OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss is looking to win its first road game of the season, and it could come Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville as the Rebels take on the Razorbacks.
Ole Miss faces an Arkansas team at Bud Walton Arena that has protected its home court well this season. The Hogs–eight-point favorites over the Rebels in this game–have a 9-1 record at home. The Razorbacks (12-6, 2-4 SEC) are coming off an 88-73 road loss at Florida, but Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy expects Arkansas to be on top of its game in front of its home crowd.
“It’s going to be chaotic,” Kennedy said about playing inside Bud Walton Arena.
“They are going to pressure you. You can’t give them the ball, allow them to get out in the open floor. That’s what happened to us last year, and they are very, very explosive, averaging well over 80 a game in that building. It will be challenging.”
Andy Kennedy on playing Arkansas
The Rebels (10-7, 3-3) are very familiar with the explosiveness of Arkansas’ offense. Daryl Macon scored 30 points on 10 for 13 shooting, including going 6 for 9 from 3 in the Razorbacks’ 98-80 home win over Ole Miss last season. The teams would meet again in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, with the Rebels falling 73-72 to the Hogs behind Arkansas’ 20 for 23 shooting effort from the free throw line.
In that win, Macon had a team-high 17 points.
This season, Ole Miss will have to stop the combination of Macon and senior Jaylen Barford, who ranks third in the SEC in scoring with 18.9 points per game.
In the Razorbacks’ loss to the Gators, the Jackson, Tennessee native tied a game-high 28 points on 10 for 15 shooting. Macon is second on the team in scoring (15.6), and leads the team in assists (74) and steals (22).
“We can’t turn it over and allow them to feed into their fanatic pace,” Kennedy said.
One of the most encouraging areas of the season thus far for Ole Miss is the play of forward Bruce Stevens. The junior college transfer is coming off a 20-point, eight-rebound performance Tuesday night against Texas A&M.
Stevens has notched three 20-point performances this season, with two of them coming back-to-back against Florida (22 points) and A&M. Kennedy, however, is most pleased with Stevens’ increased playing time.
“The most encouraging thing is his minutes have gone up,” Kennedy said Friday. “I think he played a career-high in minutes,” he explained.
“I don’t think he’s ever played 30 minutes at this level before. His ability to do so, conditioning-wise, and defensively he’s getting better. We felt like he could score close to the basket because he’s pretty nimble and he has just an offense repertoire which allows him to get it at the basket especially if he can put his body on you.“
Kennedy on Bruce Stevens
Kennedy knows the Rebels will look to Stevens more as the season moves forward. “We are going to him, obviously down the stretch,” Kennedy said.
“We need Bruce in the game, and as you see, our offense is tilting towards him late in the games because we feel like he can produce inside.”
Andy Kennedy on Bruce Stevens
AK reflects on the 3-pointer that might have been
Ole Miss had a chance to win in College Station Tuesday night, but the team’s 3-point attempt rolled around the basket and looked to briefly go in–before harmlessly rolling back out. That last-second miss allowed the Texas A&M Aggies to escape with the 71-69 victory.
“In real time from where I was standing, he shot it and he missed it,” Kennedy said of Breein Tyree’s shot. “Obviously, watching the replay on (a show like) “Sports Science” that does all of the probabilities, I’m sure the probability of that shot, based on the dynamics, it would go down more times than not–but that’s basketball.”
- The matchup between the Rebels and Razorbacks features the teams with the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the SEC. Ole Miss ranks 23rd nationally in assist/turnover ratio (1:4); Deandre Burnett ranks 21st individually and second in the SEC with a 3.0 assist/turnover ratio.
- Ole Miss has won five of the last seven contests in Bud Walton Arena.
- The Rebels are 9-1 when shooting over 30 percent from beyond the arc.
- Ole Miss is 12-7 versus Arkansas under Andy Kennedy
- The Rebels are playing back-to-back road games for the first time this season.
Ole Miss and Arkansas tip off in Bud Walton Arena (capacity: 19,368) in Fayetteville at 2:30 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. Richard Cross will handle the play-by-play duties, while Barry Booker serves as analyst.