Middle Tennessee (7-2) at Ole Miss (6-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 14, 5 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (8,867) -- Oxford, Mississippi. Television: CSS. Home Record: MT 6-1, Ole Miss 3-1. Away Record: MT 1-1, Ole Miss 1-1. Neutral Record: MT 0-0, Ole Miss 2-0. Conference Record: MT 0-0, Ole Miss 0-0. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: Marshall Henderson and the Rebels will try to get back on track, as Ole Miss hosts the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in a non-conference matchup at C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum on Saturday.
The Blue Raiders improved to 7-2 on Monday with a 115-65 rout of NAIA opponent Fisk. Middle Tennessee is in its first season as a member of the Conference USA and it has an excellent chance of returning to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight time if it carries its high level of play into league action. Coach Kermit Davis has guided his team to victories over Akron, Murray State and South Alabama with its only losses coming against Florida and Belmont. The Blue Raiders have been very efficient offensively, converting 48.2 percent of their field goal tries to net 76.4 points per game. They are allowing only 67.6 ppg on the defensive end of the floor.
Ole Miss had its perfect 6-0 start ruined on Dec. 5 with a 61-58 loss at Kansas State. The Rebels lost for the second time in a row on Sunday as Oregon pulled away in the extra session to earn a 115-105 overtime decision. Coach Andy Kennedy's team had won all three of its previous home games in 2013-14 by double-digit margins and had a 23-game win streak in Oxford snapped with the loss. Ole Miss is leading the Southeastern Conference and ranks fourth nationally in blocked shots after rejecting 59 over its past seven games.
This will be just the seventh meeting in history between the Blue Raiders and Rebels. Middle Tennessee downed Ole Miss, 65-62, on Dec. 8, 2012 to improve to 4-2 all-time. Henderson was held to only two points in the first half of last season's meeting, but finished with a game-high 17 points in the loss. Kerry Hammonds came up big for Middle Tennessee with a late jumper and foul shots that proved to be the difference.
Middle Tennessee was held under 60 points in both of its losses, but has scored an average of 81.2 ppg in its seven wins. Senior forward Shawn Jones has taken on a much bigger role for his final campaign. The 6-foot-8, 236- pound forward is netting career-highs of 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and is also fourth among C-USA players in field-goal percentage (.625). Jones has tallied 39 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks over the last two games. Hammonds and Neiko Hunter are both consistent scoring threats for Middle Tennessee, while Tweety Knight does it all from the point guard position with 9.2 points, 4.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals per outing.
The Rebels came up short against the Ducks despite a tremendous performance by Henderson, who connected on a school-record 10 attempts from behind the 3- point line en route to a career-high 39 points. The senior shooting guard is leading the SEC and is second among Division I players with his average of 4.3 made 3-pointers per game. Although Henderson is the leader, Ole Miss has other weapons in its backcourt. Derrick Millinghaus tallied 15 points, five rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes before fouling out versus Oregon. Jarvis Summers chipped in 12 points and four assists.
The Rebels do not have depth at the forward and center positions, but Aaron Jones and Demarco Cox will be able to control the paint against the Blue Raiders if they can avoid foul trouble. Middle Tennessee will have to attack the basket consistently and draw contact to have a chance against Ole Miss, which could run off to a sizeable advantage if Henderson stays on target.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ole Miss 80, Middle Tennessee 71
12/14 10:37:57 ET