GAMEDAY PREVIEW: Ole Miss vs. Jacksonville State
By KATE HEDLIN, Associated Press
OXFORD, Miss. -- While Ole Miss struggled against an elite team its last time out, it will have two games to regain some confidence before beginning SEC play.
The 16th-ranked Rebels look to bounce back when they return home to take on Jacksonville State tonight. The game will be the second of a doubleheader with the Ole Miss women, who face Centenary at 4:30 p.m. CT.
Already a tough venue for opponents to play in, Tad Smith Coliseum could become even more hostile as school officials have offered free admission.
Ole Miss (10-2) has been one of the top scoring teams in the nation, but came out stagnant in a 76-66 loss at No. 6 West Virginia on Wednesday. The Rebels, who were averaging 85.4 points, shot 67.7 percent in their previous game - a 108-64 rout of Centenary on Dec. 19 - but followed with a season-low 36.4 percent against the Mountaineers and were 5 of 24 from 3-point range.
The win snapped Ole Miss' six-game winning streak and was the third time in five games the team has had to try and come back from a first-half deficit.
"I don't think that we came out terribly focused," coach Andy Kennedy said. "They hit us in the mouth and we didn't respond. As a result, we're going home a loser."
Both of Ole Miss' losses have come against top-tier teams. Its other defeat came Nov. 22 against then-No. 5 Villanova as the Rebels shot 38.1 percent and committed 21 turnovers in the 79-67 setback.
Although beating ranked opponents on the road has been difficult for Ole Miss, winning at home against unranked ones has not. The Rebels are 6-0 there this season, outscoring opponents by an average of 23.7 points. They have won 36 of their last 37 games in Oxford against non-conference foes and will play their next three contests there.
Ole Miss doesn't have much time to work out any remaining struggles. Tonight is one of two remaining tune-ups before beginning the conference slate. After Jacksonville State, they Rebels will host Central Florida before facing SEC-opponent Mississippi State on Jan. 9.
It will be critical for Chris Warren, Ole Miss' leading scorer at 17.6 points per game, to bounce back. After pouring in a season-high 32 in a win over UTEP on Dec. 16, the junior guard totaled 19 on 7 of 18 shooting against Centenary and West Virginia.
He'll be looking to put up big numbers against Jacksonville State (5-5) which is playing its first ranked opponent since losing to Mississippi State in 2004.
The Gamecocks are coming off a 60-55 loss to Nicholls State on Dec. 21, when they shot 38.3 percent and trailed the entire way. Trenton Marshall scored 18 while Jeremy Bynum added 15 as the duo shot a combined 9 of 30.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak. Only three of the team's wins are against Division I opponents.
The Gamecocks are 1-33 against the SEC, with their lone victory coming against Alabama during the 1952-53 season. Ole Miss is 3-0 all-time in the series, including 64-56 in 2003.
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