Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Hard-court Rebels look to keep momentum going

By David Collier

David is a junior broadcast journalism major in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss.

dlcollie@go.olemiss.edu

Follow David on Twitter @DavidLCollier

Ole Miss (13-2, 2-0 SEC) will be looking for their first 3-0 start in conference play since the 2005-06 season when they head to Nashville for a clash with the Vanderbilt Commodores (6-8, 0-2 SEC) at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.

The Rebels have wins at Tennessee and at home against then No. 10 Missouri, while the Commodores have dropped games against Kentucky at home and at Arkansas, but getting a win in Memorial Gymnasium isn’t an easy task.

Vanderbilt leads the all-time series against Ole Miss 74-39, including winning five-straight contests and 10 of the last 11 meetings.

In Nashville, the Commodores have been even more dominant over the Rebels, holding a 47-5 record in games in the Music City. Ole Miss has not won in Memorial Gymnasium since 2001.

“Most of our guys have never been in that gym before,” Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy said in Monday’s SEC Teleconference. “They have a lot of history and don’t lose a lot of games there. We know it’s going to be a battle.”

Memorial Gymnasium is difficult for opposing teams because of the layout of the court. The benches are located on the baselines on opposite ends of the court, which makes communication a problem.

“We had a discussion about the configuration of the court,” Kennedy said. “And how it’s going to be different when playing away from your bench and how we really have to be dependent on the guys taking ownership and communicating amongst themselves because coaches are typically eliminated from the equation when the ball is away from you.

“It’s easy to talk about, but until we go through that experience, it will be a little bit of a change certainly for guys that have never gone through it.”

The numbers definitely are in Ole Miss’ favor to get a win.

Vanderbilt’s offense has been abysmal as they are averaging just 45.5 points so far in SEC play, and they may be without the services of their leading scorer, Kedren Johnson.

The sophomore point guard, who is averaging 15.7 points per game, suffered a partial dislocation of his right shoulder in the second half of Saturday’s loss to Arkansas.

“He did not practice (Sunday),” Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said in Monday’s SEC Teleconference. “It will be a pain tolerance thing, so we don’t know if he’ll be available for the game (Tuesday).”

If Johnson is unable to go, Stallings could elect to go big and start a third forward in sophomore Shelby Moats, who is averaging just 3.9 points and 35 rebounds per game in 19.8 minutes of action per contest.

Ole Miss has an injury of their own to deal with. Junior center Demarco Cox suffered a stress fracture during the Rebels’ trip to Hawaii in the Diamond Head Classic. Cox had the same injury before the season, which kept him out the first few games of the season.

“We are following doctor’s protocol as to see when he will be back with us for on court activity,” Kennedy said. “That’s not going to happen this week. My hope is that he’ll continue to heal and rejoin our team soon. It’s a big loss for us because he brings us something that we don’t already have, a big body.”

Kennedy also said there’s a chance Cox could receive a redshirt because he has not played in a lot of games this season, but that is something that has yet to be looked into.

Starters Comparison

Point Guard: Sophomore Jarvis Summers, 6-foot-3, 184 pounds | Sophomore Kedren Johnson, 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

Summers has been more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor the past couple of games, and Tuesday could be more of the same for the Jackson native. Summers is averaging 8 points per game and has an outstanding assist to turnover ratio of 4-1.

If Johnson plays, will be tough to guard defensively, and Nick Williams or LaDarius White will likely draw the matchup since they are more sound, physical defenders. Johnson is averaging 15.7 points per game, while also turning the ball over 3.4 times per game.

Guard: Junior Marshall Henderson, 6-foot-2, 175 pounds | Junior Kyle Fuller, 6-foot-1, 200 pounds

Henderson has been the catalyst for the Rebel offense all season, even on nights when he’s not shooting it particularly well. The Hurst, Texas native is averaging 18.6 points per game, but his presence on the court opens up things for his teammates to get involved. If Henderson continues to not force too many shots, it’ll be tough for opponents to slow down Ole Miss.

Fuller has started in every game for the Commodores and is averaging 11 points per game. He’s the smallest of the starters for Vanderbilt and is not a big threat to knock down a three, shooting just 25 percent from behind the arc.

Guard: Senior Nick Williams, 6-foot-4, 212 pounds / Sophomore LaDarius White, 6-foot-6, 210 pounds | Freshman Kevin Bright, 6-foot-5, 210 pounds

White has started both SEC games, but Williams will get around equal playing time as White even if it comes off the bench. White, who averages just 3.7 points per game, poses a matchup problems for opponents with his length, while Williams is more of a true guard, averaging 10.3 points per contest and shooting 33.3 percent from three-point range, and he is arguably the Rebels’ best defender.

Bright is a freshman who has made a big impact early in his career. He is averaging 5.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, while also shooting 47.2 percent from behind the arc. However, Bright is just 8 of 15 from the free throw line.

Forward: Senior Murphy Holloway, 6-foot-7, 240 pounds | Junior Rod Odom, 6-foot-9, 215 pounds

Holloway had a dominate performance in Ole Miss’ win over Missouri this past weekend and has been one of the most productive players in the league this year. He is averaging 16.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, and with a Vandy team that turns the ball over a lot, Holloway could add on to his 27 total steals, which leads the team.

Odom is an athletic forward like Holloway who has a chance to create matchup problems. He is averaging 9.4 points per game, but Odom is also only pulling down 4.1 rebounds per game on average. Odom has the ability to knock down outsides shots, shooting 30.8 percent from three-point range.

Forward / Center: Senior Reginald Buckner, 6-foot-9, 235 pounds | Sophomore Josh Henderson, 6-foot-11, 230 pounds

Buckner did not score in the Rebels’ win against Missouri Saturday, but he is still averaging 10.1 points per game. The Memphis native is also pulling down 7.8 rebounds per contest. Buckner is mostly noticed on the defensive end of the court and is second in the conference with 2.8 blocks per game.

Henderson is a player that could see his playing time decrease if he continues to struggle. In Vanderbilt’s two games in league play, he has only scored two total points. On the year, Henderson is averaging 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

By The Numbers

Points Per Game: Ole Miss – 82.4, Vanderbilt – 57.6

Opponents Points Per Game: Ole Miss – 63.7, Vanderbilt – 59.3

Field Goal Percentage: Ole Miss – 44.5%, Vanderbilt – 40.2%

Three-point Field Goal Percentage: Ole Miss – 31.7%, Vanderbilt – 33.4%

Tree-pointers Made Per Game: Ole Miss – 6.9, Vanderbilt – 7.1

Free Throw Percentage: Ole Miss – 70.3%, Vanderbilt – 58.1%

Turnovers Per Game: Ole Miss – 12.1, Vanderbilt – 13.9

Turnover Margin: Ole Miss – +5.7, Vanderbilt – -0.1

Rebounds Per Game: Ole Miss – 41.3, Vanderbilt – 32.1

Rebounding Margin: Ole Miss – +4.4, Vanderbilt – -1.9

Assists Per Game: Ole Miss – 13.1, Vanderbilt – 10.5

Blocks Per Game: Ole Miss – 5.8, Vanderbilt – 3.3

Steals Per Game: Ole Miss – 9.9, Vanderbilt – 6.4

For complete stats on Ole Miss, click here.

For complete stats on Vanderbilt, click here.

Analysis

It’s easy to see the numbers favor Ole Miss, but Vanderbilt took Kentucky down to the wire in their home building so it won’t be easy.

If the Rebels can play their style of game, they’ll walk away with a 3-0 record in conference play.

I expect Kennedy to put his squad in their press early and often to get a Vanderbilt team, who has averaged 19.5 turnovers in their two SEC games, flustered that could also result in easy buckets for Ole Miss.

Staying out of foul trouble will be important for the Rebels, who should get the win if they play within themselves and don’t get ahead of themselves.

 

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