OLE MISS

Resume-Building Opportunity For Rebels

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Ole Miss opens the second half of Southeastern Conference play, as the Rebels host the Missouri Tigers on Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports Net). Ole Miss (15-7, 6-3 SEC) has won each of its first four conference home games, and a win over Missouri (16-6, 4-5 SEC) would be its best RPI win of the season.

The Rebels enter Saturday's game ranked No. 57 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com), while the Tigers are rated No. 46. Ole Miss is 4-6 against top-100 RPI teams, including 0-4 against top-50 RPI teams. It is the Rebels' third top-50 RPI opponent in four games, having previously lost to Tennessee (No. 49) and Kentucky (No. 13).

"We knew it was going to be a big week for us," head coach Andy Kennedy. "We knew going into Rupp was going to be difficult, and I know coming home against Missouri is going to be difficult. That's why you're in the SEC. That's why you play big-boy basketball to have these opportunities. We have been better with a 4-0 record at home in league play. We have to continue that trend if we have any hopes of playing meaningful basketball once we get into the postseason."

Against Kentucky, Ole Miss went into halftime down just 35-34 before the Wildcats opened the second half on a 15-7 run to stretch the lead to 50-41. The Rebels got to within seven at 50-43 and 58-51, but they were not able to cut too far into the lead after that run to open the half.

For the third straight game and 14th game overall this season, Ole Miss was outrebounded, as the Rebels rank last in rebounding margin (-3.1 rebounds per game) and defensive rebounding percentage (63.3 percent) and 11th in offensive rebounding percentage (24.3 percent).

"I thought we were getting better at rebounding, but look at our last three outings," Kennedy said. "At Tennessee, we got destroyed. That was a difficult matchup for us, and they're pretty good at what they do. Against South Carolina at home, we get beat by 10. And then we go to Kentucky, and they're maybe leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, but we just got destroyed. 

"We obviously had these issues in November and December, and we thought we had come to some sort of a conclusion as to how to remedy them, and then they have seemed to have risen back up."

Like Ole Miss, led by Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers, Missouri is a guard-oriented team. Jabari Brown leads the SEC in scoring (20.1 points per game), 3-point field goal percentage (47.4 percent) and minutes played (36.7 minutes per game). 

Brown, who transferred from Oregon two season ago, has topped 20 points in six of his last seven league games and is averaging 24.3 points and shooting 61.9 percent from 3-point range during that stretch. Brown and Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson, who ranks sixth in league in scoring (18.7 points per game), rank fourth nationally among scoring tandems.

"They are a good team with really, really good guards," Kenendy said. "Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown have size, athleticism, and they are both highly skilled. Jabari Brown is having a Player-of-the-Year-type campaign. He's averaging around 22 points per game and shooting a ridiculous percentage from the floor and from 3, and he's a volume guy. He's Marshall, but Marshall is around 33 to 34 percent, while he's at 53 to 54 percent, so it gives you an idea of the challenge that they present. 

"They're a group that is athletic. They are going to play fast. They are the most efficient team in our league in transition, so there are a number of things that we have to be good at defensively to give ourselves a chance."

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