If we're not going to beat Kentucky (psst.... we're not), then we have to beat the Vanderbilt COMMODE DOORS (17-8, 6-5)(LOL) to have any real shot at the big dance. Oh yes, we're fully aware that such as been a running theme of Ole Miss basketball for the past month, but there really just isn't another opportunity for a quality win on our schedule at this point - again assuming we get run out of Rupp by the Wildcats.*
Thankfully, the Rebels get the 'Dores at home in an arena which has only seen Ole Miss lose once this season, in a heartbreaker to a ranked Florida Gators squad. The home court advantage surely will play a role, but other than that, there are a few things that any team must do in order to beat Vanderbilt.
1. Get Senior Forward Festus Ezeli in foul trouble early.
Ezeli averages three fouls per game and is quick to attempt to block shots. If we can attack the basket with Murphy Holloway, Terrance Henry, and Nick Williams, we can get him off kilter and force him to foul us. While Murphy Holloway may not be a player we want at the line, it's well worth it if we can limit Ezeli's minutes by doing that. He's a beast who provides massive energy to the rest of the team.
2. Make Junior Guard John Jenkins drive to the basket to score.
While he's 6'4" and can succeed when going to the basket (shooting 54% from two-point range), he obviously prefers threes (having attempted 210 of them to just 123 two-point attempts) and makes 47% of his tries from that range. As a team that doesn't have a consistent player who can answer a rally of threes, we simply can't give them the opportunity to start one. I'm confident in the ability of our big men to step in front of Jenkins if he gets past guards who are pressing on the outside. Sure, that might lead to some drive and dish opportunities for Vanderbilt, but we'll just have to live with that.
3. Win the rebound war
Vanderbilt averages 35 rebounds per game to our 39. We'll need to do better than that if we're going to win this one. Neither team will have much height on the other, so it's going to take determination and effort. If any two of Murphy Holloway, Reggie Buckner, or Terrance Henry play an aggressive, inspired style of basketball tonight, it could be a good night in Oxford. If two of the three disappear, we're in trouble. The guards can do things to keep us in the game, but our bigs are how we'll win this one.
*Which, unless three of their starting five suffer horrible knee injuries one of Lexington's many charity break dance competitions the night before the game, is more or less a given at this point. They really are just that good.
Vanderbilt 72 - Ole Miss 67
The game is on ESPN2 at 8:00 PM Central. I repeat, the game is on ESPN2 at 8:00 PM Central. The OPEN THREAD is below. Have fun.