Matchup: Ole Miss (4-3) at Middle Tennessee (6-1)
Date: Saturday, December 9, 2017
Time: 5 p.m. CT
Location: Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Arena: Murphy Center (11,520)
Television: Stadium (Facebook Live)
Chris Hassel, play-by-play
Chris Spatola, analyst
Kristen Balboni, sideline
Radio: Ole Miss IMG Sports Network
David Kellum, play-by-play
Keith Kessinger, analyst
Series: Middle Tennessee leads 5-3
Last Meeting: Nov. 30, 2016
Middle Tennessee won 77-62, Oxford, Miss.
– The Rebels and Blue Raiders are facing off for the fifth time in the past seven seasons.
– Ole Miss is coming off back-to-back overtime losses, playing in consecutive overtime games for the first time since the 1981-82 campaign.
– Saturday’s contest will be the first true road game for the Rebels.
– Ole Miss is 7-4 in the first true road game of each season under Andy Kennedy.
– Ranked No. 16 in the RPI, Middle Tennessee will be the highest-rated opponent Ole Miss has faced this season.
– Opponents the Rebels have already faced this season have a combined record of 37-23 (.597).
– The Rebels are already 1-0 vs. Conference USA opponents this season, having defeated Rice in the MGM Resorts Main Event in Las Vegas (Nov. 22).
– Ole Miss is in the midst of a stretch playing seven of eight games at home, while finishing up a three-game gauntlet against teams that made the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
– The Rebels have used five different starting lineups in seven games, one of 10 different teams nationally to have done that.
– Senior Deandre Burnett ranks second in the SEC and 17th nationally with a 3.9 assist/turnover ratio; he’s recorded 21 assists and only two turnovers over the past three games.
– With 83 career blocks, senior Marcanvis Hymon ranks 11th on the school’s all-time list.
– Guards are accounting for 77.8 percent of the Rebels’ scoring.
– Terence Davis has scored double digits in 21 of the last 22 games dating back to last season, including 12 straight.
– Two Rebels, Markel Crawford and Marcanvis Hymon, are Tennessee natives.
– Ole Miss is in the 12th season of the Andy Kennedy era; Kennedy, the Dean of the SEC, is the winningest coach in school history with 238 victories.
– Only seven games into this season, Kennedy already has the fifth-most wins in SEC history by a coach in his first 12 years in the league at one school.
PARTY LIKE IT’S 1959
Playing their 108th season of college basketball, the Rebels are 1,285-1,285 all-time. With a win over Eastern Kentucky (Nov. 13) earlier this season, Ole Miss moved its all-time winning percentage over .500 for the first time since Jan. 12, 1959 when they were 441-440 overall. To put that in perspective, a gallon of gas cost 25 cents, while 1959 was also the year that Alaska and Hawaii became states. As a program, Ole Miss was 95 games under .500 when Andy Kennedy took over in Oxford prior to the 2006-07 season.
SCOUTING THE BLUE RAIDERS
Middle Tennessee is 6-1 on the young season after knocking off Vanderbilt 66-63 Wednesday night. The Blue Raiders are 4-0 on the road this year with their only loss of the season coming at home to Belmont. MT is led by senior F Nick King, who is averaging 24.1 ppg to rank fifth nationally. Fellow senior forward Brandon Walters adds 12.2 ppg and 5.0 rpg to go along with a team-high eight blocks. As a team, the Blue Raiders rank second among Conference USA teams in scoring defense, allowing 66.3 ppg. Kermit Davis is in his 16th season as head coach of Middle Tennessee, leading the Blue Raiders to three NCAA Tournament appearances over the past five seasons. Making the big dance each of the last two years, Middle Tennessee posted upset victories in both tournaments. In 2016, the Blue Raiders provided the biggest upset of March Madness with a win over No. 2 seed Michigan State. Last season, MT took down No. 5 seed Minnesota to advance to the round of 32.
Ole Miss is just 3-5 all-time against Middle Tennessee. The Rebels won the first the first two games of the series, one in 1960 and one in 1963, before the Blue Raiders took five of the next six meetings. This season marks the fifth time in the past seven seasons that the two programs have met on the hardwood. Middle Tennessee used a big first half to hold off an Ole Miss comeback last year in Oxford. The two teams have only faced off once in Murfreesboro, with Middle Tennessee protecting its home court in a 65-62 win (Dec. 8, 2012).
LAST TIME WE MET
The Rebels and Blue Raiders met last season in Oxford (Nov. 30, 2016). Ole Miss cut a 29-point halftime deficit to single digits in the second half, but couldn’t complete the comeback as the Rebels fell 77-62. Then-freshman Breein Tyree provided a spark for the Rebels off the bench to begin the second half, but it wasn’t enough to close the halftime gap. Middle Tennessee hit 9 of 16 3-pointers as a team and shot 48 percent (29 of 60) from the floor. Ole Miss opened the second half on a 10-2 run and chipped away at the MT lead for most of the half, but never led. The Rebels managed only two second-half turnovers and finished 19 of 27 from the free throw line, but in the end, could not overcome their deep first-half hole. Deandre Burnett led the Rebels with 15 points., while Cullen Neal added 13 points and Tyree chipped in 11.
REBELS VS. CONFERENCE USA
Ole Miss is 40-21 all-time against the current members of the Conference USA, including a 1-0 mark this year after defeating Rice in the MGM Resorts Main Event (Nov. 22). Ole Miss is 3-5 all-time versus Middle Tennessee. Throughout history, the Rebels have also faced Charlotte (2-1), Florida Atlantic (1-0), Florida International (1-0), Louisiana Tech (8-5), Marshall (2-1), North Texas (2-0), Rice (2-2), Southern Miss (18-6) and Western Kentucky (1-1).
A pair of Rebels will play in their home state this weekend. Graduate transfer Markel Crawford and senior Marcanvis Hymon hail from Memphis, Tennessee. Crawford takes the court in Tennessee for the first time in an Ole Miss uniform. He suited up for his hometown Memphis Tigers for three seasons before deciding to spend his final year of eligibility in Oxford.
FACING NCAA TOURNAMENT TEAMS
Despite facing quality teams to start the season, Ole Miss has started the toughest part of its non-conference schedule. After battling both South Dakota State and Virginia Tech to overtime, the Rebels wrap up their stretch of three consecutive games against teams that made the 2017 NCAA Tournament. South Dakota State won the Summit League Championship last year, while Virginia Tech earned an at-large bid as a competitive ACC squad. Ole Miss travels northeast to face Middle Tennessee Saturday, who made the round of 32 in March.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIVE
With more depth than last year’s squad, head coach Andy Kennedy has the ability to experiment with starting lineups early on in the season to try to find the best starting five. Through seven games, the Rebels have sent out five different starting lineups. Ole Miss is one of 10 teams nationally that has had at least five different starting lineups over the first seven games of the season.
BACK-TO-BACK OVERTIME GAMES
Last week, Ole Miss was on the losing end of consecutive overtime contests. First, the Rebels rallied from 23 points down to extend the game before dropping a 99-97 matchup versus South Dakota State (Nov. 28). Saturday’s game versus Virginia Tech was nearly the opposite as Ole Miss led for nearly the entire game (37 minutes) before the Hokies pushed it to overtime. In the 108-year history of Ole Miss Basketball, the Rebels have only played back-to-back overtime games on three occasions. The first time happened during the 1968-69 campaign when Ole Miss downed LSU and Alabama for a pair of overtime victories. The Rebels also took care of Florida and Vanderbilt in back-to-back OT contests towards the end of the 1981-82 season. Ole Miss squeaked out a 58-57 road win in Gainesville before needing four overtime periods to knock off Vanderbilt 51-48 at home.
SECOND HALF SUCCESS
The Rebels hold a 42.3-34.7 scoring advantage over opponents in the second half, compared to opponents outscoring Ole Miss 39.9-38.1 in the opening 20 minutes. Already three times in this young season, Ole Miss has faced double-digit deficits in the first half before rallying to either win or force overtime. Down by two against Louisiana in the season opener (Nov. 10), the Rebels put up 54 points over the final 20 minutes. Georgia State had Ole Miss down eight at the break before the Rebels held the Panthers to only 28 points for the rest of the contest (Nov. 17). Last week against South Dakota State, Ole Miss trailed by as many as 23 points before coming all the way back to force overtime.
Ole Miss has been active with their hands on the defensive end of the floor, averaging 7.4 steals per game. Through seven games, four Rebels have recorded at least eight steals. Devontae Shuler leads the way with 11 steals, averaging 1.6 per game to rank sixth in the SEC. Markel Crawford and Terence Davis are closely behind (9), while Breein Tyree has eight steals. Against the Utes (Nov. 20), the Rebels tallied 14 steals throughout the night, the most by them in a game since Feb. 14, 2017, vs. LSU and the most by an SEC team this season.
GREEN LIGHT GUARDS
Andy Kennedy has proven to develop guards during his time at Ole Miss. Over Kennedy’s 11 seasons in Oxford, 12 guards have earned All-SEC accolades to rank third among conference teams. This season, the depth at guard shows in terms of scoring. Through the first seven games of the season, Ole Miss guards have accounted for 77.8 percent of the Rebels’ points. The top five scorers on the team are guards led by Terence Davis (17.9 ppg), Deandre Burnett (15.7 ppg) and Devontae Shuler (11.4 ppg). Graduate transfer Markel Crawford adds 11.0 ppg, while Breein Tyree contributes 9.1 ppg.
After a breakout sophomore season last year, averaging 14.9 points per game after only providing 1.8 points per game as a freshman (the largest increase in scoring among any returning player in the conference), Terence Davis has become a go-to scorer for Ole Miss. The Southaven, Mississippi, native has scored in double figures in 21 of the last 22 games dating back to last season, including 12 straight contests. Leading the Rebels with 17.9 ppg and a 48.4 field goal percentage, Davis ranks sixth and ninth in the SEC, respectively. He has already reached the 20-point plateau three times, recording 21 in the season opener versus Louisiana (Nov. 10) before putting up 24 in a win over Georgia State one week later (Nov. 17). Last week versus South Dakota State (Nov. 28), Davis scored 20 of his team-high 22 points in the second half. He has also showcased his skills on the defensive end, ranking second on the team in steals (9) and blocks (7). As a sophomore last year, Davis ranked fourth in the league in field goal percentage (48.2) and recorded 20+ points in six different games. He quickly became a playmaker on both sides of the floor, leading the Rebels with 50 steals as well.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT DRE
A first-team preseason all-conference selection, senior Deandre Burnett is embracing his role as a leader. The guard came off the bench in Ole Miss’ first four games before being inserted into the starting lineup in each of the last three contests.. Burnett is averaging 15.7 ppg, ranking second on the team, while leading the Rebels with 31 assists. Not only does he pace Ole Miss in assists, but Burnett takes care of the ball by ranking second in the SEC in assist/turnover ratio (3.9). Over the last three games, he has produced 21 assists compared to only two turnovers. The Miami Gardens, Florida, native is shooting 44.4 percent (32 of 72) from the floor, including a team-best 41.7 percent (15 of 36) percent from three-point range. Burnett also knocks down his free throws at an 81.6 percent clip (31 of 38). Last season, his first as a Rebel, Burnett averaged a team-high 16.5 ppg and finished fifth in the SEC in both free-throw percentage (.881) and three-point percentage (.376). Finishing eighth in the league in scoring, Burnett reached double figures in 26 of 33 games, including 10 20-plus performances and a career-high 41-point output (Nov. 18, 2016, vs. Oral Roberts). He also shared the rock, providing 104 assists throughout the season (3.2 apg).
HYMON PICKS UP WHERE SAIZ LEFT OFF
Heading into the season, a big question mark for Ole Miss was who would fill the void left by Sebastian Saiz. With the help of a school-record 409 rebounds, Saiz recorded 23 double-doubles a season ago. Senior Marcanvis Hymon has been the focal point of the frontcourt that needs to replace Saiz. In his fourth year at Ole Miss, the Memphis, Tennessee, native is the only active player to spend all four seasons in Oxford. Through seven games, Hymon leads the Rebels with 7.7 rpg and ranks seventh in the SEC. He has crashed the glass on the Rebels’ end of the floor, sitting fifth in the conference with 2.9 offensive rebounds per game. Hymon has reached double digits in rebounds three times this year, including a 12-point, 13-rebound performance in the season opener versus Louisiana (Nov. 10). The big opening game marked the third double-double in Hymon’s career. Through 81 career games, Hymon is moving up the school’s career blocks chart. With a team-high 12 already this year, he ranks 11th with 83 career rejections following a team-high 40 last season.
A 4-star guard out of perennial powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, there was a lot of hype surrounding Devontae Shuler entering the season. The freshman has not disappointed, averaging 11.4 ppg to rank third on the team in scoring. Shuler has played in all seven games, making two starts and averaging 23.3 minutes per game. With a team-high 11 steals, Shuler ranks sixth among SEC players. Last week versus South Dakota State, he recorded a career-high 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting to go along with a team-high three steals. He has showcased his quick hands on the defensive end with a career-high four steals versus Utah (Nov. 20) before pulling down a career-high five rebounds in the win over Rice (Nov. 22). In his debut, Shuler recorded 14 points in 16 minutes off the bench. The Irmo, South Carolina, native knocked down four shots from beyond the arc versus Louisiana (Nov. 10), and his offensive output was the most points by a freshman in a season opener since Trevor Gaskins recorded 21 versus Mississippi Valley State, exactly 10 years ago (Nov. 10, 2007).
MARKEL MAKING HIS MARK
As a graduate transfer, Markel Crawford is already making his mark in his only season with the Rebels. The Memphis product has started all seven games and leads Ole Miss in minutes per game (31.4), which ranks fifth in the SEC. He also is second on the team in steals (9), while averaging 11.0 ppg. Against South Dakota State Tuesday night (Nov. 28), Crawford scored 19 points, his most as a Rebel, on 7 of 11 shooting.
ON THE BREAK
Against South Dakota State (Nov. 28), the Rebels outscored the Jackrabbits 18-0 in fastbreak points. On the season, Ole Miss holds a 10.0-2.7 advantage in fastbreak points per game. A big factor of the Rebels getting out and running is ranking third in the SEC with 7.4 steals per game.
12TH YEAR OF THE KENNEDY ADMINISTRATION
With the 12th season led by Mississippi native Andy Kennedy underway, Ole Miss has a 238-143 record, one SEC Tournament championship, two SEC West championships, nine 20-win campaigns and eight postseason berths, which includes two NCAA Tournament appearances and a pair of trips to the NIT Final Four, under Kennedy’s watch. The all-time winningest coach in school history, Kennedy has averaged more than 21 wins per season in his 11 years in Oxford after the Rebels posted just three 21-win seasons in the 96 years before his arrival.
KENNEDY’S FIRST 12 YEARS RANK AMONG ALL-TIME SEC GREATS
Andy Kennedy is also fifth on the list for most wins by a coach in their first 12 years in the league after taking over an SEC program. See the list below:
1. Bill Donovan (Florida) — 285
2. Joe B. Hall (Kentucky) — 279
3. Wimp Sanderson (Alabama) — 265
4. Rick Stansbury (Mississippi State) — 255
5. Andy Kennedy (Ole Miss) — 238
6. Kevin Stallings (Vanderbilt) — 236
7. Hugh Durham (Georgia) — 219
8. Ray Mears (Tennessee) — 218
9. Dale Brown (LSU) — 212
10. C.M. Newton (Alabama) — 211
11. Roy Skinner (Vanderbilt) — 204
11. Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) — 204
KENNEDY MOVING UP SEC COACHING WINS LIST
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy is climbing the SEC coaching wins chart, ranking 18th with 238 career victories. See complete list below:
1. Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) – 875
2. Billy Donovan (Florida) – 467
3. Dale Brown (LSU) – 448
4. C.M. Newtown (UA/VU) – 340
Harry Rabenhorst (LSU) – 340
6. Kevin Stallings (Vanderbilt) – 332
7. Tubby Smith (UGA/UK) – 308
8. Joe B. Hall (Kentucky) – 297
Hugh Durhman (Georgia) – 297
10. Rick Stansbury (MSU) – 293
11. Ray Mears (Tennessee) – 278
Roy Skinner (Vanderbilt) – 278
13. Wimp Sanderson (Alabama) – 265
John Mauer (UK/UT/UF) – 265
15. Hank Crisp (Alabama) – 264
16. John Calipari (Kentucky) – 256
17. Nolan Richardson (Arkansas) – 249
18. Andy Kennedy (Ole Miss) – 238
19. Norm Sloan (Florida) – 232
20. Rick Pitino (Kentucky) – 219
21. Joel Eaves (Auburn) – 214
NEXT ON THE HARDWOOD
Following the first true road game of the season, the Rebels return home for five straight games in The Pavilion to close out the 2017 calendar year. The homestand begins Wednesday, Dec. 13 against Sam Houston State. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. on SECN+.