The Ole Miss Rebels renew their in-state rivalry with Mississippi State on the hardwood on Saturday afternoon inside the Pavilion. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Ole Miss (8-6, 1-1 SEC) looks to bounce back from Wednesday’s 71-60 road loss to Georgia, which snapped a three-game winning streak for the Rebels. Sophomore Breein Tyree led UM in scoring with 17 points in the game.
“I think we are a little bit upset about that loss,” Tyree said. “All of us think a few plays here and there [and] we could have gotten Georgia. I think we are excited for Saturday, and I think we are ready for it.”
Graduate transfer Markell Crawford has been leading the Rebels in SEC play with an average of 13 points per game.
MSU enters Saturday’s rivalry contest with a 13-1 record following a home victory over No. 22 Arkansas in its SEC opener (Jan. 2). With a non-conference strength-of-schedule ranked No. 294, the Bulldogs won 12 of their first 13 games before the start of SEC play.
The lone loss came at the hands of Cincinnati on Dec. 12. Allowing only 63.5 ppg, the Bulldogs lead the SEC and rank 25th nationally in scoring defense. Along with averaging 78.1 ppg, MSU’s +14.6 scoring margin also tops the conference.
Four Bulldogs are averaging double figures, led by junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon (14.8 ppg). His brother, Nick, ranks third on the team in scoring at 11.5 ppg. Forward Aric Holman averages 12.4 ppg and has been shooting 52.9 percent (18 of 34) from beyond the arc and pulling down 7.1 rebounds per game. Tyson Carter scores 11 ppg with the help of a team-best 24 three-pointers.
“(Mississippi State) has a lot of shot blockers,” Ole Miss Head Coach Andy Kennedy said. “They block shots at the rim and they are athletic. I think Nick Weatherspoon, as a freshman, is as good as I have seen on the ball, creating the ball pressure. They have got length, they’ve got athleticism on the wings. The biggest difference between this year and last is they have a true shot blocker at the rim.”
Ben Howland is in his third season as MSU’s head coach. This is his 22nd season as a head coach. His previous stops include Northern Arizona (1995-99), Pittsburgh (2000-03) and UCLA (2004-13).
The Bulldogs are Ole Miss’ most-played opponent, having met 256 times on the hardwood, which is also the SEC’s most-played rivalry. Mississippi State holds a 142-114 lead in the series, which began in 1914, but the Rebels have won seven of the last eight matchups, their best streak against the Bulldogs since winning eight straight from 1980-83. During the stretch, Ole Miss has averaged 81.0 ppg while only giving up 71.4 ppg. The Rebels hold an 83-43 advantage in Oxford, including a 27-point win last season that was the team’s largest margin of victory in the rivalry since Feb. 27, 1951 (95-60 win).
Last season, the Rebels defeated Mississippi State 87-82 inside the Hump. Ole Miss was led by then-freshman Tyree with a career-high 24 points.
“I was just in the flow of the game, Tyree said. “I was just letting the game come to me, and I was not forcing anything. I was just making plays and playing basketball.”
Adam Brown is the sports editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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