OXFORD, Miss. – Since the beginning of the season, Andy Kennedy has relied heavily on the production of his backcourt for wins. His Ole Miss backcourt will be put to the test Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m., SECN) when Mississippi State comes to Oxford for the first of two meetings this season.
The Rebels and Bulldogs will tip off in what is the SEC’s most-played rivalry, having met 256 times. Ole Miss has won seven of the past eight matchups against State–the Rebels’ best streak against MSU since winning eight straight from 1980-83.
Scouting the Bulldogs
The Bulldogs have Nick and Quinndary Weatherspoon leading the backcourt on a team that is currently 13-1 (1-0 SEC) and coming off a 78-75 home win over No. 22 Arkansas Wednesday night.
It was the production of the Weatherspoon brothers that put MSU over the hump in the win over the Razorbacks. Each finished the game with 22 points, combining to make 14 of 23 shots from the field. The frontcourt has been productive for the Bulldogs as well; MSU has three post players that have guarded the rim as if it was their own private home.
Abdul Ado (6-foot-11), Aric Holman, and E.J. Datcher (both 6-10) are the main reason the Bulldogs are averaging 6.1 blocked shots per game, which ranks 15th in the country. MSU is also 41st in the nation in rebounding (39.9 boards per game), and currently sits behind Auburn in the current league standings.
“They are athletic,” Kennedy said about the Bulldogs, who have won five straight games.
“I think Nick Weatherspoon, for a freshman, is as good as I have ever seen on the ball in creating ball pressure. They have length and athleticism on the wings. I think the biggest difference compared to last year is they have a true shot blocker at the rim.”
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy
Ado is State’s best shot blocker as he’s averaging 2.5 blocked shots a game. In the win over the Razorbacks, he recorded four blocks to go with his eight points, nine rebounds, and one steal.
Ole Miss guards are ‘the strength’ of the Rebels’ team
Kennedy has guards who thrive on driving to the basket, but Ado and company will present a challenge. In the loss to Georgia, Breein Tyree led the team with 17 points. Freshman Devontae Shuler added 11 off the bench, but it still wasn’t enough as the Bulldogs outscored the Rebels, 32-29, in the second half to notch a 71-60 victory.
Ole Miss’ top two scorers, Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis, will need to score against State in order for the Rebels to be successful. Against Georgia earlier this week, they combined to score eight points. Markel Crawford, who scored 17 against South Carolina, will also be another critical piece of the puzzle for Kennedy’s team Saturday.
Since production has yet to be consistent with the frontcourt, Kennedy knows his Rebels (8-6, 1-1) will need all five guards to lead the offense.
“Those five guys are the strength of our team and they have to play as such. Saturday is no exception.”
Kennedy on Ole Miss guards
Davis ready to attack
“The slow start to SEC play is going through my mind. Nothing I can do about it now except get better,” Davis said.
“I have been thinking too much and not thinking enough about just going and making plays,” he added.
On Friday, Davis told reporters he is ready to get back to playing his game.
“Every game, from now on, play in attack mode. Change my mindset, stay in attack mode.”
“Coach Kennedy does tell me to attack, but he usually tells me to find my spot, get to my spot. Get to your spot and make the play,” Davis added.
Matchup: Mississippi State (13-1, 1-0 SEC) vs. Ole Miss (8-6, 1-1 SEC)
Location: The Pavilion at Ole Miss (9,500)
Time: 3:30 p.m. (CT)
Television: SEC Network
Series: MSU leads 142-114
Last Meeting: February 21, 2017 Ole Miss won 87-82 (OT) in Starkville, MS