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Rebel Preview: 3 Keys To Mississippi State Game

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Three things from Ole Miss women's basketball head coach Matt Insell, previewing the Rebels' game vs. Mississippi State Thursday night:

1. Rivalry Game

This is the 86th meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The Rebels hold a 62-23 series advantage, but the Bulldogs have six of the last seven meetings. Prior to an Ole Miss win last season, Mississippi State had won the previous six meetings, its longest winning streak in the series. 

Head coach Matt Insell said they can't get too high or too low in a rivalry game. He has talked to the team about having poise in all situations and not playing on emotion, particularly in the first four to five minutes of the game.

"It's the next game on the schedule," Insell said. "Rivalry games are important because you want to win them, but it's no more important than the last game was against Arkansas. We're going to attack this game no different than we attacked the Arkansas game or the Vanderbilt game. We're going to go in and prepare for this game the same way. 

"I'm sure there will be an extra edge. There is with our staff, and I know the players will have an extra edge in terms of focusing in and preparing themselves because you always want to beat your rival. It's important not only to you, but it's really important to your fan base and the whole Rebel Nation to get a win over Mississippi State."

2. Breaking Through

With Sunday's 68-65 loss at Arkansas, Ole Miss is now winless in its last 10 SEC games, dating back to the 2012-13 season. However, in SEC play this season, the Rebels have lost three of their five games by nine points or less.

"We're at that point where we're having a chance to win games," Insell said. "Now, we have to win those games. We have to start making that shot when you're open, and we have to start getting that rebound when it comes off. We're right there at that point. 

"I talk about the process. Early on, the process was to convince our team that we can compete in these games. Now that we have shown that we can compete, the process changes. Now, you have to start talking about how we're competing, but how can we finish these games."

3. Following McFarland's Lead

Senior guard Valencia McFarland leads the team and ranks seventh in the SEC in scoring averaging 16.2 points per game. McFarland has scored 20 or more points in back-to-back games with a career-high 28 points against Vanderbilt, followed by 25 against Arkansas, marking her sixth and seventh 20-point game of the season.

McFarland also ranks second in the SEC in assists averaging 6.2 assists per game. Insell noted that McFarland has played at this high level despite teams double-teaming her and doing other things defensively against her.

"She has taken her game to a different level," Insell said. "I have said time after time that she's the best point guard in this league. She's showing that night in and night out. She's going out and giving us what she has to give us. Her game is at a high, high level right now, and other people are taking notice."

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