Ole Miss preview

MISSISSIPPI REBELS

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Record: 7-3

All-Time Series: Ole Miss leads 2-0

Last Meeting: Ole Miss won 88-69 on Dec. 5, 1998

SEASON RESULTS

Beat Arkansas State (65-52)
Beat South Alabama (89-71)
LOST to Utah (83-72)
Beat Marshall (82-78)
Beat Central Florida (78-46)
Beat Morgan State (78-70)
LOST to West Virginia (80-78)
Beat New Orleans (78-65)
LOST to New Mexico (103-70)
Beat Alabama State (85-81)

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP

G Chris Warren (19.8 ppg)
G David Huertas (21.0 ppg)
G Zach Graham (5.7 ppg)
F Malcolm White (3.9 ppg)
F Murphy Holloway (7.5 ppg)

Points of Emphasis

1. Chris Warren and David Huertas will be the two best guards U of  L will have faced this season. Warren is the Rebels' most reliable all-around player, averaging just under 20 points, 2.4 steals and 4.0 assists to 2.5 turnovers. He can beat you off the dribble, he can beat you on the cut, and even though his three-point percentage is down from last season, he can beat you with the outside shot.

Huertas was a disappointment for most of last season before hitting his stride at the end of the year and averaging 19 points in Ole Miss' four March games. He's kept the momentum rolling in his junior season, leading the Rebels in scoring at 21 ppg, hitting 32-of-68 three-point attempts and scoring less than 20 points just three times.

Needless to say, tonight will be a huge test for the McGee/Sosa/Smith/Knowles quartet.

2. Ole Miss comes into tonight's game playing particularly poorly. They were inexplicably blown out by 33 at New Mexico on Saturday, and then narrowly avoided a disastrous defeat by holding off Alabama State 85-81 two days later.

3. The Rebels are not a good defensive team. They play strictly man-to-man, press occasionally, and are extremely susceptible to backcuts and leaving solid three-point shooters unchecked. They rank 252nd in the nation in scoring defense, surrendering 72 points per game, 172nd in field goal percentage defense and 133rd in three-point field goal percentage defense.

4. They're still adjusting to life without junior forward Eniel Polynice and guard Trevor Gaskins, who are both out for the season after having to undergo knee surgery. The loss of Polynice was an especially large blow for a team already thin in the frontcourt. Freshman Murphy Holloway is still a work in progress and sophomore Malcolm White has not made nearly as long a jump in his second season as Andy Kennedy was hoping. The result is a team that ranks 256th in the country in rebounding margin and has consistently been abused by talented opposing big men.

5. Ole Miss leads all Southeastern Conference teams and ranks 12th in the nation with a 77.5 free-throw percentage. The Rebels set a school-record with a 22-for-22 performance at the line against South Alabama and shot 93.8 percent (15-of-16) from the stripe against Morgan State. Warren ranks fourth in the SEC with his 86.9 percent free-throw shooting (53-of-61), while Huertas ranks seventh at 80.0 (48-of-60). Both players are also among the league’s leaders in free-throw attempts. Zach Graham has only missed one free throw in 20 attempts (95.0 percent), while Terrance Henry is hitting at an 81.8 percent clip (18-of-22).

6. The thing that makes me the most worried about tonight is that this is a team with serious talent whose major flaw has been prolonged stretches of apparent apathy. Inspiration likely won't be a problem playing against the No. 9 team in the country in a nationally televised game on ESPN. Louisville will get the best shot of a team with the potential to hang with just about anyone in the country, and it will come away from home, where the Cards weren't exactly stellar in their only other showing. 

7. They're big men are erratic, but surprisingly good passers. Our guards can't take their eyes off of Huertas or Warren or they'll make a quick cut to the hoop or an open spot along the perimeter.

8. Samuels and Clark have to be more active than they have been at times over the last couple of weeks. U of L's size is the single greatest advantage present in this matchup, and the only people who can stop the Cardinal big men are the Cardinal big men.

9. Hold Warren and Huertas below 48 combined points and you win. That's a guarantee.

QUOTABLE

--"This is why you work so hard. This is why you come to an SEC school, to play a game such as this - national television, a big-time opponent, one of the most prestigious powerhouses in college basketball. I know I'm excited. I hope our guys are excited about it." --Andy Kennedy

--"Their guards are not going to take shots that you see on film where seven out of 10 of their shots are coming from this area or this play. That's just not the way it works for them. Mostly if you look at their assist total most of their plays come off one on one, so sometimes you can't plan or choreograph their defense to stop a certain play because these guys can put it on the bounce and create shots for themselves." --Rick Pitino

--"We're struggling. We're young. We make mistakes. When you're looking at 10 healthy guys on the roster and only four have played in a Division I basketball game before this year, realistically, it's just going to take some time. That's what we're facing." --Andy Kennedy

--"I think we break down sometimes, we relax a lot on defense. When we're off the ball we relax and then they get an open shot." --David Huertas

--"We wanted to schedule it, so going into (Big East play), our competition gets better and better. They've still got to go through the real road trips where 18,000 people despise the ground you walk on. That's when you start to get close when you play those road games." --Rick Pitino

--"I don't know what it is - but as a coach I can't infuse somebody with confidence. I can put them in a position where hopefully good things will happen and then ultimately hope it comes. Obviously, for us, we hope it comes sooner rather than later." --Andy Kennedy

Game Reading

Mississippi-Louisville preview (CBS)

Louisville bracing for quick two-game swing (AP)

Working to improve (Scout.com)

Can't Miss week (Tom Heiser)

Cards, we barely know ye (Card Game)

Ole Miss Game Notes

Visuals

The Rebels getting stomped by New Mexico:

Highlights from last year's Ole Miss/Tennessee game where Chris Warren dropped 24 in a two-point loss:


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