One thing is clear as Ole Miss welcomes Dayton for the final non-conference game of the 2013-14…
Primer: Ole Miss - Dayton
Game: Ole Miss - Dayton Date: Jan. 4, 7 p.m. Location: Oxford, Miss. TV/Radio: CSS/ESPN3/Ole Miss Radio Network The Lede: There's a lot of basketball left to be played, sure. But Ole Miss is in unfamiliar territory with Dayton up next. The Rebels, who host the Flyers tonight at 7 p.m. CT, are 9-3 on the year following their comeback, 79-74 win at Western Kentucky on Monday. Two of their three losses have come at home, uncharacteristic of Andy Kennedy-led teams. Prior to this season, Ole Miss was 100-19 in seven years with Kennedy at the helm. The Rebels are 5-2 in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum so far in 2013-14. "In my eight seasons, we've never lost more than one non-conference home game," Kennedy said. Andy Kennedy File Photo "This year we've already lost two. This is another difficult challenge, and this group has to get the understanding that you have to protect your home floor. Hopefully that message has been sent, as we have another challenge in Dayton." With their victory against Winthrop Jan. 1, the Flyers earned their 11th non-conference win of the season, the most during coach Archie Miller's tenure at Dayton. The Flyers are currently riding an eight-year streak with 10 or more non-conference wins. Dayton's notable wins include road contests over Gonzaga and California in the Maui Invitational in Maui, Hawaii, and at Georgia Tech. The Flyers, who are No. 60 in RPI, are 4-0 all-time vs. Ole Miss. The Rebels enter their final non-conference game with an RPI of No. 73, according to ESPN.com. They have one top-100 RPI win this season (Penn State). A win over Dayton would certainly go far in improving their postseason resume with conference play coming up. "There's so much basketball left to be played," Kennedy said. "We played a pretty challenging non-conference schedule where we've let some opportunities slip through our hands. But we do have a Big Ten and ACC win in our pocket. I think the win against Middle Tennessee State, Conference USA, they're going to have an opportunity to compete very well in their league, and Western Kentucky, a two-time conference champion, two straight NCAA tournaments and prohibitive favorite to come out of the Sun Belt. So we've already got four wins really better than any four we had last year in our non-league. "Dayton would certainly be the biggest opportunity still on our plate prior to getting into league play. And if you start looking into RPI, and it's still a little bit early, but when you reflect on where the league is going into league play here in about a week, we're looking at about eight or nine of our league members are still in the top-100, which are going to present opportunities for us moving forward." Scouting Dayton: Marshall Henderson Associated Press Dayton is 11-3 on the season after an 81-47 New Year's Day victory over Winthrop. The Flyers have posted wins over Cal, Gonzaga and Georgia Tech this year. UD knocked off the Yellow Jackets 82-72 in Atlanta earlier this season before Ole Miss defeated the Ramblin' Wreck in Brooklyn. The Flyers three losses this season have come at the hands of Baylor, in Hawaii, and Illinois State and Southern Cal at home. Princeton transfer Jordan Sibert leads the Flyers averaging 12.9 points per game, while senior Devin Oliver and sophomore Dyshawn Pierre rank second on the squad averaging 11.4 ppg. Oliver is also pulling down a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game. This is the fifth meeting all time between the Rebels and Flyers. Dayton has won all four prior matchups, including the last meeting in 2011 in Dayton, which UD won 62-50. The teams also met in 2010 with Dayton claiming a 78-71 overtime outcome in Oxford and a 68-63 decision in the 2010 NIT Final Four in New York City The Flyer won the first meeting played in Dayton in 1980, with the home team winning 72-70. Jarvis Summers scored 14 on 5 of 10 shooting as a freshman the last time the two teams met in 2011. Leftovers: * Ole Miss leads the SEC, and ranks third in the nation, averaging 7.5 blocked shots per game. Junior F Aaron Jones is ranks third in the league, and 29th in the nation, averaging 2.8 blocked shots per game, while junior C Demarco Cox is tied for sixth in the conference averaging 1.6 blocked shots per game. * Three Rebels rank among the SEC's active career leaders as senior G Marshall Henderson ranks sixth among active players with 932 career points, while junior G Jarvis Summers is third among active players in assists (282) and eighth in points scored (865). Junior F Aaron Jones is fourth among active players with 85 career blocks. * The Rebels boast an 96-27 record (.780 win pct.) against teams outside the SEC since Andy Kennedy took over in 2006-07, including a 64-3 mark at home. The Rebels are 9-3 versus non-conference competition this season including a 5-2 mark at home. Spirit's Pick: Ole Miss Ole Miss will be without Marshall Henderson for the first two games of conference play, which starts next week. And while the first two opponents, Auburn and Mississippi State, sit among the bottom half of the SEC, opening with two wins won't be easy with the Rebels' most prolific scorer on the bench. So, the guess here is Henderson shoots and shoots often before going on the shelf, following up 23-point point WKU performance with another strong showing in leading Ole Miss to a notable, momentum-building win.
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