Ole Miss will begin Southeastern Conference play at home on New Year’s Eve (5 p.m., ESPN2) to start the second half of the 2017 season. The Rebels will face South Carolina, a program that has had to revamp its roster after the departures of Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice, and P.J. Dozier.
The Gamecocks enter Sunday’s contest with a 9-3 record, winners of four of their last five games. The Rebels (7-5) have won three of their last four non-conference games at home, and seem to have found a rhythm in the last two games on the offensive end.
Ole Miss combined to make 57 of 115 shots from the field in wins over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Bradley. The Rebels made 26 of their 57 shots from 3, which has been a positive during their two-game winning streak. In both wins, Ole Miss had at least four players score double figures, and recorded at least 18 assists.
USC isn’t as offensively skilled as the Rebels, with the Gamecocks only averaging 72.6 points per game, which ranks 13th in the SEC. While South Carolina’s offense hasn’t been stellar, its scoring defense, however, under Frank Martin hasn’t changed one bit. USC ranks second in the league in scoring defense (63.4 ppg).
Here are three keys to victory for Ole Miss against South Carolina:
1. Force USC to shoot 3s
As mentioned earlier, the Gamecocks aren’t a proficient offensive team. For the season, USC is shooting 43.1 percent from the field, making just 302 of 700 attempts. The Gamecocks rank ninth in the league in 3-point shooting (33.3 percent). USC’s best 3-point shooter is Florida Atlantic graduate transfer Frank Booker, who’s shooting 41.1 percent (30 of 73) from deep.
2. Win the rebounding battle
USC is averaging 38.8 rebounds per game, while holding its opponents to 32.2 rebounds per contest. Ole Miss will need to outrebound the Gamecocks to give itself a chance to open up SEC play 1-0. For the season, the Rebels are averaging 37.8 boards per game.
3. Make them count from the foul line
Ole Miss made every opportunity count from the free throw line during its two-game winning streak. The Rebels made 15 of 21 shots against TAMUCC, and 12 of 14 against the Braves. For the season, Ole Miss is shooting 70.3 percent from the line, which ranks ninth in the SEC.