Ole Miss men’s basketball, 19-11 (9-8), is gearing up for its final game of the regular season as the team travels to Columbia to face off with Missouri, 14-15 (5-12), on Saturday.
The Rebels are coming off a series of heartbreakers including the Tuesday night loss at home to Kentucky 80-76. The game marked the third straight Ole Miss loss decided by 4 points or less.
It will be an emotional test to see if the Rebels can overcome the stress that comes with a series of such close losses.
With just one game standing between Ole Miss and the SEC tournament in Nashville, senior guard Terence Davis knows the matchup with Missouri is one they cannot let slip through their fingers.
“When we go into this game, we’ve got to win. I just feel like we are going on the road, we have lost three straight – we’ve got to get a win right here,” Davis said.
Time is something that the Rebels lack with just one game and the conference tournament left on the schedule before Selection Sunday on March 17, when the NCAA Tournament field is announced.
This leaves few opportunities to impress the selection committee, who pick which 68 teams will be participating in March Madness. While beating Missouri is paramount, head coach Kermit Davis is holding off on labeling the contest as a must-win.
“Nothing is a must-win unless it’s an out game. I think these are all NCAA tournament play-in games,” Davis said. “Do I think we are an NCAA tournament team? You bet. I think everybody in our league thinks we are.”
The Rebels defended their home court in the first matchup against Missouri, claiming a 75-65 victory on Feb. 16. Bruce Stevens led the way for Ole Miss scoring 17 points off the bench, which tied his season high. Breein Tyree and KJ Buffen each contributed 14 points while
Devontae Shuler finished with 12 of his own. Two Tigers finished in double figures in the last matchup. Jordan Geist led the team with 23 points followed by Xavier Pinson, who had 11 points and 9 rebounds.
Missouri will hold its Senior Day festivities on Saturday, honoring two of their starters in Geist
and Kevin Puryear. Geist is the offensive catalyst, averaging 14.1 points per game on a Missouri team that ranks last in the SEC in scoring with 67 points per game. Mark Smith (11.4) and Jeremiah Tilmon (10.4) round out the trio of Tigers scoring in double figures on the season.
Entering Saturday, the Rebels are deadlocked with Mississippi State and Florida in the SEC at 9-8. With Auburn and South Carolina each at 10-7, and Alabama sitting at 8-9 with a tiebreaker over Ole Miss, the Rebels could finish anywhere between the fourth seed and the ninth seed depending on how each team performs in their regular season finale.
The game tips off Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.