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Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Plays Host to Mississippi State

By Adam Brown
Sports Editor

The Ole Miss men’s basketball team returns to action on Saturday afternoon as they welcome the Mississippi State Bulldogs into the SJB Pavilion. Tipoff is at 2:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.

Ole Miss (10-16, 2-11 SEC) is coming off a 79-64 loss at Florida on Wednesday. The Rebels were led on the floor by Matthew Murrell with 15 points while is teammate Jaemyn Brakefield add 14 points with eight boards.

This season, the Rebels are averaging 67.3 points as a team. Murrell and Brakefield average 14.3 and 10.2 points per game respectively.

Mississippi State enters with a 17-9 record overall and 5-8 record in conference, and currently sit in 11th place in the SEC standings. After opening the regular season with 11-straight wins, the Bulldogs dropped their final game before SEC play and owned a record of 1-8 between December 20 and January 25. However, bouncing back with a 81-74 win over No. 11 TCU in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, State rattled off five wins in a row over the Frogs, South Carolina, Missouri, LSU, and Arkansas. They most recently fell to Kentucky in a 71-68 game that went down to the wire.

One of the toughest defenses in the country, Mississippi State has held opponents to an average of 59.2 points per game, the sixth-fewest points allowed in the nation and second in the conference. Forcing turnovers via steals and contesting shots has been their strong suit, as the Bulldogs rank ninth in the country with an opponent field goal percentage of 39.0 percent, and 15th in the country in steals per game at 9.2. State ranks within the top-50 of numerous other categories including offensive rebounds per game (12.5, No. 22 NCAA), fouls per game (14.8, No. 32 NCAA), three-point percentage defense (30.6%, No. 34 NCAA), turnover margin (+2.9, No. 37 NCAA), and turnovers forced per game (15.3, No. 39 NCAA).

Their leading scorer this season has been Tolu Smith, who averages 14.8 points per game and ranks ninth in the SEC. The senior forward has averaged a team-high 16.6 points over his last five games, including his seventh double-double of the year when he had 25 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Missouri on February 4. He ranks fourth in the conference in rebounding at 8.2 per game, and is the team’s leading shot blocker as well. The Bulldogs have a pair of student-athletes among the top-10 in the conference for steals this year in Shakeel Moore (47 steals, No. 6 SEC) and Cameron Matthews (44 steals, No. 9 SEC).

Saturday will be the second meeting this season and the 268th all-time contests in the series between Ole Miss and Mississippi State on the hardwood. The Bulldogs own the overall series 148-119, the Rebels hold a slight advantage in the last 20 matchups, 12 games to eight. In the first meeting of the year, Mississippi State defeated Ole Miss 64-54 on Jan. 7.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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