On Saturday afternoon, Ole Miss welcomes another opportunity to get a win on the road against an NCAA Tournament caliber-program. The Rebels will travel to Austin to face the Texas Longhorns in the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge (1:00 p.m. CT, ESPN2).
This will be the first meeting between both programs in over 37 years (11,423 days, to be exact).
Texas leads the series 8-6, but Ole Miss has won five of the past six matchups against the Longhorns. The game offers the Rebels, who are coming off a huge home victory over Alabama Tuesday night, a chance for an RPI Top-50 win. Ole Miss needs a victory in a key road game this season to become a legitimate contender for the NCAA Tournament.
A win over Texas would not only give the Rebels (11-9, 4-4 SEC) their fourth win over an RPI Top 50 team, but it would also be a confidence booster for the team in its remaining road games. The Longhorns are No. 42 in the RPI rankings and have keys wins both at home and on the road.
Scouting the Longhorns
Texas (13-7, 4-4 Big 12) defeated TCU and Texas Tech at home and notched neutral-site victories over Butler and Alabama. The Longhorns, who are 7-0 against teams outside of the RPI Top 100, have mainly relied on their defense to win games this season. Texas is only allowing 66 points per game and leads the Big 12 in blocks per game (5.9)–good enough to rank them 13th in the nation.
Opponents are only shooting 39.9 percent against the Longhorns, a statistic that’s the 25th– best field goal percentage defense in the country. This is largely a result of the length and athleticism of Texas. Freshman Mohamed Bamba, standing at 6-foot-11, has tallied 84 blocks this season. The Harlem, New York native is averaging 12.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. His rebounding average ranks 12th in the nation.
Another standout for the Longhorns is junior forward Dylan Osetkowski, who is leading the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game. Osetkowski has the ability to stretch the floor and become a tough matchup since he’s able to knock down jumpers from the perimeter. For the season, he’s shooting 42.4 percent from the field.
Three things to watch in the Ole Miss vs. Texas matchup:
1. Stopping Bamba
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy’s team has had a bit of trouble this season, at times, when facing talented frontline players. A prime example came in the Rebels’ road loss at Texas A&M when Tyler Davis and Robert Williams combined to score 38 points and pull down 21 rebounds. Texas’ Mohamed Bamba is averaging more rebounds per game than either Davis or Williams. Dominik Olejniczak (7-0) is the tallest player on the Ole Miss roster, and he will need to match the physicality Bamba brings to the hardwood floor.
2. Markel Crawford
Kennedy was impressed with how graduate transfer Markel Crawford performed in Tuesday night’s win over the Crimson Tide. Crawford finished with 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting to along with his four assists and two rebounds. In addition to Deandre Burnett, Crawford is the other senior guard on the Ole Miss roster on whom Kennedy relies. Crawford has reached double figures in four of his last 10 games and will need to step up in one of the Rebels’ biggest road games this season.
3. Terence Davis
Coming off a 15-point performance against Alabama, junior forward Terence Davis is starting to find his groove. His best performance was at Arkansas when he scored 30 points, and he has reached double figures in the last three games. After the Rebels defeated Alabama, Kennedy said his Rebels are a good basketball team when the guards play well. Davis and company will need to play well for the Rebels to win on the road for the first time this season.