Ole Miss basketball has a chance to bounce back from an overtime loss to top 25 Tennessee when it hosts Mississippi State in Oxford tonight. It’s the oldest rivalry in the SEC set for its 265th edition on the hardwood.
The Rebels (8-5, 0-1 SEC) have not had an inspiring season thus far, dropping its last two games and seeming to lack an offensive identity while battling injuries. The Bulldogs (10-3, 1-0 SEC) are currently on a four game win streak and coming off an upset of Arkansas.
This next fact will undoubtedly be mentioned at some point in the broadcast a few times, but Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis’ father, Kerm Sr., coached at MSU from 1971-1977 and Kermit also played at MSU in college. He has amassed a 3-3 record against his alma mater including a loss in Oxford last season, 66-56.
I think State is actually a pretty dang good basketball team, unfortunately, so home court advantage might be all Ole Miss has to hang its hat on this game. That is, unless, senior Tye Fagan can pull another 20-point performance out of his hat like he did against No. 18 Tennessee. The Georgia transfer dropped 23 points in Knoxville, showing his SEC experience was ready for the moment. Ole Miss traveled to UT without leading scorer Jarkel Joiner and desperately needed someone to fill that void.
Joiner is battling a back injury, and he may not play again today or if he does would be limited at best. Without Joiner, the team does not have an experienced ball handler to really give some offensive cohesion, though freshman Daeshun Ruffin is taking steps to get there while coming off an injury of his own.
Ruffin suffered a broken hand and four weeks off the court earlier this season, but the Jackson native and McDonald’s All-American could use the in-state rivalry as a launching pad for a coming out party potentially. Fingers crossed.
MSU, meanwhile, owns the No. 37 ranking in the latest NET with losses to Colorado St., Louisville and Minnesota. The Bulldogs have five players averaging more than 10 points a game and led by guard Iverson Molinar.
The Bulldogs can also hold it down on defense as well though, only allowing 61.9 points per game and more than four blocks and eight steals per game. It also carries one of the nations best rebounding margins at +10.8 per game.
Yeah, so what I’m saying is to lower your expectations for tonight. Most of the basketball metrics point to an Ole Miss loss, but if the UT game showed us anything, it’s that Kermit Davis’ 27 years of coaching gives him the advantage of having seen and been through just about every type of game and situation. Underdogs are home? Use it to motivate the team and let’s see what happens.
Line: MSU -3
How to watch
Where: The Sandy and John Black Pavilion, Oxford, Miss.
When: 7:30pm CDT
TV: SEC Network
Online streaming: WatchESPN