On Saturday, the Rebels suffered an 18-point defeat at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Just four games remain in the regular season. At 16-11, the Rebels have to win them all, and then some, to have a prayer of joining the big dance in March. The Rebels’ winning ways must begin tonight as a matchup with Mississippi State awaits them in Starkville.
The last matchup between the two rivals was over in a hurry, as the Rebels were able to impose their will on the Bulldogs. A 22-5 run midway through the first half helped the Rebels build a 51-33 halftime lead, and they remained in control the rest of the way. Terrence Davis gave the Rebels 18 points to lead the team. Davis has taken over as Ole Miss’ top offensive threat in recent weeks; so look for more of the same in tonight’s game.
Davis’ supporting cast was equally effective in the 88-61 win, with solid performances from Rasheed Brooks, Deandre Burnett, and Sebastian Saiz. Saiz’s double-double was a major factor as the Rebels out-rebounded the Bulldogs 43-30. The Rebels clearly hold the advantage in the rebounding department as Saiz averages 11 RPG and State’s leading rebounder is Aric Holman with only 6.2 RPG.
In the late January matchup, head coach Andy Kennedy used a perfect balance of man-to-man defense and his 1-3-1 zone. The Rebels forced 19 turnovers and scored 23 points as a result. While the 1-3-1 can leave the Rebel defense vulnerable at times, its proper execution can lead to a stifling defensive effort.
Since losing to Ole Miss, the Bulldogs have lost four of their last five and have fallen to the bottom three of the SEC. With a 5-9 conference record and 14-12 overall, the Bulldogs aren’t in contention for the NCAA tournament unless they win the SEC tournament.
Don’t let the record or recent performances fool you; the Bulldogs remember what happened here in Oxford a few short weeks ago. A rivalry game brings out the best in both teams, so the Rebels will undoubtedly get the Bulldogs best shot. And, the change of scenery will benefit them as well. The cowbells will be out in full force, and the atmosphere will not be a friendly one. The Rebels must block out the noise and focus on the job at hand, winning the game and keeping their season alive.
Tip-off from Humphrey Colosseum is set for 8 p.m. If you can’t make it to the game (or don’t want to go to Starkville), the game will be televised on ESPN2 and can be heard on the Ole Miss Radio Network. The game can be streamed online with the WatchESPN app or on OleMissSports.com.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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