By Adam Brown
The Ole Miss men’s basketball team returns to the friendly confines of the Pavilion this evening as they play host to the No. 24 Butler Bulldogs. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Ole Miss (5-2) is coming off a rattling 78-37 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the championship game of the NIT Tip-Off.
“We came off of New York with two extremes, with highs and lows,” head coach Kermit Davis said. “Now we have a good opportunity against a really good Butler team that just got ranked.”
Senior guard Breein Tyree and sophomore KJ Buffen were named to the NIT Tip-Off All-Tournament Team after leading Ole Miss to the championship game.
This season, Tyree is leading the scorer of the SEC with 1,293 career points. The total ranks him 21st in Ole Miss history and ties him with former Rebel Marshall Henderson.
Before the semifinal game against Penn State, the Rebels lost Louis Rodriguez who went down with a broken left foot in shootaround prior to the game.
“Louis’ (injury) hurt us a lot and you don’t really know it until you start subbing in games,” Davis said. “We lack some toughness and physicalness. He gave us tons of that.”
Buttler (7-0) rolls in after winning the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City with victories over Missouri (62-52) and Stanford (68-67). The Bulldogs rank third nationally in fewest turnovers per game (9.4) as well as ninth in the country with a 1.55 assist/turnover ratio. Holding opponents to 55.1 ppg, the Bulldogs have the nation’s ninth-best scoring defense.
“They have great, experienced guards,” Davis said. “Thompson and Baldwin are very good players with great depth. (Butler) plays like an experienced team.”
Leading the way is senior guard Kamar Baldwin, averaging 15.6 ppg. Shooting 66.7 percent from the floor (13th in the nation), Bryce Nze scores 12.7 ppg to go along with a team-high 7.6 rpg. Aaron Thompson does the dishing by averaging 6.4 assists per game, and his 3.75 assist/turnover ratio ranks 10th nationally. LaVall Jordan is in his third season as the head coach of his alma mater.
Tonight’s contest will be the second meeting in the all-time series between the two programs. Butler defeated Ole Miss 83-76 last season in Indianapolis.
Ole Miss will honor Johnny Newmann Night tonight as one of the most exciting Rebels in Ole Miss basketball history. As a sophomore, Neumann led the nation in scoring by averaging a school-record 40.1 points per game.
Fans can watch all the action on the SEC Network or listen to the game on the Ole Miss Sports Network. Follow live coverage on Twitter.