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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 6, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061) -- Oxford, Mississippi. Television: CSS. Home Record: MSU 5-5, Ole Miss 11-1. Away Record: MSU 1-5, Ole Miss 5-2. Neutral Record: MSU 1-3, Ole Miss 1-1. Conference Record: MSU 2-6, Ole Miss 6-2. Series Record: Ole Miss leads, 139-106.
GAME NOTES: Fresh off back-to-back losses for the first time this season, the Ole Miss Rebels will try to get back on track against their in-state rivals, the Mississippi Bulldogs, in an SEC showdown at Tad Smith Coliseum on Wednesday night.
Mississippi State opened the 2013 calendar year by claiming three consecutive wins, but since then it has slid into a season-worst, six-game losing streak to plummet to 7-13 overall and 2-6 in conference. The Bulldogs appeared to be in position to snap the skid when they led LSU late in last Saturday's game, but they faltered down the stretch and were saddled with the heart-breaking 69-68 defeat.
Ole Miss was one of the surprises of the early season, and at 17-2 and 6-0 in the league, it was off to the best start in program history. The team's success allowed it to ascend all the way to No. 16 in the AP poll, but it promptly fell from the ranks following a pair of losses last week at home to Kentucky (87-74), and at nationally-ranked Florida (78-64).
With regard to the all-time series between these two bitter rivals, Ole Miss has a 139-106 advantage. The teams split the season series in 2011-12, with each winning on their home floor.
Mississippi State built a 14-point halftime lead against LSU on Saturday, but it lost control down the stretch and fell victim to a last-second field goal by the Tigers as it suffered the devastating one-point defeat. After shooting 57.1 percent in the opening period, it shot just 38.5 percent over the final 20 minutes, and it was hindered by a poor 13-of-27 showing at the free-throw line. Gavin Ware finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, Trivante Bloodman had 12 points, Craig Sword netted 11, and Roquez Johnson and Colin Borchert tacked on 10 points apiece in the setback. On the season, the Bulldogs own the SEC's worst scoring margin (-5.2 ppg), while also ranking last in the conference with a .407 field goal percentage. Fred Thomas is the only player averaging double figures with 10.4 ppg, albeit on only 34 percent field goal accuracy. Ware chips in with 8.9 ppg on nearly 55 percent from the floor, while also grabbing a team-high 6.8 rpg.
Ole Miss was thoroughly overmatched in its recent bout with Florida, as it was outshot (.516 to .382) on its way to a 14-point defeat. Marshall Henderson was fantastic in defeat, draining 7-of-11 shots from 3-point range en route to a game-high 25 points. Henderson kept up his pace as the SEC's leading scorer (19.5 ppg), and he increased his league-high 3-point total to 83, which is 32 more than second place. Murphy Holloway was also solid in the setback at well, netting 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds, but he shot only 5-of-16 from the floor. Murphy acts as the other half of the Rebels' potent inside-outside duo, putting up 14.6 ppg and league-high 10.1 rpg. While no one else averages in double figures, Reginald Buckner (9.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.7 bpg), Nick Williams (9.4 ppg) and Jarvis Summers (8.8 rpg, 81 assists, 27 turnovers) are also crucial pieces to the puzzle, although Williams is out indefinitely with a foot injury. As a team, Ole Miss ranks fifth in the nation in scoring with 79.2 ppg.
Despite the Rebels' recent struggles, they now return home where they've won 11 of 12 this season. They should have little trouble dismissing an underwhelming Mississippi State squad in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ole Miss 80, Mississippi State 63
02/06 10:37:04 ET