Rebels take on Hogs in battle for 2nd
What a difference 90 days can make. Just 12 weeks ago, Ole Miss was staring at 0-1 after a stunning 66-65, opening-game loss to Charleston Southern—at home, no less.
It was not the way the head coach Andy Kennedy envisioned the season beginning. Following the game, he commented: “We have 31 more games. You have to do your best to learn from it. It’s going to hurt and it should. We have to try to get to 1-1 in another test on the road.”
The Rebels passed that next test and went on a five-game winning streak that included winning the Emerald Coast Classic, defeating No. 23-ranked Creighton in the process.
In fact, since that opening loss Ole Miss (17-7, 8-3 SEC) has won 17 of 23 games and is now in position to take over sole possession of second place in the Southeastern Conference.
The Rebels take on Arkansas (19-5, 8-3 SEC) tonight in an 8:00 pm game at the Tad Smith Coliseum. The two teams are currently in a tie for second in the SEC, and the winner will pull a game ahead of the other—with just six conference games remaining.
How Far We’ve Come
Probably few outside of Rebel Nation thought Ole Miss would be in this position at this point in the season. In fact, the Rebels find themselves sitting four spots above where the media predicted they would be.
Back in October, the SEC and national media picked the Rebels to finish in 6th place in the conference. But Ole Miss has come a long way since then. With so many new players on the roster, it just took a little time for the staff and players to work out the kinks and settle into a solid rotation. They have done so with a vengeance.
The Streak Continues
Ole Miss is riding a six-game winning streak, the second streak of six games or better versus conference opponents under Coach Kennedy. How big of a deal is that? In the 71 years before Kennedy became the head coach, Ole Miss had just three such winning streaks. Along the way, the Rebels have beaten many of the top teams in the league while staking their claim as a force to be reckoned with in the conference.
Moody is Hot From Everywhere on the Court
Ole Miss continues to lead the nation in free throw percentage, hitting 79.4 percent of its attempts. Junior guard Stefan Moody leads the SEC and ranks seventh in the nation shooting 91.1 percent from the free-throw line.
And speaking of Moody, he is the reigning SEC Player of the Week after averaging 17.0 points, 4.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals in wins against Texas A&M and at Auburn. Oh, and that was before he hit the game-winning three-pointer at Florida with 2.7 seconds on the clock to defeat the Gators for the second time this season.
Regardless of the winning streak, however, Ole Miss will have its hands full against Arkansas, a team the Rebels defeated 96-82 last month in Fayetteville. In that game, five Ole Miss players finished in double figures, as the team picked up its first true road win over a ranked opponent in almost 12 years.
While the Rebels defeated the Gators in action earlier this week, Arkansas launched an offensive barrage on Auburn, defeating the Tigers 101-87 Tuesday night. The Razorbacks’ sophomore forward Bobby Portis leads the SEC in scoring at 17.9 ppg and is fourth in rebounding, notching 8.8 boards per game.
Arkansas leads the conference in scoring at 80.2 ppg, but the Hogs rank next to last in the SEC in defense—allowing 69.7 ppg.
So while a crowd of 5,841 watched the Rebels go down in that season-opening loss to Charleston Southern, a sell-out crowd will be on hand tonight to cheer the team to a possible 2nd-place spot in the conference. And with a win over the Hogs, Ole Miss will tie the longest regular-season SEC winning streak in school history—set in 1938 and 1998.
Yes, what a difference 90 days have made! ARE YOU READY?!
Where to catch the game: Ole Miss and Arkansas will tipoff on the SEC Network at 8:00 pm. Rebel fans can also catch the game on the Ole Miss Radio Network, with David Kellum handling the play-by-play duties.