junior Puerto Rican David Huertas (Arlington Country Day HS - Jacksonville; University of Florida) and redshirt-freshman Kevin Cantinol (Calvary Christian HS - Clearwater) from the island of Martinique in the French West Indies.

SCHOOL-RECORD FREE THROW PERFECTION

Ole Miss set a school record and tied the Southeastern Conference record with a perfect 22-for-22 performance from the free-throw line in Tuesday's 89-71 win over South Alabama. It was the first time a Rebel team has converted every attempt in a game with 20 or more chances, and only the fourth time in SEC history for a team to accomplish that feat. The NCAA record books have a minumum of 32 free-throw attempts for its free-throw records. Sophomore guard Zach Graham led the way with 8-for-8 from the charity stripe, while Chris Warren, Terrance Henry and David Huertas were 4-for-4 and Murphy Holloway made both of his attempts. The performance was a far cry from last year's Rebel squad that made just 65.1 percent of its free-throw attempts on the season.

HUERTAS DOESN'T SKIP A BEAT

Picking up where he left off at the end of last season, David Huertas has had a hot shooting touch in the Rebels' first two games, averaging 25.5 points. The junior guard led all scorers with 24 points against Arkansas State then topped that with 27 points in the win over South Alabama. He ranks among the SEC leaders in points, three-pointers (5.0/game) and field-goal percentage (64.0, 16-for-25) after two games. Against USA, he tied his career high with 7 three's, which is tied for the second-highest single-game total in school history. He has aptly helped fill the void left by the losses of Trevor Gaskins and Eniel Polynice so far, including a perfect 9-of-9 from the free-throw line and 10 rebounds in the two contests. Huertas was instrumental in the Rebels' run to the NIT Semifinals last season, averaging 16.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 three's over the final eight games.

GRAHAM SHINES IN STARTING ROLE

Just hours after learning that junior guard Eniel Polynice would miss the remainder of the season, sophomore guard Zach Graham stepped into Polynice's spot in the starting lineup vs. South Alabama and responded with a career-high 16 points, including 3-for-4 from the field, 2-of-3 from downtown and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw stripe. Graham, who made seven starts last season and averaged 5.9 points in 35 appearances, played just three minutes in the season opener vs. Arkansas State.

BEACH TOURNEY SUCCESS

Ole Miss will participate in a tournament in a sunny, beach locale for the second straight year when it plays in the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla., this weekend. The Rebels had much success at the San Juan Shootout last year, winning the Puerto Rican tourney title with three straight wins, including an 85-82 championship game triumph over No. 15 Clemson that put Ole Miss back on the national radar screen when the team's record improved to 11-0 at the time.

NON-CONFERENCE DOMINANCE



Ole Miss boasts a 31-5 record against teams outside the Southeastern Conference since Andy Kennedy took over the reins in 2006-07. Last year, the Rebels finished the regular season with a perfect 14-0 record against non-league opponents, becoming the second Rebel squad to ever accomplish that feat (1948-49 team was the other). Of the five losses, two came in the NIT (Clemson and Ohio State) and two to nationally ranked foes on the road during the regular season (No. 19 UConn and No. 16 Memphis).

DEFENDING HOME COURT

Winning at home has been a trademark of Andy Kennedy's squads since he took over the reins in 2006-07. With the 89-71 win over South Alabama, Ole Miss improved to 34-3 in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum over the last three seasons. The Rebels have won their last seven straight at home and 23 straight over non-league foes at the Tad Pad.

NEW REBELS SEE ACTION

Six newcomers on this year's Rebel squad saw action in Friday night's season-opening win over Arkansas State. Freshman Terrance Henry earned a starting nod at forward, becoming the second rookie to start the season opener during coach Andy Kennedy's three-year tenure ( Chris Warren last year). Henry and fellow freshman Murphy Holloway each scored 7 points. Other newcomers to see action were freshman guards Will Bogan and Terrico White, JUCO transfer forward DeAundre Cranston and redshirt-freshman forward Kevin Cantinol. Sophomore forward Malcolm White is not a new face, but he did make his first career appearance in the starting lineup in Friday's opener.

KEITH CARTER JOINS OLE MISS RADIO CREW

A familiar name to Rebel hoops fans may soon become a familiar voice, as the Ole Miss Radio Network has added former Rebel All-American Keith Carter to its basketball broadcast crew for the 2008-09 season.

Carter, who has spent the past six years playing overseas in the Italian professional league, will serve as an analyst and sideline reporter alongside play-by-play announcer David Kellum for Rebel hoops games this season. A four-year starter at Ole Miss, Carter helped the Rebels to a pair of SEC Western Division titles in 1997 and 1998 and was an honorable mention All-America selection by the Associated Press after his 1999 senior season in which he scored 542 points and drained 77 three-pointers.

RADIO BROADCASTS AVAILABLE ONLINE

The Ole Miss radio call for basketball will now be heard online through OleMissSports.com's RebelVision after formerly being available on Yahoo. RebelVision subscribers, who hear the radio broadcasts for all Ole Miss football, basketball and baseball, will also have the opportunity to watch live webcasts of select men's hoops games, including the UCF showdown on Nov. 26 Other games already scheduled to be streamed are New Orleans on Dec. 6 and Florida A&M on Dec. 22.

CELEBRATING THE FIRST 100 YEARS

Ole Miss will promote a season-long celebration of the first 100 years of its hoops history during the 2008-09 campaign. Ole Miss Basketball began on Jan. 28, 1909, with a game against the Memphis Physicians, and has been an integral part of University life ever since. The Rebels have suited up and played games every year but 1918 and 1944, missing those due to World Wars I and II.

The 100 Years Celebration will include a special page on the official athletics web site, OleMissSports.com, as well as a series of honored guests and highlights from the past during home games, climaxed by a past player reunion at the Feb. 21 game vs. Georgia. Stay tuned to OleMissSports.com for more information as the season progresses.


OM Spirit Top Stories