Mississippi State goes for its first sweep of Ole Miss since the 2010-11 season when the Southeastern Conference rivals clash on Saturday afternoon in Oxford, Miss.
Both teams are coming off setbacks, with the Bulldogs (17-9, 5-8 SEC) dropping a 71-68 decision to Kentucky on Wednesday and the Rebels (10-16, 2-11) getting spanked 79-64 at Florida.
The defeats left the Bulldogs in 11th place in the SEC standings and the Rebels tied with South Carolina for the 12th spot, just ahead of last-place LSU. The bottom four teams will be matched up in first-round games in the upcoming SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn.
The loss to the Wildcats snapped a five-game winning streak that had stirred talk of a potential NCAA Tournament bid for Mississippi State. Coach Rick Jans said he expects his team to bounce back.
“I think we’ll get off the mat and get after it again,” he said.
The trip to Ole Miss is the first of three road games for the Bulldogs over their last five outings. In their last two road games, the Bulldogs lost 66-63 to league leader Alabama and posted a 70-54 win over Arkansas.
“I’m confident in this group,” Jans said. “I love coaching this group. They’ve proven to me what they’re made of.”
The Rebels’ chances against the Bulldogs may come down to duplicating the defensive effort they had against Tolu Smith in the first meeting. Smith, who boasts team-leading averages in points (14.8) and rebounds (8.2), had only 12 and five, respectively, while contending with foul issues in the Bulldogs’ 64-54 win in Starkville on Jan. 7.
The Rebels faded after pulling within one possession of the Gators early in the second half.
“We’ve had nine games this year where we’ve had leads deep into the second half and haven’t won,” Rebels coach Kermit Davis said. “So that’s the difference between some teams that have great years and some teams that are struggling like us – the inability to finish games.”
–Field Level Media