FACTS & STATS: Site: Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) -- Knoxville, Tennessee. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Ole Miss 8-0, UT 6-1. Away Record: Ole Miss 2-1, UT 0-2. Neutral Record: Ole Miss 1-1, UT 2-1. Conference Record: Ole Miss 0-0, UT 0-0. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 69-39.
GAME NOTES: After successful runs in their respective non-conference schedules, the Ole Miss Rebels and the Tennessee Volunteers will begin SEC play on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.
Ole Miss has suffered only two missteps in its first 13 outings, falling at Middle Tennessee on Dec. 8 (65-62) and against Indiana State in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii on Dec. 22 (87-85 in OT). Since their last loss, the Rebels have ripped off three consecutive victories, including a dominating 96-68 triumph over Fordham on Jan. 4.
This bout marks the finale of a six-game homestand for Tennessee, and while it won the first four, it faltered the last time out by falling to intrastate rival Memphis, 85-80. Despite the Vols' strong 8-4 start, they've been inconsistent against stronger teams, having lost to Oklahoma State (62-45), Georgetown (37-36) and Virginia (46-36), although they have logged impressive home wins versus Wichita State (69-60) and Xavier (51-47).
Tennessee leads the all-time series with Ole Miss, 69-39, which includes a 39-10 mark in Knoxville. However, the Rebels won the last matchup in the quarterfinals of the 2012 SEC Tournament, 77-72, in overtime.
Production at the offensive end of the court has certainly not been an issue for the Rebels this season, as they rank first in the SEC and fifth nationally with a scoring average of 83.1 ppg. They shot 50 percent from the field and 22-of-27 from the foul line against Fordham the last time out on their way to their fifth 90-point performance of the season. Marshall Henderson was fantastic once again, scoring 21 points, and he continues to lead the league in points per game with 18.2 thanks to a league-high 52 3-pointers. Reginald Buckner tallied 18 points, eight rebounds, six blocks and three steals, while Murphy Holloway recorded a double-double with 15 points and 13 boards. Rounding out the balanced attack was Derrick Millinghaus (16 points) and Nick Williams (11 points), who were both impressive coming off the bench. In addition to Henderson, Holloway has been an asset in all facets of the game, scoring 15.8 ppg on 57.2 percent from the field, while also adding a conference-best 10.9 rpg. Buckner (10.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.1 bpg, 1.6 spg) would lead the league in field goal percentage (.675) if he had enough attempts to be eligible, and Williams chips in 11.0 ppg.
Tennessee hasn't been nearly as strong as Ole Miss on offense (.424 FG percentage, 64.5 ppg), but it has been able to win twice as many games as it's lost thanks to a fantastic defensive effort, as it allows opponents to net just 58.8 ppg (ranking second in SEC). The Vols failed to stop Memphis the last time out however, as they allowed the Tigers to shoot better than 56 percent from the field en route to the five-point win. UT nearly overcame a 21-point, second-half deficit thanks to some outstanding individual efforts, led by Jordan McRae's 26 points, which he tallied coming off the bench. Kenny Hall recorded a double-double consisting of 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Josh Richardson (20 points, nine rebounds) and Jarnell Stokes (11 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) narrowly missed doing so. Although no UT player averages more than 12 ppg, it benefits from a balanced attack in which six players net at least 6.3 ppg. Trae Golden scores 11.8 ppg on just 36.4 percent shooting while handing out 4.3 ppg, and Jordan (11.6 ppg) isn't much stronger from the field (.414). Stokes (11.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg) is the club's most efficient player, draining 56.2 percent of his field goal attempts.
The Vols have been rock solid on their home floor, but they proved against Memphis that they can be vulnerable against a high-powered offense. Ole Miss certainly fits that description, and the Rebels' deep rotation should be able to outlast Tennessee.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ole Miss 78, Tennessee 74
01/09 10:33:27 ET
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