A 71-69 loss in Knoxville Saturday left Ole Miss fans in frustration.
The Rebels had possession at the end of regulation, tied at 59, only to see Chris Warren hike up a awkward-looking 3-pointer with a Vol rebound.
Bruce Pearl's minions pulled away in overtime only to have the Rebels keep it within two possessions with less than a minute to go. The ball and game slipped right out of Warren's hands during an in-bounds pass.
It was an unusual sight – to see Warren struggle. Without his 19 points, however, the Rebels may not have even had a chance to beat Tennessee.
Tonight's game against South Carolina and scoring machine Devan Downey gives Warren a chance to show his ability to go toe-to-toe with the best in the SEC – and this time come out a winner.
Here's a few numbers for you to digest: 33-29-35.
No, these aren't the measurements of the quintessential Grove date. They're the point totals notched by 5'9'' senior guard Devan Downey in USC's first three SEC games.
His 35 against Vandy were a career high. Warren has dropped that kind of performance before, and tonight it may be needed to match Downey's effort.
There are a few things Rebel fans need to know heading into tonight's game about the Cocks.
1. They are a very solid offensive rebounding team. When Downey does miss, forwards Sam Muldrow and Austin Steed are underneath to get quick putbacks. This could be a huge issue, considering the Rebels' issues this season with defensive rebounding. We're going to have to see a big man come up really strong in this game to win. We can't just turn in a good performance by Warren and White and expect to come away with a win. Terrance Henry, I'm looking at you. Fight for boards.
2. Our ballhandling needs to be on-point. USC is first in the SEC in steals and steals per game. I have no doubts Warren kicked himself way too many times over his carelessness late in the UT game, but our bigs need to keep the ball up and not allow USC guards to slash through and get a steal down low. As a team, we don't have a lot of turnover issues, but we can't fold inthe clutch like we did against Tennessee. We need to win the turnover margin, something we generally do.
3. USC does not have a huge team. Downey is about Warren sized, and none of the big men are over 6'9''. Our proficiency for blocked shots should continue if we are prepared to be in the right place at the right time. Yes. Deaundre Cranston will be the thickest player on the court, but Buckner is right behind him. South Carolina's thickest player is listed at 216 pounds, twenty pounds less than Buckner is listed. Hopefully, we can bang inside and play physical basketball.
The Rebels have the talent and ability to win this game. I think it's going to come down to coaching decisions from Andy Kennedy this evening that will win the game. While people have been ragging on Kennedy a good bit lately, I think a lot of that is unfounded. We have a very talented team, but our bigs are young, and we have only lost to one team that wasn't more talented than we are. Even that's debatable. MSU has some talent.
Darrin Horn had a great first season with USC last year. This year, the Cocks took on more challenging teams in non-conference play compared to most teams in the SEC. I think that's why they're 11-6 so far. Also, losing second leading scorere Dominique Archie to a knee injury and fourth leading scorer Mike Holmes to GUNS WEED HOLLA hasn't helped.
I could see South Carolina finishing fourth in the SEC East right now behind UK, UT, and VU. They've got good coaching and one huge offensive threat.
Conversely, I think Ole Miss still has a chance to win the SEC West. The Rebels have to win the games they should win, however. I blogged after the UT game that the Rebels had 10 or 11 winnable games left this season.
I included tonight's USC game.
Ole Miss 79
South Carolina 71
Add your predictions below along with any hate you want to throw our way.