Ole Miss will try to rebound from its heartbreaking loss to Tennessee when the team travels to Arkansas on Saturday for a weekend SEC matchup.
The Rebels missed a chance to make a statement to the college basketball world in a game that had the eyes of the nation. A win on Wednesday night would likely have guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament going into March, but a few controversial calls and missed chances leave the Rebels with work to do in the final three games of the regular season.
“Do we have work to do? You bet, but every team has work to do,” head coach Kermit Davis said after the loss. “We have a big game at Arkansas on Saturday. I want our guys to feel, act and carry ourselves like we are an NCAA Tournament team.”
Kermit Davis and his team will need to forget about what could have been before their clash with the Razorbacks to succeed on Saturday.
Ole Miss handled Arkansas 84-67 in The Pavilion on Jan. 19 in a game where Breein Tyree and Terence Davis combined for 40 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists while Bruce Stevens had one of his best performances of the season with 14 points and seven rebounds.
While the 14-14 (5-10) Razorbacks, sitting at No. 72 in the NET rankings, have lost six straight games going into Saturday, they did go into Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and beat an athletic LSU squad earlier this season and gave Kentucky a scare in Lexington, Kentucky, on Tuesday. A hiccup in Fayetteville, Arkansas, would put the Rebels in a peculiar position with No. 5 Kentucky and Missouri left on the schedule.
Ole Miss’s big men will have their hands full trying to handle forward Daniel Gafford. The 6-foot-11-inch sophomore is averaging 16.5 points and 8.9 rebounds a game. Gafford managed 14 points and eight rebounds in the 70-66 loss to Kentucky. His production down low could be a problem for a group of Rebels that has struggled on the boards all season.
The Rebels are No. 38 in the current NET Rankings and ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi has Ole Miss as a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The final three games of the regular season are crucial as teams across the country vie for an invite to the Big Dance.
“This team … from day one, we’ve said it’s not going to be a rebuilding year. This is an NCAA Tournament team. We look at ourselves as an NCAA team,” Terence Davis said.
After the game against Arkansas, the Rebels will have another chance to topple a top-10 team in The Pavilion when the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats travel to Oxford for Senior Night. A win against coach John Calipari’s stacked team would put the Rebels in prime position for a postseason run, but they’ll need to take care of business at Arkansas on Saturday and Missouri in the final game of the regular season.
“We just need to keep trusting offense and playing,” Kermit Davis said. “We know what’s in us. It’s going to be a tough one in Arkansas on Saturday. It’s just life in this league.”