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November 20, 2008

Notebook: Ole Miss has to deal with injuries

Maybe Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy should call Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. If anyone can understand the situation facing Kennedy, it's Boeheim.

Within the past two weeks, the Rebels have lost two guards to season-ending knee surgeries. The same thing happened to the Orange last season, albeit not in quite the same time span. Boeheim entered practice last season without guard Andy Rautins, who had torn his anterior cruciate ligament during the summer. Ten games into the season, Eric Devendorf went down with a torn ACL.

In Oxford, Miss., Trevor Gaskins, an SEC All-Freshman pick last season, was lost for the season with a torn ACL last week. Earlier this week, the Rebels got the bad news about Eniel Polynice, who was having his knee 'scoped when doctors found more damage than had been anticipated.

"I feel so bad for them because they've worked so hard," Kennedy told Rivals.com. "The physical pain Eniel already had his surgery and Trevor will have his on Friday. But the mental disappointment of not being able to play will be ongoing.

"It's part of this business. My job is to prepare the kids, and we have to not allow them to use this as an excuse. We've still got to prepare to go out and compete. We heard the news late [Tuesday] morning about Eniel, and the kids responded well."

Ole Miss beat South Alabama 89-71 on Tuesday night, just hours after learning about Polynice, who averaged 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists last season. David Huertas led the way with 27 points, Zach Graham added 16 and Chris Warren had 15 with six assists and three steals.

Kennedy actually drew the Syracuse parallel himself. He said he caught a brief bit of the Orange game Tuesday night against Richmond on ESPN in his office, and he was reminded that Boeheim's team lost two guards, too.

"The reality is we lose a kid in Eniel who has the most experience of anyone we have, and Trevor is our emotional leader and was on the [SEC] All-Freshman team," Kennedy said. "David has gotten out of the gate great. We needed him to be more consistent before this, and now he has to be a rock. We need to get consistency from Chris and David."

Huertas, who transferred from Florida and averaged 10.7 points last season, is averaging 25.5 points through two games. He also has 10 3-pointers in 18 attempts from beyond the new arc.

Warren has been underwhelming in the first two games. Another All-Freshman pick last year and a preseason all-conference second-team choice, he's shooting just 25 percent (8-of-32), including an abysmal 1-for-14 from 3-point range. But he has contributed eight assists, five steals and just one turnover, and he's shooting 100 percent at the free-throw line in 12 attempts.

Polynice was the team's leading returning rebounder, and he was second in assists last season to Warren. He also was the Rebels' best defender.

"Trevor we had just gotten our arms around that," Kennedy said. "EP's injury I was in shock. We knew something was going on, but certainly didn't anticipate him going down for the season. Ten days ago he was our best player.

"We sent a lot of footage to our medical people. We taped an intrasquad scrimmage a couple of weeks ago and he was in no pain, moving around. Then the knee swelled and we figured we'd just have it drained and take the pressure off, that it was residual effects from being 'scoped last spring. I was very surprised. I was anticipating 2-3 weeks, and now our most experienced guy is not able to play."

Kennedy will get a good measure of how his team will perform minus the two guards this weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla. The Rebels are taking part in the Glenn Wilkes Classic, where they'll play Utah on Friday and Marshall on Sunday.

"It's a neutral site and we play two quality basketball teams in a three-day period," Kennedy said. "It's a neutral-site tournament, so the crowd won't be a factor. You just have to go out and play. Utah and Marshall are a complete diversity of styles. We just didn't anticipate being down two guys in the backcourt when we played them."

Trivia question

Who is the last Ole Miss player to lead the SEC in scoring? (Answer at the end of the column.)

Tulsa mum on injury situation

Tulsa resumes its series with Oklahoma State for the first time since Nov. 22, 1996, on Thursday night in Stillwater.

It's an important game for both, but probably more so for the Golden Hurricane. It could use a victory over a Big 12 team as it tries to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003 and help Conference USA's RPI along the way.

Tulsa could be without center Jerome Jordan and forward Ray Reese, the two best defenders on one of the best defensive teams in the country.

"I don't know yet," Golden Hurricane coach Doug Wojcik told Rivals.com of the players' status. "I'd say they're day-to-day. [Reese] is kind of like [Tyler] Hansbrough's deal. He has been bothered for a couple of weeks. He played 15 minutes [in Tulsa's season-opening win over Oral Roberts]."

Jordan had eight points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in only 21 minutes. He sat most of the second half because of leg cramps.

Wojcik said he's excited to see the series resume.

"I don't know why it ended. All that's prior to my time, and it's not for me to talk about," Wojcik said. "We got them on the schedule through football. They got a three-game series in football, and we were able to tie in with a four-game series for basketball.

"It's pretty good for us considering everything. You've got to play somebody, and it's a road trip that doesn't cost you much."

Six things to watch this weekend

1. Chris Warren and David Huertas in Daytona Beach. Ole Miss was a team with a legitimate chance to win the SEC West. Is it still?

2. North Carolina at UC Santa Barbara, Friday night, ESPNU. The last time the Tar Heels played in the Maui Invitational was in the 2004-05 season. They stopped on the way to Hawaii and played their season opener at Santa Clara. They would go on to win the national title, but they got waylaid by the Broncos 77-66. Without Tyler Hansbrough, Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Zeller, could history repeat?

3. Southern Miss vs. Miami, 1 p.m. Friday. A nice matchup of high-scoring guards with the Golden Eagles' Jeremy Wise and the Hurricanes' Jack McClinton in the first round of the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

4. Stephen Curry at home against Winthrop, Friday. Do I really need to say anything else?

5. Gardner-Webb vs. Blake Griffin. The Bulldogs have two of the top rebounders in the Big South Conference at the moment in 6-foot-8 center Auryn McMillan and 6-4 freshman Joshua Henley. Each is averaging 9.0 rebounds, which combined is 1.3 fewer rebounds per game than Griffin (19.3 rpg).

6. "True Blood," season finale, 9 p.m. Sunday; "Entourage," season finale, 10 p.m. Sunday, both on HBO. HBO's original series normally are as stout as Griffin on the glass, and "True Blood" has delivered in its first season. This closes season five for "Entourage" and it's still going strong. The Bow Wow-Seth Green fight is a classic.

Tip-ins

Kentucky's 0-2 start has a lot to do with not taking care of the ball. The Wildcats have a whopping 53 turnovers through two games. Jodie Meeks and DeAndre Liggins have the most with 11 apiece. No Division I player has averaged more than 18.0 rebounds per game for a season since Providence's Marvin Barnes averaged 18.7 in 1974. Through three games, Oklahoma's Griffin is averaging 19.3, including 21 in Tuesday's victory over Davidson. He could shatter the Big 12 single-season record average of 12.4, set last year by Michael Beasley. Freshmen accounted for 41 points in Vanderbilt's 74-48 victory over Morehead State on Sunday, led by forward Jeffery Taylor's 16. Guard Brad Tinsley came off the bench to score 12, including three 3-pointers. Don't be surprised if Tinsley joins Taylor and redshirt freshman Festus Ezeli in the starting lineup for the Commodores before the SEC season starts. Vanderbilt plays host to Big Ten foe Illinois on Thursday night. The Commodores will put a 20-game home winning streak on the line. Liberty freshman guard Seth Curry, the younger brother of Davidson's Curry, has shown quite well through two games for the Flames. He's averaging 20.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.5 steals. Senior forward Gyno Pomare returned to the San Diego lineup Tuesday night after missing the season-opening loss to UNLV because he was serving a suspension for violating team rules. He didn't start but played 17 minutes in the Toreros' 65-51 victory over Nevada, and he contributed 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting with four rebounds.

Trivia answer

Justin Reed led the SEC in scoring in 2003-04 with an average of 18.5 points per game.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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