After a remarkable start that included a streak of 10 straight wins, Ole Miss Men’s Basketball, 14-5 (4-2), now finds itself in the midst of what is arguably the most crucial week of the season. The Rebels will need to put past performances behind them if they plan on righting the ship in Gainesville, Florida, on Wednesday.
The Rebels have lost three of their last four games, most recently dropping a home matchup to the high-powered, then-No. 24 Iowa State Cyclones 87-73 on Saturday, who sit at No. 20 as of this week. Due to their recent struggles, the Rebels have seen themselves drop out of the top 25 and have fallen to a projected-No. 9 seed in ESPN College Basketball Analyst Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket.
“We have to have short memory,” head coach Kermit Davis said after the loss to Iowa State. “We have to have good practices. We have to get our team back together and really, really play. We haven’t been very good this week; that’s for sure. We’ll bounce back.”
Florida, 11-8 (3-3), is coming off a 55-50 loss to the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Gators’ offense is run primarily through senior guard KeVaughn Allen, who leads the team with 12.7 points per game and has scored in double digits in eight consecutive games. Allen is one of just two Gators who are averaging double digits this season. The other is freshman guard Noah Locke, who averages 11.2 points per night.
Ole Miss will rely on its backcourt tandem of Breein Tyree and Terence Davis to put the ball in the basket early and often Wednesday night. Tyree is leading the team with 17.3 points and is followed closely by Davis, who is averaging 15.8. The two are coming off of an underwhelming performance their last time out against Iowa State, a game in which they combined to go just 13 for 36 from the floor.
“I think we have to listen to Coach more and move the ball a lot better,” Tyree said. “That’s why we were winning so many games because a bunch of our field goals were coming off assists.”
The Rebels’ ability to control the tempo of the game could decide whether they will leave Florida with a victory or not. The two teams have vastly contrasting styles. Ole Miss enters the contest averaging 78 points per game and will want to push the pace on offense.
Meanwhile, the Gators will look to slow things down and limit possessions. Florida ranks No. 10 nationally in scoring defense, only allowing its opponents an average of 61.5 points per game.
The Rebels will need to return to Oxford with a win in order to continue chasing LSU and Tennessee, who sit atop the conference with unblemished conference records.