The No. 23 Ole Miss Rebels (17-4, 6-2 SEC) look to return to their winning ways Wednesday, as they host in-state rival Mississippi State (7-13, 2-6). While Ole Miss has dropped its past two games (78-64 at then No. 4 Florida and 87-74 at home to Kentucky), the Bulldogs travel to Oxford having lost six in a row. Both clubs enter the game on losing streaks, but their roads ahead couldn't be any different.
After losing to a very strong Florida Gator team in their last outing, the remaining schedule for head coach Andy Kennedy and the Rebels is actually quite favorable. Out of their final 10 conference games left on the slate, Ole Miss only goes up against one opponent currently ranked (Missouri). It's the same Missouri Tiger team that the Rebels managed to knock off 64-49 when the Tigers were ranked No. 10 earlier in the year.
As for Mississippi State and first-year head coach Rick Ray, the road ahead in the SEC only gets tougher after leaving Oxford. After taking on Ole Miss, the Bulldogs next travel to No. 4 Florida on Feb. 9 before then going up against No. 17 Missouri in Starkville on Feb. 13. While Ole Miss is playing each game with the postseason in mind, Rick Ray and the Bulldogs only have the future in mind.
Simply put, Ole Miss should have the advantage in nearly every category against Mississippi State. The Rebels are averaging 79.2 points per game (fifth nationally), while the Bulldogs are only averaging 61.0 points per game (309th nationally). Ole Miss is pulling down 40.7 rebounds per game (13th nationally) to only 34.4 rebounds per game for Mississippi State (202nd nationally).
As for scoring margin per game, Kennedy's squad currently boasts an average of plus-13.5 points per game to a deficient minus-5.2 average scoring margin for the Bulldogs. A quick crunch of the numbers equals a plus-18.7 average scoring margin between the two teams in Ole Miss' favor. That's nearly 20 points per game, and a figure very hard to ignore.
In a game which is clearly mismatched, at least on paper, Andy Kennedy should be able to get his freshmen reserves plenty of quality minutes. For a team that has lost two key reserves indefinitely, forward Aaron Jones and guard Nick Williams, newfound contributions off the bench will be vital down the stretch as the Rebels inch closer to postseason play.
The Tad Pad will be electric come tipoff at 8 p.m., as Ole Miss fans should be in high spirits with the expected news of a 2013 football signing class for the ages confirmed earlier in the day.
Ole Miss 84, Mississippi State 67
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