Men’s basketball’s campaign to get back on track this season begins at 6 p.m. tonight as the Texas A&M Aggies visit The Pavilion for an SEC battle.
A hot start to Kermit Davis’s debut season had The Pavilion rocking and the Rebels nationally ranked. Ole Miss Men’s Basketball was a surprise national story earlier this season.
The 14-7 (4-4) Rebels dropped out of the AP Top 25 during a four-game skid during the last two weeks and will try tonight to revive the fire that put them in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s just where we are; it’s no spiral here. I’ll let you know when we’re in a spiral,” Davis said after the 81-75 loss to Mississippi State Saturday. “There’s no panic here.”
The Rebels were happy to avoid a slide in the NET rankings that were updated on Monday. Davis’s team kept its No. 39 ranking, but it remains to be seen if the Rebels can return to their form and get back into the win column.
A loss to the Aggies, who are currently ranked No. 105 in the NET, would put the Rebels in a precarious situation. In a tough conference like the SEC, every game is earned, and coming up with wins at home is vital.
The Aggies are 8-12 on the season and 1-7 in the SEC, with their lone conference win coming from an upset over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. They are coming off a 93-76 loss to top-ranked Tennessee, a game during which A&M was able to come back from a 19-point deficit and cut the lead to two midway through the second half before the Volunteers pulled away.
The Rebels will look to slow down guards TJ Starks and Wendell Mitchell on the offensive end. Starks is averaging 13.2 points per game and matched his career-high with eight assists against Tennessee. Mitchell, averaging 11.6 points per game, hit four of the Aggies’ 11 threes in the game. Forward Josh Nebo also had 10 points and six rebounds in the loss.
Ole Miss will have to improve on both sides of the ball in order to make some noise in the SEC down the road. The question of the season has been one of whether Davis can get valuable minutes from his big men. So far, the answer to that question has been a resounding “no.”
The Rebels were out-rebounded 40-28 in the home loss to Mississippi State. Seven-foot center Dominik Olejniczak had zero points and zero boards in 12 minutes. KJ Buffen had one of his worst statistical games with only one point in 21 minutes. Bruce Stevens managed 13 points but only one rebound, and Blake Hinson has been almost invisible since his 26-point eruption in Starkville earlier this season.
The Rebels have an opportunity to build some late-season momentum this week, facing two teams below .500 with tonight’s game against Texas A&M and Saturday’s against Georgia.
“We’ve got to move forward, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Davis said. “We’re not going to worry about freshman walls and spiraling and all that kind of stuff.”