It’s a new season for Ole Miss as the Southeastern Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament officially begins Wednesday night, with the Rebels taking on South Carolina (8:25 p.m. CT, SECN) after the Vanderbilt/Georgia game.
Ole Miss (12-19) is 4-4 all-time against the Gamecocks in the SEC Tournament, and the Rebels have won the past two matchups against USC, including a 74-69 victory to begin league play this season to hold the overall advantage in the series.
Since the win to kick off SEC play, the Rebels have been on a roller coaster ride in league play, ending the season on a three-game losing streak. The Rebels’ chances of going to a postseason tournament beyond St. Louis, Missouri are a long shot, but interim coach Tony Madlock thinks the team has a run left to make.
“It’s a new season, a fresh start again. So now we are going to get back to work on Monday and get ready to play Wednesday night,” Madlock said after Ole Miss lost 82-69 to Vanderbilt on Senior Night.
USC (16-15) won three of its last five conference games to end the season. Like the Rebels, though, the Gamecocks are also coming off a loss, a 79-70 road defeat to Auburn. USC is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the SEC, pulling down 12.6 offensive rebounds per game. Junior forward Chris Silva leads the Gamecocks in multiple categories, including points per game (14.1), rebounds per game (7.8) and blocks (41).
Frank Booker, a graduate transfer from Florida Atlantic, is the only other USC player averaging double figures in scoring (12.5 ppg) and leads the team in three-point shooting with 76 made threes at a 40.4 percent clip.
Justin Minaya has made 33 3-pointers this season, so the Rebels will have to do their best to guard the long ball, something they weren’t able to do against the Commodores, who made 12 of 24 shots from deep.
A win here will push Ole Miss into a Thursday night matchup against No. 6 seed Arkansas; whereas, a loss will end the Rebels’ season.
Three things to watch in the Rebels’ first-round SEC tourney game
1. Making the long shot
Ole Miss went 2 of 12 from 3-point range against Vanderbilt. As a whole, the offense struggled, shooting 42.6 percent from the field. The Rebels will need to make shots from the perimeter to beat USC. For the season, Ole Miss is 11-6 when shooting over 30 percent from beyond the arc.
2. Deandre Burnett
Senior guard Deandre Burnett is effective when he’s able to get to the free throw line for the Rebels. Against the Commodores, Burnett finished with six points on 2 of 9 shooting and only went to the foul line twice in the 40-minute game. Ole Miss will need Burnett’s energy and assertiveness in order to beat the Gamecocks.
3. Terence Davis joining elite company
After scoring 15 points against Vanderbilt, junior guard Terence Davis is five points away from being the 39th player in Ole Miss history to score 1,000 points as a Rebel.