GAME NOTES: Intrastate rivals clash on Saturday afternoon with both sides attempting to extend winning streaks, as the Ole Miss Rebels host the Mississippi State Bulldogs in SEC action at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Mississippi State has won back-to-back games, downing Texas A&M in overtime last Saturday (81-72) before taking care of business versus Auburn on Wednesday night (82-74). The Bulldogs are now 3-2 in the SEC and a stellar 13-5 overall, but they have had a large disparity between success at home (11-1) compared to on the road (0-3).
Ole Miss, also 13-5 overall, as been even hotter of late with three straight victories, most recently outlasting Vanderbilt on the road on Wednesday, 63-52, to improve to 4-1 in conference action. The Rebels are 7-3 in Tad Smith Coliseum this season but have gone just 2-2 in their last four home games.
The Rebels' only SEC loss of the season came at Mississippi State on Jan. 11, 76-72. After 248 all-time meetings, the Bulldogs own a 141-107 advantage over the Rebels, which includes wins in 23 of the past 31 bouts.
The Bulldogs built up a nine-point halftime lead over Auburn earlier in the week, and while they saw their advantage dwindle to just one in the final five minutes, they never gave up the lead down the stretch en route to the eight- point victory. They shot 50 percent from the field and committed just nine turnovers on the night while outscoring Auburn from the free-throw line, 31-12. Roquez Johnson paced the effort with 18 points off the bench, and Colin Borchert (17 points), Fred Thomas (14 points), Trivante Bloodman (13 points, five assists) and Craig Sword (eight assists) were all impressive as well.
On the season, Mississippi State outshoots its opponents from the field, 45.7 percent to 43.7 percent, for a +2.7 scoring margin. It has also impressed in the turnover battle (+2.4 margin), which has helped make up for its shooting deficiencies from beyond the arc (.298) and the free-throw line (.659). Sword leads the way with 14.5 ppg on 52.4 percent from the field, while Ware (11.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg) has been even more impressive from the floor at 60.1 percent. Borchert (10.6 ppg), Johnson (9.8 ppg) and Thomas (8.4 rpg) can also be relied upon for regular contributions.
The Rebels were far from their best offensively in their most recent contest, as they shot just 36.2 percent from the field, but they were still able to hang on for an 11-point triumph by holding Vanderbilt to merely 37.7 percent shooting while winning both the turnover (17-9) and rebounding (44-40) battles. Pacing four players in double figures with 16 points was Jarvis Summers, who added four assists and four steals. Anthony Perez netted 13 points in a reserve role, LaDarius White and Marshall Henderson each scored 11 and Aaron Jones tallied eight points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and three steals.
It was a rare performance for Ole Miss, which it typically pours in 77.8 ppg, an offensive output that successfully supports its underwhelming scoring defense (70.8 ppg). Its biggest strength comes from beyond the arc, where it drains 8.1 3-pointers per outing at a 37.5 percent clip, with Henderson (18.7 ppg) acting as the catalyst at 65-of-172 from long distance (.378). Summers (17.9 ppg) is right on Henderson's heels as the team's top scorer and boasts great percentages from the field (.515), 3-point range (.534) and the foul line (.782). Jones is an a anchor in the paint, making up for his light scoring total (6.9 ppg) with 7.2 rpg, 2.8 bpg and 1.1 spg.
Mississippi State has shown a knack for pulling out close wins on its home floor, but doing so on the road has been a completely different story. Figure for the Rebels to get their revenge on the Bulldogs and pull the season series to one game apiece.
Game Date and Time