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Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Gears up for No. 18 Tennessee on Rocky Top

By Adam Brown
Sports Editor

The Ole Miss men’s basketball team open’s SEC play on Wednesday as the travel up to Rocky Top to take on the No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. and can be seen on SEC Network.

Ole Miss (8-4) will be returning to the court for the first time since the 75-73 loss to Samford at home.

Coach Kermit Davis met with the media on Tuesday prior to the team traveling to Knoxville, Tennessee.

“We’re are looking forward to going to Tennessee,” Davis said. 

Davis added that Jarkel Joiner will be a game-time decision on if he can play dealing with a lower back issue.

Ole Miss has dealt with COVID since returning from the break.

“We had two test and in the protocols right after the break and we just got them back,” Davis said. “We had two guys today enter the COVID protocols.” 

The CDC has changed COVID protocols on how a team has to be tested.

“The CDC has changed and there used to be no close contact, now you have to be boosted,” Davis said. “We were a thousand percent vaccinated and not full boosted. So you can be considered a close contact and be vaccinated and not boosted.”

Davis added that this is where the team is right now, “If we have seven scholarship players we are going to Tennessee.”

The SEC protocol is to play a game.

“The protocol is seven players and one full-time coach,” Davis said.  

Tennessee (9-3, 0-1 SEC) comes into the matchup off a 73-68 loss to No. 19 Alabama on Dec. 29. The Volunteers currently own the NCAA’s 39th-toughest schedule, with Power-5 wins over No. 18 North Carolina (89-72), Colorado (69-54) and No. 6 Arizona (77-73), with losses to No. 5 Villanova (71-53), Texas Tech (57-52/OT), and Alabama.

The Volunteers rely heavily on a ferocious defense, an efficient offensive operation and careful protection of the ball. The Tennessee leads the SEC in assist-turnover ratio at 1.6 (No. 8 NCAA) and assists per game at 17.9 (No. 11 NCAA), and they also lead the conference in fewest turnovers per game at 10.9 (No. 34 NCAA). Combined with their 17.5 turnovers forced on defense (No. 21 NCAA/No. 3 SEC), that yields the NCAA’s sixth-best turnover margin at an SEC-leading +6.6 per game. The Vols also rank in the NCAA top-50 in steals per game (12th, 10.3), scoring margin (17th, +17.1), blocks per game (28th, 5.3) and scoring defense (31st, 60.4 PPG).

“Tennessee is a very good ole team and nationally ranked,” Davis said. “Well coached and good depth.”

Tennessee is led by freshman guard Kennedy Chandler, who averages 14.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 44.4 percent overall, 37.2 percent from three and 75 percent from the free throw line.

When these two teams tip off it will be the 121st all-time meeting between the Rebels and the Vols. Tennessee holds the all-time edge 75-45 and an advantage in the series both in Oxford (27-26) and in Knoxville (43-12). Last season, Ole Miss defeated No. 10 Tennessee 52-50 in Oxford.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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