Just as Rebel fans were beginning to coil into their natural state of sports nihilism, Andy Kennedy’s squad pulled us back in by redeeming themselves against a South Carolina team that beat them handily back in January. That win boosted them to the six-seed in the SEC tourney, and they await No. 14 Missouri, who is coming off an exciting overtime victory over Auburn late last night.
Since Auburn was up by six with less than a minute to play, I began a preview focused on them, mentioning the fact that Ole Miss had beaten them 10 times in a row, as well as dropping a Marshall Henderson .GIF in for good measure. Of course, that’s not how it ended. Frankie Hughes hit a late three to take it to overtime, then Kevin Puryear ended it with a buzzer beater, extending Kim Anderson’s tenure at least one more game.
Despite having won both regular season contests, it’s hard to beat any team three times in a row (except for Auburn).
The Rebels need multiple ways to score.
Considering they shot better from beyond the arc than inside it against South Carolina, Ole Miss may have a hard time replicating that offensive performance against the Tigers. On the other hand, Missouri shouldn’t pose quite the same challenge as the Gamecocks, who rank second nationally in defensive efficiency.
Despite experiencing a bit of an in-conference slump, Howell Trophy winner Sebastian Saiz is still fully capable of taking over games. He was an absolute terror down low last Saturday, making 5 of his 7 shots (71 percent) near the rim against a defense that allowed just 55 percent of such attempts to go in all season, per Hoop-Math.com. Given that the Rebels have shot under 33 percent from three in conference play (11th in the SEC), they’ll need that level of consistency in the paint on Thursday.
The team’s three-point shooting tends to oscillate between great and awful game-to-game, and their scorching 47 percent outing against the Cocks suggests that they’re due for some regression here. Still, Missouri is 12th in the SEC in opposing three-point shooting (37 percent), most recently allowing 11 of 25 (44 percent) from Auburn to go in last night.
There’s a more than decent chance the Rebels will need to get to the foul line a healthy amount to put up points. It might be maddening to see them rely on the charity stripe so heavily, like when they took more free throws than shots from the field the last time they faced Missouri, but they’ve made an art form out of it.
This season, Ole Miss has made the second most total free throws out of all Division I basketball teams, converting just over 20 per game. At some point, they deserve credit for finding a way to score at a high volume when other avenues are cut off.
Missouri’s record is irrelevant.
The Tigers have won just eight games this season, and had lost six straight before beating Auburn. There’s not a clear go-to guy, as no player averages more than 13 points per game. Puryear came out of nowhere last night to drop 30 points and sink five of nine threes, but was averaging 10 per game before then.
Despite there being nearly 100 spots between the two in the KenPom ratings, Missouri held Ole Miss to within five the two times they played. Neither game was devoid of points, and the Tigers actually had two of their best performances shooting from the field against the Rebels. This one’s sure to be just as weird.
How to watch:
Where: Nashville, TN
When: 8:00 PM CT
TV: SEC Network
Online Streaming: WatchESPN