The Rebels are set to return home Tuesday night for an SEC matchup with a rising Missouri Tigers team. Both teams faced action this past weekend but fared quite differently. While Mizzou played in front of a home crowd excited about its first-ever win against Kentucky, Ole Miss played the most embarrassing game of basketball in recent memory on Saturday in front of a rowdy Knoxville audience.
Saturday’s loss marked the third straight drop for Ole Miss, its fifth in the last six games. It also took the team below .500 and dashed most hopes of a tournament appearance. The team is in disarray, and it seems there is nowhere to go but further down as SEC play kicks into full gear.
Maybe this was the wake up call the team needed, but regardless, it will have to face a hot Mizzou team with wins over Alabama and Kentucky in its last two performances. And the Tigers are doing it all without star forward and NBA prospect Michael Porter Jr., who injured his back during Missouri’s season opener. After the Rebel home-game hot streak was broken, this game seems even more challenging.
Mizzou is a defensively dominant team, excelling around the perimeter. Its defense coming from the backcourt is phenomenal. This was demonstrated quite effectively against Kentucky on Saturday, as the Tigers held the Wildcats to 20 percent shooting and zero 3-pointers during the entire first half of the game. By the end of the game, Kentucky had gone 2 for 20 from deep, shooting 31 percent from the field overall.
The frontcourt battle slated for Tuesday night should be rather equal, given neither team has a true gamechanger at the post. While Dominik Olejniczak has impressed on offense in recent games compared to his earlier performances, he is too streaky and defensively weak for the Rebels to rely on.
The most impressive big man in the game will likely be Bruce Stevens, especially given his hot shooting as of late. Stevens has fouled out of five of his past 10 games and has struggled to stay on the court for much of the season. The Rebels need Stevens’ production, but his tendency to foul leaves much to be desired.
While Ole Miss’ guards have been hit or miss for much of the 2017-18 season, their trendline seems to be pointing down. On Saturday, Terence Davis and Bruce Stevens were the only players to record double-digit scoring against the Volunteers. In what could have been a career year for guys like Deandre Burnett and Breein Tyree, the Rebels continue to falter from beyond the arc.
If form is kept, this game is a no-brainer. But Ole Miss can keep the game close, or even sneak out a win, if head coach Andy Kennedy and his team minimize Missouri’s guards and feed the big men.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight at The Pavilion in Oxford.