The Ole Miss Rebels return to the Pavilion on Saturday afternoon as they play host to the Arkansas Razorbacks in their conference home opener. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Ole Miss (9-5, 0-1 SEC) looks to bounce back from back-to-back losses. The Rebels are coming off a 57-47 loss in College Station on Tuesday night. Senior Breein Tyree led the team with 26 points in the contest.
“We need to do everything we can to win,” Tyree said. “The energy is kind of down right now. Having lost two straight is tough – that will bring the energy down but a win will flip-flop it the other way around, especially against Arkansas who is playing really well right now.”
“Coming out of the Texas A&M game in the second half we didn’t shot make and did not guard with toughness,” head coach Kermit Davis said. “Shot making has been a big issue for us. A&M has improved they beat Oregon State at home and took Arkansas to the wire until the last four or five minutes.”
“Holding a team to 39 percent and 57 points and only 19 at the half you think you have a real chance. Our inability to go make plays beside Breein is something we have to improve on,” Davis added.
“I know that I don’t like to lose and my teammates don’t like to lose,” Tyree said.
Arkansas (12-2, 1-1 SEC) rolls into Oxford after they defeated Texas A&M at home last weekend (Jan. 4) before falling to LSU on the road Wednesday (Jan. 8). Arkansas is 2-2 on the road this season. The Razorbacks are the nation’s best in defending the three, holding opponents to a 22.6 percent clip.
The Razorbacks defense also leads the SEC in steals (9.5 per game), turnover margin (+5.1) and turnovers forced (17.9 per game). All marks rank the top 20 nationally.
“(Arkansas) is really good at creating points off turnovers creating offense through the defense as they lead the league in steals,” Davis said.
Mason Jones (19.8 ppg) and Isaiah Joe (17.1 ppg) make up the second-highest scoring duo in the SEC. Jones, a junior guard, also leads Arkansas in rebounds (6.1 per game), assists (2.8 per game) and steals (1.9 per game). He ranks second in the SEC and 12th nationally in free throw shooting, making 91.6 percent (76 of 83) of his attempts. The Rebels will have to continue their strong three-point defense against Joe, who attempts nearly 12 three-pointers per game (fifth in the country) and makes 34.2 percent of them (3.7 per game).
“Arkansas has six guys back with Joe and Mason playing like two SEC First-Team players and were good against us last season and other teams in the SEC,” Davis said. “They are playing good and guarding at a high level.”
This will be the 82nd meeting on the hardwood between the two programs. Ole Miss trails Arkansas 48-33 in the all-time series. In the last meeting, Arkansas won a nail-bitter in Fayetteville 74-73.
“It will be a really tough test tomorrow,” Davis said.
Fans can watch all the action on SEC Network or listen to the call on the Ole Miss Radio Network. Follow HottyToddy.com Sports on Twitter for live game updates.