By Adam Brown
The Ole Miss men’s basketball team welcomes into Oxford in-state rival the Mississippi State Bulldogs into the SJB Pavilion on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network.
Ole Miss (8-5, 0-1 SEC) is coming off a 66-60 overtime loss to No. 18 Tennessee in Knoxville on Wednesday. The Rebels were led on the court by Tye Fagan with 23 points.
Coach Kermit Davis and his staff took 10 players – nine scholarship players to take on the Volunteers. The Rebels led for 33:45 of the game.
The Rebels were without senior Jarkel Joiner with a lower back injury in the contest.
Mississippi State (10-3, 1-0 SEC) rolls into Oxford after an 81-68 conference opening win vs. Arkansas on Dec. 29 before a postponed game vs. Missouri originally scheduled for Jan. 5. MSU’s lone blemishes on the season come against Louisville in The Bahamas on Nov. 25 (72-58), vs. Minnesota in Starkville on Dec. 5 (81-76) and against unbeaten Colorado State on Dec. 11 at the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic in Fort Worth (66-63). Currently, MSU owns a NET rating of 37 with one Quad 1 loss, two Quad 2 losses and a perfect 10-0 record against Quads 3 and 4.
The Bulldogs use a tenacious effort on the glass, a careful but effective defense and a lights-out shooting offense to excellent effect. MSU ranks second in the SEC and eighth nationally at its rebounding margin of +10.8, helped greatly by not letting its opponents see many missed shots as the Bulldogs also rank second in the SEC and 40th in the NCAA at a 47.6 percent shooting percentage on the season. State’s tough defense doesn’t put opponents on the line much either, as MSU owns the SEC’s second-best and NCAA’s 19th-best fouls per game average at 13.7 per contest. The Bulldogs have held five opponents to 60 points or fewer and four to 50 or fewer, helping give MSU the SEC’s sixth-best scoring defense at 61.9 PPG (No. 47 NCAA) and sixth-best scoring margin at +12.8 PPG (No. 43 NCAA).
Mississippi State is led by Iverson Molinar, who averages 16.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and owns the SEC’s best free throw percentage on the year at 88.9 percent (56-of-63; No. 23 NCAA). Molinar also ranks third in the SEC and 27th nationally at his assist-turnover ratio of 2.9. Tolu Smith is second on the team at 14.2 points per game and a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game, while Shakeel Moore is third at 11.0 points per game as well as the SEC’s second-most steals per game at 2.3 (No. 14 NCAA). Other Bulldogs averaging double-digit scoring include Garrison Brooks (10.9) and D.J. Jeffries (10.8).
When these two programs meet on Saturday it will be the 265th all-time meeting in the series on the hardwood. Mississippi State holds a 146-118 series lead, but the Rebels have won 11 of the past 16 matchups, the best streak against the Bulldogs since winning 11 of 14 from 1929-33. Ole Miss holds an 85-45 advantage in Oxford, winning eight of the past 10 at home that includes a 4-2 mark in SJB Pavilion (opened 2016). The away team was the victor in both meetings in 2021, with the Rebels emerging 64-46 in Starkville on Jan. 19, and the Bulldogs winning 66-56 in Oxford on Feb. 20. The Rebels hold a 6-4 advantage in the previous 10 meetings, and the average margin of victory for the winner in that span has been by 14.1 points per game.