Saturday, February 24, 2007

LSU belted a season-high three homers, and freshman left fielder Blake Dean finished 3-for-3 with three RBI as the Tigers rolled past Central Florida, 13-6, on a blustery Saturday at Alex Box Stadium.
LSU (7-2) clinched its 17th straight non-conference series at home, dating back to the 2003 season. The Tigers pounded out double-digit hits for the fourth straight game highlighted by a season-high six extra-base hits.
"Offensively, I think it is coming together," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "The more they play, the more consistent they play and the more at-bats they see, and the better their timing gets and the better their confidence grows."
The Golden Knights dropped to 3-7 with Saturday’s loss. UCF is winless in its six games in Alex Box Stadium.
LSU will send junior left-hander Kyle Beerbohm (0-0, 0.00) to the mound in the series finale at noon Sunday. Live audio and streaming video are available to members of the Geaux Zone on
Right fielder Steven Waguespack, centerfielder Jared Mitchell and pinch hitter Jordan Mayer each homered on a day where a cross wind from right to left gusted up to 40 mph. Mitchell tallied his fourth straight multi-hit game with two more hits Saturday.
"Those were not even home run swings," said Mainieri. "Mayer's ball was a line drive that just happened to be 200 feet in the air. It just kept carrying. Mitchell, they pitched him inside and he got the bat head out. Waguespack, his just kept carrying as well."
Senior southpaw Clay Dirks (1-0) turned in an impressive outing in his first start of the season. Dirks overcame a bee sting on his thumb in the first inning, allowing two runs on six hits in six innings of work. He walked none and struck out seven on 91 pitches.
"Clay did a great job, and he pitched like I think he is capable of pitching," said Mainieri. "He threw a lot of strikes and kept them off balance. He made his defense work for him, which they did do."
UCF held a brief 1-0 lead after scoring a run in the top of the first before LSU answered with three runs in its half of the frame. Second baseman Buzzy Haydel drew a leadoff walk, and two batters later Dean drilled an RBI double into the left field corner.
Wise followed with an RBI single and took third on a throwing error by right fielder Ryan Richardson. Designated hitter Jason Lewis brought Wise in on a fielder's choice.
Dean made it a 4-1 advantage in the second with his second RBI on a single through the middle.
Dirks surrendered a run in the top of the third when shortstop Eric Kallstrom guided a solo homer over the left field wall to close the gap to 4-2.
LSU poured on six runs through the middle innings courtesy of a pair of homers, starting in the sixth. Shortstop Michael Hollander walked, Haydel singled, and Mitchell crushed his first career homer -- a three-run shot off the top of the “Intimidator” billboard in right field -- to increase the lead to 7-2.
Waguespack got in on the barrage with a two-run blast over the right-centerfield wall in the fifth. For Waguespack, it was the fourth homer of his career and first since May 12, 2006 at Florida.
The Tigers manufactured another run in the sixth, again with the tandem of Mitchell and Dean. Mitchell dropped a single into shallow centerfield and was awarded third on an error. Dean then tallied his third RBI with a sacrifice fly into deep right-centerfield.
Meanwhile, Dirks settled in and closed with three scoreless frames between the fourth and sixth before giving way to freshman right-hander Chris Sorce to start the sixth.
Sorce and reliever Paul Bertuccini worked a scoreless seventh and eighth.
Mayer put the finishing touches on the win with a pinch-hit, line-drive two-run homer over the centerfield wall in the bottom of the eighth.
LSU 13, Central Florida 6 (Feb 24, 2007 at Baton Rouge, La.)----------------------------------------------------------------------Central Florida..... 101 000 004 - 6 12 2 (3-7)LSU...................... 310 321 12X - 13 13 2 (7-2)----------------------------------------------------------------------Pitchers: Central Florida - Mitch Herold; Derek Abriola(2); Eric English(5); Brett Bordwine(8).LSU - Clay Dirks; Chris Sorce(7); Paul Bertuccini(8); Shane Ardoin(9); Jonathan Wilhite(9).Win-Clay Dirks(1-0) Loss-Mitch Herold(0-2) T-3:19 A-7082HR UCF - Eric Kallstrom (2).HR LSU - Jared Mitchell (1); Jordan Mayer (1); Steven Waguespack (1).Actual attendance: 2,240D. Abriola faced 1 batter in the 5th.

Tigers Knock off National Champion Florida

In one of the most improbable upsets in school history, the unfortunate run of luck by the LSU men's ended on Saturday. But, it wasn't luck that beat No. 3 Florida. It was guts, heart and talent.
LSU (15-13, 4-10 SEC) got 18 points from Terry Martin and 17 from point guard Garrett Temple to knock off the defending national champions, 66-56.
Florida fell to 25-4 overall and 12-2 in SEC play. The Gators lost for only the second time in their past 20 contests.
The Tigers' win was a dominating team effort for 40 minutes, as Florida struggled to score from its trademark three-point shooting. The Gators, who averaged more than seven treys per game, were held to 2-of-17 beyond the arc (11.8 percent).
Meanwhile, LSU shot 51.1 percent from the field (23-45) and added 16-of-24 free throws -- easily enough offense to defeat the punchless Gators. The Tigers held a 35-22 rebounding advantage and overcame 18 turnovers by stopping Florida's transition offense.
Al Horford, who scored five points in the first five minutes, led Florida with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting and nine rebounds. Reserve forward Chris Richard made 6-of-7 shots from close range to add 12 points before fouling out late. Defensive stopper Corey Brewer finished with 11 points. However, Brewer along with teammates Lee Humphrey and Taureen Green combined to make only 2-of-15 three pointers.
LSU came out on fire, making 10 of its first 12 shots including three three-pointers to take a 24-12 lead with 11:03 left in the first half.
Temple sparked the offense by besting his season average (8.4 ppg.) in the first seven mintes of the contest. The long-armed point guard combined slashing moves to the rim with a pair of three pointers to stun the Gators.
Though Gators reserve forward Chris Richard scored six-straight points to cut the margin to 19-12 with 12:41 left in the half, LSU responded by holding Florida without a field goal for more than eight minutes. The 9-1 LSU run pushed its lead to 28-13 with under five minutes left in the half.
A three pointer by Brewer ended the run and a dunk by Noah made it an 11-point game, 30-19. However, Noah couldn't convert the three-point play after the four-minute media timeout, and LSU answered with four-straight before Brewer's layup at the buzzer.
LSU led 34-21 at the half.
After Martin hit LSU's first shot of the half to extend the lead to 15, Florida rolled off seven-straight points to get within eight, 36-28, with 15:41 left.
Martin ended the four-minute LSU drought by hitting a three pointer to get the Tigers back on track offensively.
After a fall-away jumper by Mitchell with 14:09 left, the Tigers held the double-digit lead until the 1:10 mark with solid defense against some of the nation's best one-on-one scorers -- not to mention tough baskets against those same great players on the other end of the court.
A hook shot in the paint by Darnell Lazare increased the LSU lead to 51-35 with only 6:23 to play and forced a Florida timeout.
Two free throws by Temple gave the Tigers its largest lead, 53-35, and began a string of 19 free throw attempts by the teams in less than five minutes. LSU made 6-of-11 in that span, while Florida converted made 5-of-8.
In between, Florida added two field goals and got within 10, 54-44, on a hook shot by Richard with 2:54 left.
With LSU up 13, Florida shooting guard Lee Humphrey -- who has made 56 percent of three pointers in league play -- made his first three pointer of the game in six attempts to get back within 10 with 1:35 to play.
The free throw show started once again, as 16 more free throws were attempted in the final 1:47. LSU made 9-of-12 to close out the game.
Opening Statement "I think one of the most interesting things about competition is there is a level of uncertainty that you do not know what the outcome is going to be. That's why you have come ready to play and be focused because it doesn't make a difference what has happened in the past. The past is over with, and everyday brings a new challenge and a new opportunity. Through competition, you can find out a lot about yourself."
On the team's effort ... "I didn't think we competed at the level we needed to to win the game. I think we played against a team in LSU that had a lot of fight in them at Kentucky. They had Kentucky down by 16 points, and Kentucky came back to win the game at home. Our guys knew, certainly our coaches knew, that they were going to come out and play very, very well with the loss and absence of Glen Davis. It was amazing that the leading rebounder on their team and the maybe the league leading rebounder in Glen Davis not on the floor, and we are out-rebounded by 13 in the game. Free throw shooting, 54 percent. Obviously, the three-point line, 2-for-17. Couple that with defensively giving up 50 percent."
On their defensive effort ... "The biggest thing was we were not getting stops. We are not getting stops. Lee Humphrey and Taurean (Green) continue to struggle. We have got to get them back being able to do it. That is the thing that is difficult for our team is that we have had erratic players offensively. We have been able to overcome it with our defense. We've had erratic players offensively, and we have not guarded, we have had a very difficult time on the road with Vanderbilt and now here with LSU."

Miles Feels Good About 2007 Tigers

Les Miles strolled into a news conference at the LSU football complex Friday looking like he was getting ready to go play an afternoon 18 at the LSU Golf Course instead of gearing up for Monday’s start of spring practice.
Maybe it was because he was on home turf, meeting with the media in LSU’s intentionally homey recruiting reception room.
More likely because he’s feeling pretty good about where his football team is and how good it can be in 2007.
The three vacancies on his offensive coaching staff have been filled by coordinator Gary Crowton, line coach Greg Studrawa and receivers coach D.J. McCarthy.
He knows which players are returning that he can count on this year. Even with the ones who are iffy — Miles intimated that running back Alley Broussard still has a ways to go to be in a “position to compete” — there are plenty of others to soak up the carries. Players like Keiland Williams, Charles Scott, Richard Murphy and Jacob Hester.
In short, Miles isn’t concerned about talent. One look at Rickey Jean-Francois sauntering out of the building “looking cut and menacing even in street clothes” tells you the Tigers football complex oozes talent.
“In terms of X’s and O’s we’ll be fine,” Miles said. “But every team’s personality is different. You have to reconfigure that (squad) room every year.
“It’s the leadership of the team that will always define the success you have.”
Last year, like this year, the Tigers had to find leaders to anchor the room. Miles knew what he lost from 2005 in players like Kyle Williams, Andrew Whitworth and Joseph Addai. What he didn’t know this time a year ago was who would fill their seats.
Miles figured then senior wide receiver Dwayne Bowe would have to become a team leader, and frankly the coach had his doubts. But he said Bowe blossomed in the role.
Bowe is gone now. So are JaMarcus Russell, Jessie Daniels and offensive guard Brian Johnson.
Who will be this year’s leaders? It’s a safe bet to start with fifth-year senior quarterback Matt Flynn, of whom Miles said, “It’s his team now.” Then he backtracked to say Ryan Perrilloux is in the mix and will be all spring despite having had his name linked in the offseason to a federal criminal investigation.
Early Doucet will be the man at wide receiver without Bowe or Craig Davis, though he could get some help from R.J. Jackson, one of those spring experiments at wide out and running back.
Who not to count on? Besides Broussard, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and offensive guard Will Arnold will both miss the spring with injuries. Dorsey didn’t turn pro largely because of a shin injury that he told Miles on Friday actually bothered him most of the season — his All-American season — while Arnold missed most of 2006 with knee and ankle problems.
Of course, both will be expected to be around.
That’s what leaders do, whether they’re playing or not.

Matsuzaka Shows the Right Stuff

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Everything seemed to stop at 11:32 a.m. ET on Saturday, when Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka stepped on the mound at Johnny Pesky Field and got ready to face hitters for the first time since his arrival in camp.
Photographers clicked at break-neck speed; reporters quizzed each other on which Minor League hitters Matsuzaka was facing; Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino took it in from behind the batting cage; manager Terry Francona also snuck over for a peek during Matsuzaka's 44-pitch session, which generally drew rave reviews.
All this excitement over a round of batting practice? Perhaps only Francona could truly say he's witnessed anything quite like it.
"You've got to remember, I had Michael Jordan [in the Minor Leagues]. And this guy can't dunk," quipped Francona. "So I have seen it."
Francona managed Jordan at Double-A Birmingham in 1994, and remembers similar buzz to what he's seeing this spring in Fort Myers.
"When Michael would take batting practice, you'd hear the cameras, kind of like you do when Daisuke [pitches]," Francona said. "It's a little similar -- that, and, I think, Pete Rose. Those are maybe the three who come to mind."
Interestingly, Matsuzaka started from the stretch, throwing 20 pitches before converting to the windup. As usual, he had a reason for doing it like that. Matsuzaka seems to enjoy testing himself mentally every bit, as much as physically.

Tigers Get Boost to Win

LSU’s struggling offense got a boost Friday night from its best two pitchers, plus another assist from an accommodating opposing defense.
Charlie Furbush and Jared Bradford held Central Florida to four hits and LSU scored four unearned runs in a 4-1 victory before a season-high crowd of 3,720 at Alex Box Stadium.
The Golden Knights (3-6) committed five errors, four at third base. Three of those led to runs.
LSU (6-2) is 5-0 at home with the aid of 15 errors by visiting teams.
“I choose to look at the positive side of things,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
“The errors they made did aid in our cause, but on the other hand you sometimes take a little credit for that because you put the ball in play and force them to make plays.”
The Tigers had 10 hits, their third consecutive game with at least 10. LSU has 37 runs and 59 hits through eight games.
LSU stretched a 2-1 lead with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Furbush and Bradford retired the last 13 UCF batters.
“I thought our pitchers were the story of the game,” Mainieri said.
Furbush (2-1) gave up four hits, the first with one out in the fourth inning. An inning later, Eric Kallstrom hit a leadoff home run for a 1-1 tie.
A double play helped Furbush survive two subsequent singles in the inning.
He rebounded from an 8-1 loss at Stetson one week earlier.
“I just kind of got in a rhythm from the start,” Furbush said. “Last weekend I couldn’t really find my rhythm, get in the groove.”
He struck out seven and walked two.
Bradford retired all six batters he faced. He is LSU’s designated Sunday starter if he doesn’t pitch in relief earlier in a weekend series, but Mainieri said he needed him Friday night to close out a tight game.
“It’s fun to get the last out,” Bradford said. “As a starter you don’t always get to do that. To come in and get the last out, it’s exciting. Playing at home, you get the last out, you get to pump the fist, you get to get off the field and slap hands with the guys.”
Bradford, who is 1-0 as a starter, earned his second save.
“I’m not sure where we’d be without him right now,” Mainieri said.
LSU had six hits for two unearned runs off UCF starter Mitch Houck (0-2).
The Golden Knights committed four errors in each of the first two games of the season-opening series against TCU and five errors in each of the first two games of the series against Maryland last weekend.
The five errors Friday give UCF 26 this season. Third baseman Chris Duffy, who committed two Friday, has six.
UCF coach Jay Bergman substituted for Duffy in the fifth inning, an inning after his second error. His replacement, Kyle Maulbetsch, booted a two-out, fifth-inning ground ball by Sean Ochinko, allowing LSU to take a 2-1 lead.
Maulbetsch committed another error in the bottom of the eighth inning. He misplayed a two-out pop-up by Michael Hollander, allowing Steven Waguespack to score from second base.
Hollander scored for a 4-1 lead on Haydel’s subsequent single.
“Obviously when you give them five extra base runners, it’s tough to win,” said UCF designated hitter Matt Horwath, who played two seasons at LSU before transferring closer to home before the 2005 season.
“We work hard on defense every day, but for some reason in the games we’re just not producing, not getting it done. It’s tough.”
The Tigers, who committed two errors, have 13 in eight games.
LSU took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. J.T. Wise singled, took second base on Waguespack’s infield hit and scored on Duffy’s first error.
Hollander, who scored a pivotal run Wednesday night on a wild pitch in a 6-2 victory over Northwestern State, was thrown out Friday on a similar play with a different bounce, different count on the batter and different number of outs.
LSU had other chances to score but left 11 runners on base.
“We had those other chances because we put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense,” Mainieri said.

Rebels Push Past Wright State

OXFORD, Miss. – The Rebels got a dominant performance on the mound behind a career-high 13 strikeouts and came up with the big play down the stretch as No. 11 Ole Miss (6-1) defeated Wright State (0-1) by a score of 3-2 on Friday night.

With one out, runners at second and third and the score tied at two in the bottom of the ninth, Wright State intentionally walked Justin Henry in the hopes of setting up the double play. After the fourth ball on the pitchout, however, the Raider catcher popped up and threw to third trying to pick off Evan Button. The ball sailed wide allowing Button to cross the plate and notch the winning run for the Rebels.

Kline went 8.0 innings in the start, striking out 13 batters and walking only two as he gave up two runs on three hits. Scott Bittle (1-0) picked up the win after entering the game in the ninth. Bittle struck out the side in order before the Rebels grabbed the win in the bottom half of the frame.

Erich Schanz (0-1) suffered the loss for the Raiders as he turned in 0.2 innings of work and allowed one run on one hit while walking one. The run scored after he was pulled from the game, but his walk of Overbeck to lead off the ninth tagged him with the loss when Button crossed the plate after running for Overbeck.

Garrett Holleran worked 6.2 innings as the starter for the Raiders as he gave up two runs on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts. The Raiders used four pitchers in the outing.

“You have to tip your hand to their guy today,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “I thought he pitched a great game. I thought it was a great try on the throw (to third). Will Kline was outstanding for us today. He had great command of his pitches on both sides of the plate.”

Ole Miss got on the board in the third inning when Brett Basham hammered a double to the wall in left center, scoring Jordan Henry from first. Henry reached on a bunt single down the third base line to open the inning. Basham moved to third on a sac bunt from Justin Henry and then scored on a groundout to short by Logan Power to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead after three innings.

The Raiders got on the board in the fifth, cutting the lead to one, when Shoup scored from third on a wild pitch in the dirt. Shoup doubled before moving to third on a ground out to short by Parker.

Wright State tied the game at two in the sixth when Ross Oeder homered to left field with two outs on the board. The inning ended when Kline got Biedenharn to ground out to second, halting the rally.

Ole Miss pushed the winning run across in the ninth when the Button scored on the throwing error from the Raider catcher.

Ole Miss and Wright State will return to action on Saturday with the second game of the series. The two teams will face-off with a 1:30 p.m. first pitch at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.had

No 11 Ole Miss Powers past Memphis

OXFORD, Miss. – The Rebels used the long ball to get ahead of Memphis early on Tuesday, belting out four home runs including a grand slam from Cody Overbeck, then No. 11 Ole Miss (5-1) held on down the stretch to defeat Memphis (0-1) by a score of 12-9.

Overbeck hit a grand slam in the first inning and followed it up with a solo shot in the second to push Ole Miss to an early 11-3 lead on the Tigers. The Rebels then used five pitchers to hold on down the stretch to earn the win over Memphis.

Nathan Baker (1-0) earned the win in his first collegiate start as he worked 5.0 innings giving up five runs, four of them earned, walking two batters and striking out one. Scott Bittle picked up his second save of the season as he came in with two outs in the ninth, runners at first and second and the tying run at the plate. He got Norrid to fly out to center field to end the game.

Overbeck led the Rebels at the plate with a 2-for-4 performance as he tallied five RBI and scored two runs. Logan Power also came up big as he went 1-for-2 with three RBI and two runs score. Power also drew a walk and was hit by a pitch.
“(The hitting and scoring) was certainly a change from the first give games of the season, and we needed every one of them,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “I alluded to it after our Sunday game with Evansville that I thought we were swinging the bat better and had a chance to get some extra base hits and hit some home runs. We saw that today with some well hit balls.”

Memphis struck first as Peterson doubled down the right field line in the second at bat to score Chalmers from first. Chalmers walked to lead-off the inning. The Tigers added a second run when Moss singled to short and then advanced to second on a wild throw from short to first. The throw allowed Peterson to score from second. Moss advanced to third on a fly out to center field from Adam Amar before scoring a batter later when Joseph Lieberman grounded out to first. Baker struck out the final batter to end the inning with Tigers up 3-0.

The Rebels struck back in the bottom half of the frame when Fuller Smith hit a two-run shot 409 feet to right field. The home run scored he and Cozart, who reached on a bunt single a batter earlier. Ole Miss then loaded the bases with one out as Clark reached on a fielding error at first and advanced to second on a single through the right side from Ketchum. Logan Power was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. The Rebels then added four more runs as Cody Overbeck sent a shot over the wall in left center for his first grand slam of the season.

The Rebels added five more runs in the second inning as Fuller Smith scored from second on a single through the right side from Ketchum. Smith reached on a single and advanced to second on a single from Clark. Power then hit a three-run home run to clear the bases before Overbeck hit his second home run, a solo shot to left field, to put Ole Miss up 11-3 after two innings.

Memphis got a run back in the third with a two-out double down the left field line to score Amar from second. Amar reached on a single and advanced to second on a double play grounder to third.

Memphis again cut into the Rebel lead as Kyle Norrid hit a solo home run to open the fourth inning, cutting the lead to 11-5.

The Tigers used two runs in the seventh to cut into the Rebel lead more, trimming the lead to four runs at 11-7.

Ole Miss scored again in the bottom half of the frame, using a single to left from Justin Henry to drive in his brother, Jordan, from third. Jordan Henry reached on a single and then moved to third on a single to center from pinch hitter Kyle Mills.

Memphis cut into the lead again as the Tigers answered in the eighth inning with a pair of runs on a single up the middle from Will Peterson, cutting the Rebel lead to three at 12-9.

Craig Rodriguez and Bittle entered the game in the eighth and ninth, slowing down the Tigers and helped seal the win for the Rebels. Also pitching for the Rebels down the stretch were Phillip Irwin and Jesse Simpson.

Ole Miss will return to action this weekend when the Rebels will play host to Wright State in a three-game series. First pitch for Friday’s game is set for 3 p.m. as the Raiders and Ole Miss open the series at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Shilling to File for Free-Agency after 2007 Season

Fort Myers, FL (Sports Network) - Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling has said he will file for free agency once the 2007 season ends, as the club told him they will not offer a contract extension during spring training.
Schilling told WEEI-AM in Boston that he met with Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein on Wednesday and was informed that the club would wait until after the season to decide if a new contract for the 40-year-old right-hander would be offered.
"We talked yesterday and they have decided they're going to go more from a business standpoint," Schilling told WEEI. "They're not going to offer me a contract until after the season. I'm going to play out the season and file for free agency at the end of the year."
If a deal is not reached, Schilling would become a free agent for the first time in his career.
"Theo was up front and honest. It was a very quick meeting," Schilling told the radio station. "Obviously, you're disappointed. This is a business."
Schilling was 15-7 with a 3.97 earned run average in 31 starts last season.
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino also spoke with WEEI and said that the decision does not mean the club will not try to re-sign Schilling for next season.
"The request [for a contract extension] from Curt came as a bit of a surprise," Lucchino told the radio station. "Out of respect for him, we met and discussed it, considered it and thought at this age and stage it was probably more appropriate to make that contract decision at the end of the season rather than at the start of the season."
The 2007 campaign will be Schilling's fourth season with the Red Sox. He was brilliant in his first year, leading Boston to the World Series title in 2004. He was 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA that season and his postseason performance included the infamous "Bloody Sock" outing in Game 6 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees.
After the 2004 World Series sweep of St. Louis gave the Red Sox their first title since 1918, Schilling underwent surgery for his right ankle in November and had trouble recovering from the procedure in 2005. He was just 8-8 with a 5.69 ERA that season, spending time as a starter and closer.
Schilling has also pitched for Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia and Arizona in his 19-year career and owns a record of 207-138 with a 3.44 ERA. He also won a World Series title with the Diamondbacks in 2001, sharing MVP honors with fellow pitcher Randy Johnson in the seven-game victory over the New York Yankees.

Tigers Open Weekend Series Against Central Florida

BATON ROUGE -- LSU hopes to build upon the momentum created in two straight victories when the Tigers play host this weekend to Central Florida in Alex Box Stadium.
Game 1 of the LSU-UCF series is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Game 2 will start at Noon Saturday, and Game 3 begins at Noon Sunday.
Tickets for each game are $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-12. Tickets are available at Alex Box Stadium each day two hours prior to first pitch, or they may be purchased and printed at
Admission to any of the Tigers’ games versus UCF is just $4 for adults and $2 for youth when fans present an LSU men’s or women’s basketball ticket from this weekend’s action (men’s game vs. Florida, women’s game vs. Alabama).
Friday’s LSU-UCF game will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network (WDGL 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge). Saturday’s game can be heard on WTGE 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge only and Sunday’s game will be carried in Baton Rouge only on WDGL 98.1 FM.
The audio broadcasts, streaming video and live stats are available in the Geaux Zone at
LSU enters Friday’s contest having won its last two games, an 8-4 victory at Stetson on Sunday and a 6-2 win over Northwestern State Wednesday in Alex Box Stadium.
UCF, a member of Conference USA, dropped two of three games to Maryland last weekend in Orlando, Fla.
After collecting just seven hits in two games at Stetson last Friday and Saturday, LSU has amassed 24 hits in its last two contests. The Tigers are hitting .329 (24-for-73) in their last two outings.
“I’m encouraged by the way we’ve played in the last two ball games, but we still have a long way to go,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “I’m very happy with the victories and with the effort we’ve received from our players, but we must continue to improve. This weekend’s series should tell us a lot about our team because Central Florida, like Stetson last week, is a program with great tradition.”
Freshman center fielder Jared Mitchell is 5-for-10 in LSU’s last two games with one RBI and two runs scored. Sophomore third baseman J.T. Wise has three hits in his last six at-bats, including one double and one triple. Wise has driven in two runs and scored twice in the Tigers’ last two contests.
Freshman first baseman Sean Ochinko has four RBI in the last two games with one run scored.
Junior left-hander Charlie Furbush (1-1) will start Friday’s game on the mound for LSU. Furbush, who defeated Saint Mary’s (Calif.) in LSU’s season opener on Feb. 9, was charged with the loss in Game 1 of last weekend’s Stetson series. Furbush allowed seven runs (five earned) on nine hits in 4.2 innings with two walks and four strikeouts.
UCF coach Jay Bergman, in his 25th season at the school, will counter on Friday with sophomore left-hander Mitch Houck (0-1).
The Golden Knights, batting .264 as a team, are led at the plate by sophomore infielder Kiko Vazquez, who is hitting .379 with three homers and 10 RBI.
This weekend’s series marks the teams’ first meeting since 2004, when LSU won two of three games over the Golden Knights in Orlando. The Tigers lead the overall series, 11-3, including a 4-0 mark in games played in Baton Rouge. LSU swept two-game series from the Golden Knights in 1993 and in 1999 at Alex Box Stadium.
SERIES FACTSUCF Golden Knights (3-5) at LSU Fighting Tigers (5-2)
DATES/TIMES Friday, Feb. 23 – 7 p.m. CST; Saturday, Feb. 24 – 12 p.m. CST; Sunday, Feb. 25 – 12 p.m. CST

Rebs Open Fional Road Trip against SC

REBELS BEGIN ROAD TRIP AT CAROLINA Ole Miss opens a two-game road swing Saturday at South Carolina. The Rebels have won five of their last six games and remain in a first-place tie in the SEC Western Division with Mississippi State. Ole Miss improved to 14-1 at home this season with Wednesday’s 67-49 victory over Georgia. The Rebel defense limited the Bulldogs to 32.8-percent shooting and 17 second-half points. Clarence Sanders led the team in scoring for the third straight game with 21 points and 5 3-pointers, leaving him only two short of the school season record. Also in double-figures was Dwayne Curtis (14), Bam Doyne (12) and Jermey Parnell, who had his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
NCAA TOURNEY-WORTHY After a slow start to the SEC season, Ole Miss has fired back to take the Western Division lead and establish itself as one of the nation’s hottest teams. With wins in five of its last six games including a victory over No. 18 Alabama, Andy Kennedy’s club has thrust itself into the national eye as a serious NCAA Tournament contender. Ole Miss enters the weekend with a 2-3 record against teams currently rated in the top 30 of the RPI, a 5-6 mark against the index top 60 and 8-9 against the top 120. Of the Rebels’ victories, both Alabama and LSU have been ranked top-5 in the AP poll, while Tennessee has risen as high as No. 16. Ole Miss outscored the Volunteers 55-31 in the second half in knocking off the defending SEC champions. The Rebels also traveled to Auburn to slam the then division-leading Tigers by 22 points. Of the Rebels’ nine losses this year, eight were on the road, four were against top-20 teams, while two others were to squads that have since entered the national polls. Ole Miss’ first two setbacks were at the homes of UConn and Memphis and were without the full services of All-SEC center Dwayne Curtis, who fractured his foot in the preseason. The Rebels’ leading scorer from a year ago could not make the trip to Connecticut and saw only a few minutes in his first game back against Memphis. Only three of Ole Miss’ losses were by more than 10 points.
SCOUTING THE GAMECOCKS South Carolina is at the bottom of the SEC Eastern Division and has won only once in its last seven games. The Gamecocks are coming off a 63-49 setback at Florida on Wednesday. Dave Odom’s squad has won the postseason NIT each of the last two seasons but enters the weekend with a .500 mark on the year. Senior guard TrĂ© Kelley has been a bright spot for USC, averaging 18.3 points and 5.0 assists. He leads the SEC in scoring in conference play at 20.2 per outing. Senior forward Brandon Wallace posts 10.0 points and ranks second in the league in rebounding (9.5) and blocked shots (2.65). Wings Bryce Sheldon and Dominique Archie are each adding 8.6 points, while Dwayne Day chips in 7.6.
OLE MISS-SOUTH CAROLINA SERIES Saturday’s game will be the 23rd time the two schools have faced each other on the hardwood. Ole Miss holds a 12-10 all-time edge and has won seven of the last 10 meetings. USC enjoys a 6-1 edge in Columbia. Last year, the Rebels knocked off the Gamecocks 68-63 in Oxford. The two schools met only once prior to South Carolina joining the Southeastern Conference in the 1991-92 season. The two teams played in the Gulf South Tournament in the 1960-61 season, with the Gamecocks taking an 85-79 decision. The teams have also met in the SEC Tournament six times, including three of the last five years.
KENNEDY CONNECTION Andy Kennedy’s final game as Cincinnati head coach occurred against South Carolina last March. The Bearcats lost 65-62 at Fifth Third Arena in the NIT quarterfinals. Mere moments after the game, Kennedy accepted the head coaching position at Ole Miss. A pupil of Kennedy on that UC squad was Devan Downey, who has since transferred to the Gamecocks. The sophomore point guard and South Carolina native is sitting out this season by NCAA transfer rules.
HOLDING COURT The story of the Ole Miss-Carolina series has been a matter of location, location, location. The home team has prevailed in 14-of-15 meetings between the Rebels and Gamecocks on non-neutral courts (the other seven games were played in conference tournaments). The lone road win in the series was Ole Miss’ 67-61 win in Columbia in 2000-01.
BEST IN THE WEST Since the victory over No. 18 Alabama, Ole Miss has either been in a tie atop the SEC Western Division or alone in first, as was the case following last Wednesday's dramatic home win over LSU. The Rebels are currently tied with Mississippi State with three regular-season games. The last time Ole Miss led the West this late in the season was 2000-01, when the Rebels captured the program’s third division title. Just like this year, Ole Miss was picked to finish last in the West that preseason as well.
SENIORS APPROACHING MILESTONES Seniors Clarence Sanders and Todd Abernethy have some significant milestones in their sights. With 81 3-pointers this year, Sanders needs only 2 more to tie Aaron Harper (83 in 2002) for most by a Rebel in a single season. On Wednesday, he connected on 5 treys to pass Keith Carter (77 in 1999) and Joe Harvell (79 in 1992) on the list. Abernethy is close to joining the Ole Miss 1,000 point club, sitting 47 points shy of becoming the 29th player in Rebel history to reach that mark. This season, Abernethy has already moved into fourth on the all-time chart for assists (394) and fifth in 3-pointers made (149).
BEST SEASON SINCE 2001-02 The recent victory over Alabama secured Ole Miss of its first winning season since going 20-11 during the 2001-02 campaign, the program's last NCAA Tournament appearance. This year's 18 wins bests the previous high of 14 over the last four seasons. Also, after five or less SEC victories in each season since 2002, Ole Miss assured itself of exceeding that mark with the home triumph over LSU, and the tally has now reached seven.
DIALING LONG DISTANCE Aside from his spectacular buzzer-beater against LSU, sixth man Clarence Sanders has played a starring role of late, averaging 20.7 points and connecting on 48.3 percent (28-of-58) of his treys over the last six games to take over as the team’s leading scorer. Twice in that span he tied his own school record for 3s against an SEC foe with 7. Sanders was 7-of-13 from long range in matching his career high of 29 points against the Bayou Bengals. The Phenix City, Ala., native also burned Auburn for 7-of-11 from downtown for 21 points on the Plains, and he fired in 4-of-6 from behind the arc in hanging 22 on Mississippi State. In Wednesday’s win over Georgia, Sanders posted his 10th 20-point game of the year with 21, drilling 5 3-pointers. Also in SEC play, he used huge second halves to strike for 16 points against Alabama, 17 at Florida and 20 against Tennessee. After a streaky first season in the Red and Blue, Sanders has been a steady point provider for the Rebels this year. The senior guard has scored in double-figures in 25 of the last 26 games and ranks fourth in the SEC at 16.5 points per game. Sanders is also second in 3s per game (3.00) and eighth in the league in 3-point percentage (39.5). After a 35.7 shooting clip a year ago, Sanders boasts a 43.3 field goal percentage this season.
SEC’S TOP POINT GUARD? Todd Abernethy has raised his scoring average and assist total in each of his seasons as a Rebel, and this year, those figures are jumping once again as the senior has emerged as arguably the SEC’s best point guard. Abernethy is the SEC leader in assists per game (5.58) and ranks second in the nation in assist/turnover ratio (3.22). He is also averaging in double-figure points for the first time in his career at 11.1 ppg with a 12.8 clip in SEC action. The Carmel, Ind., native has registered a pair of 20-point games and his first two career double-doubles with 19 points and 10 assists against Mississippi State and 12 points and a career-high 11 assists against LSU. In addition, he is ninth in the SEC in minutes played at 32.85 per game.
PROTECTING THE BALL Ole Miss is the SEC’s best in turnover margin (+4.11) and ranks second in assist/turnover ratio (1.25). The Rebels have been in single digits in turnovers in 10 games and five times in league play. Ole Miss had only 5 giveaways against Alabama and a season-low 4 against LSU. Senior guard Todd Abernethy is second in the NCAA in assist/turnover ratio at 3.22.
POURING IN THE POINTS Andy Kennedy's style of "pressure basketball" is paying tremendous dividends for the Rebels on the offensive side. The team is averaging 74.1 points per game, a 8.9 raise from a year ago, and the highest clip since scoring 77.0 per game in 1998-99. Ole Miss scored 80-plus points in four consecutive SEC games this year for the first time since 1976. The Rebels' 100-80 victory over Nicholls marked only the second time since 2001 for the team to reach the century mark in points.
DOYNE IT ALL Bam Doyne has been among the SEC statistical leaders this season, ranking seventh in scoring (15.9), seventh in free throw accuracy (78.6) and 15th in minutes played (31.67). Doyne has three 20-point games in SEC play, giving him nine total this year. He scored an even 20 at Auburn, and posted 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in the win over Mississippi State. Doyne had 22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals at Vanderbilt. The senior guard has topped the team or tied for the team-lead in scoring in nine games, most recently in the win over Alabama with 17.
D.C.=DOUBLE-DOUBLE Since his return late in non-conference play, Dwayne Curtis has notched nine double-doubles, including five in SEC play. He has twice reached the 20-point, 10-rebound plateau this year, including his 20 and 12 performance in the home win over Arkansas. Curtis also shined with season highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds against Alabama A&M. He narrowly missed that mark at Auburn, scorching his former team for 19 points and 11 boards. Curtis posted 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Wildcats and all-star center Randolph Morris, and he tallied 11 points and 12 boards against LSU and All-American Glen Davis. Curtis just missed double-doubles against Tennessee (18 points and 9 rebounds), Mississippi State (14 points and 8 boards), Alabama (14 points and 8 rebounds) and Georgia Wednesday (14 points and 7 rebounds). Curtis suffered a stress fracture of the third metatarsal in his left foot in the third day of preseason practice and missed the first eight games of the year. In his second game back, the preseason All-SEC honoree reached a double-double less than 15 minutes into the UL-Monroe contest and finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. He nearly repeated that feat at South Alabama with 16 points and 9 boards, and against UIC, he registered 13 points and 12 rebounds.
STEALING THE SHOW Ole Miss is second in the SEC in steals in league play at 7.92 per game and has posted double-digit takeaways four times, including 11 at Auburn in forcing the Tigers into 25 turnovers. The Rebels established a season high for steals at Florida with 12 against the No. 1 Gators, including 3 from Eniel Polynice. Brian Smith collected 3 against Tennessee, as the team totaled 11. The Rebels notched 10 steals against Arkansas, led by Bam Doyne's career-best tying 4, and pressed the Hogs into 21 turnovers. Clarence Sanders has tallied multiple steals in 11 games overall this year and leads the team with 33. Dwayne Curtis has collected mutliple steals in four of the last five games, averaging 1.6 over that stretch.
OTHER PLAYER POINTSTodd Abernethy: The fourth-year Rebel missed the first game of his career against Louisiana-Lafayette. He was injured three minutes into the season opener after his head collided with an opposing player's shoulder on a screen. He suffered a slight concussion and had five stitches over his right eye. After sitting out the ULL game, the three-time Team Captain returned to the Ole Miss starting lineup with 13 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds against Fairfield. Bam Doyne: The senior forward has tallied multiple steals in eight games, including a career-high tying 4 against Arkansas ... Prior to game seven of the SEC slate at Vanderbilt, Doyne's previous 20-point game was a 22-point outburst in the non-conference finale at Saint Louis. In non-league play, he scored a career-high 28 in the win at South Alabama and a pair of 25-point outings against Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe. Doyne has also turned in his first two career double-doubles with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Nicholls and 20 points and a career-best 12 boards against Fairfield. Doyne has led or tied the team-lead in rebounds six times this year, including 9 boards at Saint Louis. Trey Hampton: Hampton returned to the starting lineup for only the second time this season at Mississippi State. He played 6 minutes and connected on 1-of-2 free throws ... After missing two games with sickness, the sophomore forward returned to the court against New Orleans and added 5 points and 4 boards ... Hampton enjoyed his best game of the year against Central Arkansas. With Kenny Williams slowed by a sprained ankle, Hampton earned his first start of 2006-07 and posted season highs in minutes (25), points (8), rebounds (5) and assists (2). He was also 2-of-4 from behind the arc. Xavier Hansbro: After making no starts as a rookie, the sophomore forward received the starting nod in the season’s first two games. In his first career start in the opening win over Mississippi Valley State, the Trezevant, Tenn., native responded with his second double-digit scoring outing as a Rebel, dropping in 11 points along with 6 rebounds. Coincidentally, Hansbro’s only other double-figure game was in last year’s season opener, when he hit 4-of-6 3-pointers for 12 points against Southern Utah.Greg Hardy: Since suiting up for his first game with the Rebel basketball team against Alabama A&M, the two-sport athlete has seen action in nine games and earned his first career start at LSU. With Kenny Williams and Jermey Parnell both fouling out at Florida, Hardy saw 12 minutes of action and posted 3 points, 4 rebounds and a steal, giving him 6 takeaways in the last four games. He posted a season-high 5 rebounds with 2 points and 2 steals at Mississippi State ... A freshman from Memphis who is also a member of the Ole Miss football team, Hardy began practicing with the team on Nov. 27, following the Rebels’ Egg Bowl victory over Mississippi State in the season finale on the gridiron. As a rookie on the football team, Hardy played in all 12 games on the defensive line, tying for the team-lead in sacks (3.0) and ranking fifth in total tackles (49). His four fumble recoveries also tied for third in the SEC, and against MSU, he saw his first action at wide receiver and hauled in a 23-yard touchdown. Rodney Jones: The freshman guard scored his first basket in SEC play at Arkansas, going 1-for-1 with 2 points and 1 rebound in 6 minutes. It was his fourth league game to see action with the most minutes, 7, coming at Florida.Andy Ogide: After playing in only three of the first 12 games, the freshman forward received the starting nod for the first time in his career in the win over Alabama A&M. Ogide saw 11 minutes of action and posted 3 points and 5 rebounds. He had his best game against Louisiana-Monroe with 7 points on 3-for-3 shooting.Jermey Parnell: The junior forward turned in his first career double-double Wednesday, posting SEC highs of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Prior to that, Parnell had not scored more than 6 points against a league foe this year, doing so against Alabama and Mississippi State at home ... Parnell returned to the starting lineup Wednesday for only the second time in SEC action, with the other instance coming against Arkansas at home. He started 11 straight games during non-conference play ... After only five double-figures scoring games in his first two seasons, the junior forward has already scored 10 or more points seven times this year. In the win over Tennessee Tech, Parnell tallied 14 points and 8 rebounds, and he followed up with 13 points and 4 boards against Nicholls. Against New Orleans, the Gosnell, Ark., native established a career high in scoring with 16 points, going 5-for-5 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw stripe.Eniel Polynice: Prior to Wednesday’s Georgia game, the freshman guard had earned the starting nod in six straight games. Polynice got his first career start at Vanderbilt and responded with his third double-digit scoring performance of the year. He finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Polynice also totaled 7 points and 3 assists in the win over LSU ... For the fourth time this season, Polynice helped energize a big Rebel run in the second-half comeback at Florida. During Ole Miss' 29-11 outburst on the Gators, the Sarasota, Fla., native scored 8 points and collected 3 steals, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in helping bring a 25-point deficit down to 7 ... The freshman guard had his best game as a Rebel against New Orleans, knocking down 4-of-4 3-pointers in totaling 15 points, 3 assists and 3 steals. Polynice dropped in 12 of his points in the second half in helping Ole Miss rally from 7 down early in the stanza. He followed up with 10 points in a career-high 29 minutes at Memphis. Down 12-3 early, Polynice came off the bench to score three of the next four Ole Miss baskets to help ignite a 21-11 Rebel run ... Polynice also sparked Ole Miss in the victory over Central Arkansas in the HCF Classic. With the Rebels clinging to a 2-point advantage midway through the second half, Polynice drilled a pair of 3-pointers and scored 8 points in 2:18 to push the lead up to 10. Clarence Sanders: In five SEC contests, the Rebels erased deficits late with Sanders speerheading the rallying efforts. The senior guard scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second stanza at Florida, as Ole Miss reeled off a 29-11 against the nation's No. 1. He followed with 18 second-half points against Tennessee to help the Rebels go from 10 down at the break to a 83-69 victory. Sanders dropped in 11 after the break at Vanderbilt and hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cap a 32-16 run and provide Ole Miss a 1-point lead. Against Alabama, he led the Rebels from 7 points down with 10:10 left to a 75-69 win, scoring 11 of the team's final 12 points. Sanders’ latest heroics occurred in the home victory over LSU, when he scored 7 points during the team’s game-ending 12-5 run, including the go-ahead jumper with less than a second left for the 71-70 win ... At one point this year, Sanders hit 11 straight shots, posting a perfect second half against UIC and connecting on his first five attempts against Alabama A&M. In the win over UIC, Sanders connected on 4-of-6 treys in leading the Rebels with 20, and he netted his first four 3s in scoring 23 against Alabama A&M. Sanders drilled 4-of-7 treys in pouring in 22 points against Louisiana-Lafayette, and he struck for a team-high 21 against Fairfield and 20 against Nicholls. Brian Smith: The junior guard was a hero in the LSU win. Down by a point with the Tigers burning the clock, Smith got the steal with 6 seconds left that led to Clarence Sanders’ game-winning basket. Smith also deflected LSU’s inbound pass on their last-second possession ... Smith is shooting 50.0 percent (11-of-22) and 47.1 percent (8-of-17) in 3-pointers in league play. He has scored 5 or more points in four games, including last Saturday’s Arkansas game with 5 in 14 minutes of action. Smith played 18 minutes at Mississippi State and was 2-for-2 from the field in scoring 5 points. He also came off the bench to hit a key trey with 8:11 left in the home win over Arkansas, and was 2-for-2 from behind the arc during the Rebels' 29-11 second-half comeback at Florida. In addition, he was 2-for-2 for 5 points against Tennessee, and hit a crucial 3-pointer in the midst of the Rebels' late game-winning rally against Alabama ... Smith earned his second career start at Vanderbilt. He played 19 minutes and collected 3 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists ... With starting point guard Todd Abernethy leaving with injury in the game's opening moments, Smith stepped in admirably in the season opener, helping lead the Rebels to the 72-49 victory over Mississippi Valley State. Smith played 21 minutes and recorded career highs of 10 points and 4 rebounds. He connected on 4-of-7 field goals, including 2-of-4 treys. With Abernethy still out, the 5-foot-11 Smith earned his first career start against Louisiana-Lafayette and saw 17 minutes of action.Kenny Williams: The junior forward leads Ole Miss in field goal percentage in SEC games at 57.4 percent ... Williams is 10th in the SEC on the offensive boards (2.41) and 15th in overall rebounding (5.6) ... Williams notched multiple blocked shots in a game for the 10th time this year and for the third straight game with a career-high 3 against Alabama. He is 14th in the SEC in blocks in league play (1.00) ... Williams has scored in double figures in four SEC outings, including at Arkansas where he tallied 10 points, 8 rebounds and a career-high 4 assists. He struck for 10 points and 7 rebounds in the home win over Arkansas, and he amassed 10 points and 6 rebounds on the road against both Vanderbilt and LSU. Williams was also effective against Tennessee with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks ... Williams has turned in two double-doubles, including a 13-point, career-high 13-rebound effort against Alabama A&M. Williams had his best game as a Rebel against Nicholls with his first double-double, posting career highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds. He also hit for 15 points and 6 boards against New Orleans and 13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals against Tennessee Tech.
NOTHING FOR FREE Ole Miss has had eight games this season with 10 or less free throw attempts. The Rebels were at the foul line for only 2 shots at LSU and 4 at Saint Louis. Ole Miss was at the stripe only 6 times in two of the last three games. The Rebels currently rank fourth in the SEC in free throw percentage at 70.2. That figure is over 7 points better than last year’s 63.0 percentage and would be the highest since firing at a 72.6 clip in 2002-03. The Ole Miss seniors are leading the charge with Clarence Sanders at 79.5, Bam Doyne at 78.0 and Todd Abernethy at 77.4.
RALLYING REBELS Ole Miss ignited second-half comebacks in three straight games earlier in SEC play and pulled the feat again recently in back-to-back contests. Facing Alabama for the SEC West lead, the Rebels powered from 7 points down with 10:10 left to earn a 75-69 victory. As was the case in the other rallying efforts, Clarence Sanders was a key figure, scoring 11 of the team's final 12 points. The Bama game was the sixth this year when Ole Miss trailed at halftime and came back for the win. In the next game against LSU, the Rebels rallied again, trailing the last nine minutes and by 6 with 5:45 remaining. Ole Miss’ 12-5 final run saw Sanders with a 3-pointer, a dunk and the game-winning jumper with 0.6 seconds left. At Vanderbilt, the Rebels stormed out of the half on a 32-16 run that turned a 15-point deficit into a 1-point advantage with 10:34 left. Ole Miss would retake the lead again later before falling 85-80. Bam Doyne directed the surge with 15 of his 22 after halftime, while Sanders scored 11 and hit consecutive 3s to provide the lead. Prior to facing the Commodores, the Rebels reeled off second-half runs in which they outscored both Florida and Tennessee by 18 points. Sanders had 18 after the break and hit five consecutive shots during a 20-2 second-half explosion against the Vols that shifted a 10-point halftime deficit into a 14-point win. After falling down by 25 points against No. 1 Florida, Ole Miss used a full-court press to begin a 29-11 run on the national champs that narrowed the gap to 7 points. After intermission, Ole Miss had 9 steals and scored 15 points off 12 Gator turnovers. Sanders attacked for 15 points in the second half, and off the bench, Eniel Polynice collected 3 steals and 8 points and Brian Smith was 2-for-2 from 3-point range. After seeing the 7-point deficit balloon again to 13 with 5:44 left, the Rebels stormed back again with three straight baskets to pull back to 7 points. In both instances in which the margin was 7, Ole Miss had a possession to draw even closer.
ABERNETHY EARNS ACADEMIC HONORS, SPEAKS TO LOCAL KIDS In addition to leading Ole Miss to its best season in five years, Todd Abernethy is also doing his fair share of good work off the court, earning academic honors and continuing his charitable service in the community. For the second straight year, Abernethy has been named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VI team, which is voted on by the College Sports Information Directors of America. His name is now on the ballot for Academic All-America. The senior banking and finance major is a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll recipient. Abernethy is also a member of the SEC Good Works Team and recently spoke to the Oxford Boys & Girls Club. The Carmel, Ind., native routinely talks to churches and civic groups and is an active leader in Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Abernethy has taken part in numerous fundraisers and participated in mission trips to Brazil and Bermuda.
SIGNIFICANT BLOWOUT The 82-59 final winning margin at Auburn marked the largest for the Rebels in an SEC game since a 84-56 triumph over Alabama on March 3, 2002, and the widest margin on the road in conference play since beating LSU 83-57 on Feb. 18, 1998. It marked Ole Miss' biggest win over Auburn on the Plains and the second-biggest overall against the Tigers. Including Tennessee and Mississippi State, the Rebels have won three SEC games by 12 or more points this season after doing so only twice in the previous four years.
HITTING THE BOARDS The Rebels are fourth in the SEC in offensive rebounds (13.38 per game), and pulled down 21 off the offensive glass at Mississippi State. Dwayne Curtis is the team leader in total rebounds per game (8.8) and ranks fifth in the SEC in league play (8.4). Kenny Williams has also helped lead the charge, ranking 10th in the SEC for the season on the offensive boards (2.4) and 15th in overall rebounding (5.6).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

11TH Ranked Rebels Host Wright State for 3 Game Set

OXFORD, Miss. – The 11th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels (5-1) will continue home action this weekend as Ole Miss will welcome Wright State to town for a three-game series at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.

Friday’s series opening game will begin at 3 p.m., while Saturday and Sunday’s games are set for 1:30 p.m. starts.

Ole Miss is coming into the weekend on the heels of a mid-week tilt with Memphis that saw the Rebels break out the bats and hit four home runs on the way to a 12-9 win over the Tigers. Cody Overbeck hit a grand slam in the first and a solo home run in the second as part of an offensive explosion that also included a two-run home run from Fuller Smith and a three-run home run from Logan Power.

Power leads the Rebel offense with a .450 batting average and seven RBI on the season, tied with Overbeck for second most RBI on the season. Brett Basham leads the team in RBI as he has driven in eight runs on the year.

Rebel ace Will Kline (2-0) will lead the Rebels into the weekend, taking the mound on Friday night. Kline, a junior right-hander, has struck out 16 batters in 12.0 innings of work to lead the Rebel pitching staff in strikeouts. Sophomore right-hander Lance Lynn (1-1) is slated to start the Saturday contest with 15 strikeouts and only two walks on the year and has posted a 1.64 ERA. Sophomore southpaw Brett Bukvich (1-0) is expected to close out the series on Sunday.

Wright State will open the 2007 season this weekend after having the opening series at Morehead State cancelled last weekend. The Raiders are coming off a successful 2006 season that saw them claim the Horizon League Tournament and earn a berth in the NCAA Corvallis Regional.

Returning to lead the Raiders at the plate is Ross Oeder, who hit .369 a year ago to lead the Wright State offense. Oeder tallied 28 RBI and a home run while hitting 20 extra-base hits. As a team last season, the Raiders hit .300 with 39 home runs and 298 RBI.

Garrett Holleran leads the Raiders pitching staff into the weekend as the senior right-hander posted a 6.75 ERA a year ago and turned in a 4-7 record on the mound. He struck out 38 batters while walking 25. Also expected to throw for the Raiders are newcomer Dan Barker on Saturday and senior southpaw Kyle Kearcher. Barker transferred to Wright State from Ohio State, while Kearcher posted a 1-1 record last season in 11 appearances and one start.

Tigers Beat Northwestern State with Small Ball Effort

The boxscore lists it as a wild pitch, but Michael Hollander’s hustle play for LSU’s fourth run in a 6-2 victory Wednesday night over Northwestern State illustrates what coach Paul Mainieri wants from his Tigers.
LSU led 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning when Hollander doubled with two outs and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. The Demons’ Jason Grace threw a breaking pitch that bounced in front of catcher Anthony Jones and caromed onto the grass in front of home plate.
Hollander broke for home, a calculated gamble that Jones would be unable to retrieve the ball and get back to the plate in time to tag him. Hollander slid headfirst, arriving safely for a 4-1 lead.
Mainieri, who wants an aggressive offense at the plate and on the base paths, called Hollander’s sprint for home a key play in the game, and it came during a brief, open-and-shut window of opportunity.
Buzzy Haydel’s fly ball to center field one pitch later ended the inning.
“When there are two strikes, you gamble for the plate,” Mainieri said. “When there are two strikes, I tell them to look for a breaking ball in the dirt, and if the ball gets at all away from the catcher and you get a great jump, go for it.
“He’s a hustling player. He made a great play for us. It was a big run for us.”
LSU (5-2) slapped 11 hits, 10 off Grace (1-1) in 5 1/3 innings.
Louis Coleman (2-1) started for the Tigers and pitched one more inning. He gave up a run on five hits, striking out six and walking none.
Ryan Byrd, one of three other LSU pitchers in the game, gave up an eighth-inning pinch-hit home run to Mike Jaworski.
Coleman was the losing pitcher Saturday in a 14-1 defeat at Stetson. He did a better job in a lot of areas Wednesday, including keeping pitches low.
“I did some paper work when we got back from Florida,” Coleman said, “stats and figuring out balls and strikes. The biggest thing was getting leadoff batters out and not leaving the ball up.”
Coleman retired six of seven leadoff batters. The exception was Brandon Richey, who singled to open the third inning and scored after Coleman —possibly upset about letting him get on base — threw an errant pickoff attempt that put Richey on third base.
Steven Waguespack and Hollander were each 2-for-4 for LSU. Waguespack drove in three runs.
Hollander’s hustle play in the fourth inning is the kind of “dirtbag” play Northwestern State coach Mitch Gaspard wants to see from his Demons (1-7).
“You have to play fearless in this game,” Gaspard said. “If you play passive and tentative, you’re not going to win many games.”
Hollander said he read the spin and bounce of the ball and saw his chance.
“I saw it kick away, and instinct kind of took over,” he said. “He (Jones) would have had to run something like a shuttle drill to get me.”
Hollander said the Tigers need to take advantage of every break and every edge they see and can exploit.
Mainieri said he wasn’t surprised by the play.
“Hollander’s such a heady ballplayer,” Mainieri said. “He’s always thinking, and he’s very coachable. I thought it was not only a great hustle play, but a smart play.”
Gaspard agreed.
“That’s how we’re looking to play,” he said, “and that’s the great thing about playing good teams early. You learn a lot from that. It’s frustrating to be 1-7, but at the same time I think our guys learned tonight.
“We’ve got a new crop and a lot of junior college guys who aren’t used to this level, and it gives them an opportunity to see what it is and where you’ve got to be at the end if you want to be playing in June.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Red Sox Brass Optomistic about Team's Future

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Amid the soothing air of Spring Training, Red Sox owner John W. Henry celebrated his arrival in camp by watching prized acquisition Daisuke Matsuzaka fire away in a 40-pitch bullpen session.
While the American and Japanese media fought for a decent sight line, Henry stood next to general manager Theo Epstein for a picture-perfect view. With each pitch, the misery of the latter half of the 2006 season became more of a distant memory.
To Henry and team chairman Tom Werner, both of whom met the media Tuesday, Matsuzaka was a welcome symbol of a new beginning.
"This is terrific," Werner said. "The fact is, we've been here for five years and we've never seen such excitement -- to watch fans here be excited about long toss ... we can't wait for Daisuke to come to Fenway Park because the excitement will just continue to build."
Matsuzaka was just part of a reloading winter that also included J.D. Drew ($70 million, five years) and Julio Lugo (four years, $36 million).
Henry is committed to rewarding the fans who pour so much of their hearts and wallets into his product, and that, as much as anything, explains why he green-lighted an increase in spending on the heels of such a disappointing season.
"Since we've been here, every game, up until the end of the season has been an important game," Henry said. "We suffered through a September last year, certainly the second half of September, in which they were essentially meaningless. By mid-September, I think before mid-September, we were determined to improve the team and do what we thought it would take during the offseason to ensure that this didn't happen again."
And on this beautiful Tuesday in Fort Myers, Henry opened his eyes and started to see some of his new investments take shape.
"I know the 2003 club, some people say was the best we ever had," Henry said. "But we won [the World Series] in 2004. This certainly has to be one of the best Red Sox teams ever, if not the best, going in."
During those depressing days of September, Henry lifted his spirits by watching the baseball operations staff formulate a plan for immediate revival. Ownership's looser purse strings enabled nearly every item on the shopping list to be reeled in, starting with the most ballyhooed move of all.
"It makes you determined that it's not going to happen again," Henry said. "The only positive aspect was that we started early and we made our game plan, and we knew that our No. 1 priority was to acquire Matsuzaka-san; we knew that was not going to be easy and was fraught with peril. And we had other areas we had to address and we were determined to address them. We needed somebody to back up the No. 4 spot [in the lineup], and we needed strength through the lineup."

Despite green-lighting the unprecedented $51.1 million posting fee for Matsuzaka and the $52 million contract, Henry is willing to be patient with the Japanese star. In fact, he hopes others take the same course.
"I think he's showing tremendous poise," Henry said. "But I hope that everyone realizes he's going to be pitching in the American League East -- not an easy task as you saw with what Randy Johnson went through the last couple of years. There's going to be an adjustment. If our expectations are not higher than they should be, I think we'll all really enjoy this year watching him pitch. I can't wait to see that."
Werner seemed to be looking forward to those summer nights when the Red Sox will simply outslug the opposition, something that was hardly seen during the second half of 2006.
"Well, we've improved offensively as John said," Werner said. "The goal was to have a relentless offense. I think J.D. Drew and Lugo [arriving] and [Coco] Crisp, hopefully, returning to form, I think all of that bodes very well for us offensively. We've got a lot of pitching. I hope we don't trade any of it."
Though there's still no word on when superstar slugger Manny Ramirez will arrive at camp, Henry seemed pleased that another winter of trade rumors ended again without a trade.
"He's a pretty consistent hitter," Henry said. "I think it's OK to put up with 30 home runs a year and 100 RBIs a year. We all know Manny is Manny. I hear he's ready to play this year; that's what's important."
What would the brass consider to be a successful 2007 season?
"We're in the American League East, which is the toughest division," said Werner. "Our final determination of success is that we make the playoffs, because once you make the playoffs, it's an eight-team horserace and everybody is quite strong. It's our goal to be successful every year and to make the playoffs. Whether we do or not, there's a lot of things that can go into that -- injuries and subpar performances, but that's our expectation.'
Henry reiterated the thoughts of his chairman.
"As we saw last year, I think every year, anything can happen in the playoffs," Henry said. "The goal is to make it to the playoffs. You have to get yourself in position to win a championship, that's really what the goal is."
Not to mention putting 2006 as far in the rearview mirror as humanly possible.