3 keys for Ole Miss against Auburn
Both Ole Miss and Auburn will be looking to pick up their first conference win in their matchup on Saturday (5:00 p.m., SECN). Here are three keys for the Rebels to get win number one in the Southeastern Conference.
Give Sebastian Saiz some help in the post
Andy Kennedy mentioned before SEC play started that he was still trying to find another post player to play alongside senior forward Sebastian Saiz but his options were limited.
Freshman forward Karlis Silins is done for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament against Murray State. So, that left Kennedy to choose between freshman Nate Morris, junior college transfer Justas Furmanavicius, and junior Marcanvis Hymon.
All three have had time on the court for Ole Miss this season in conference play. Hymon and Morris went scoreless against then-No. 8 Kentucky, with only one shot attempt taken between the two. Morris went scoreless in the Rebels’ 70-63 loss at Florida, while Hymon scored four points in 19 minutes against the Gators. Furmanavicius has combined to score 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting in both conference games.
They will need to produce more in order to take the attention off of Saiz, who has seen double-teams all season long. The 6-foot-9 Madrid, Spain native has been doing his part, as expected, averaging 15.7 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.
If Ole Miss wants to win in the SEC and be in the conversation for a bid to the NCAA Tournament come March, it will have to see more production from another post player whose last name is not Saiz.
Increased production from Cullen Neal
Guard Cullen Neal needs to increase his production in SEC games. In 17 minutes against No. 8 Kentucky, the redshirt junior was held scoreless. He brought down three rebounds, recorded one assist, and had four turnovers. Against No. 24 Florida on Tuesday night, Neal finished with four points, two rebounds, and four turnovers. For the season, Neal is averaging 10.8 points per game; however, that average drops to 2.0 points per game in league play.
Early in the season, Kennedy explained he is not expecting Neal to duplicate what Stefan Moody was able to do by himself on offense, however, he still wants to see productivity on the floor. So far, the offense has gone mainly through Saiz, but at some point Neal will need to be big-time.
The Florida Gators scored 18 points off of 21 turnovers by Ole Miss. The Kentucky Wildcats scored 21 points off of 15 turnovers by the Rebels. The 21 turnovers Ole Miss (9-5, 0-2 SEC) committed on Tuesday against Florida were the most by the team since its season opener against Tennessee-Martin. Heading into Saturday’s showdown against Auburn (10-4, 0-2), the Rebels must find a way to secure the basketball on almost every offensive possession. The Tigers are currently ranked 21st in NCAA Division 1 Basketball in turnovers forced (16.57).
Series history against Auburn
Saturday’s game will be the 132nd all-time meeting between Ole Miss and Auburn in a series that dates back to 1928. The Tigers hold an all-time lead of 73-58, but the Rebels have won 11 of the last 13 meetings–including the last eight.
Ole Miss defeated Auburn inside Auburn Arena last season, 69-59, and has swept the Tigers in a home-and-home series the last three times. The Rebels are 14-49 all-time against Auburn on the road, but have won three straight on the Plains. Andy Kennedy is 13-5 in his career against the Tigers, including eight straight wins.
(Feature image credit: Tim Casey, UAA Communications)