Game: Ole Miss - Mississippi State
Date: Jan. 25, 3 p.m.
Location: Oxford, Miss.
TV/Radio: SEC-TV/Ole Miss Radio Network
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy rarely, if ever, looks ahead. He has his reasons.
The Rebels, who host in-state rival Mississippi State today at 3 p.m., are winners of three straight games. And with each win, they inch closer and closer to reentering the NCAA tournament discussion.
But rather than speculate, to toss around postseason scenarios and RPI standings in late-January, Kennedy would prefer his team stay in the moment - a motivational tool Kennedy has driven home since the start of the season.
So he, too, will avoid peering into the crystal ball as best he can. Think of it as practicing what he’s preaching.
“I think if last year proved anything to all of us it was that speculation is futile,” Kennedy said. “It’s (the media’s) business, it’s not my business. I try to live what I try to teach those guys. I’ve come to learn, maybe the hard way, that we may be big-picture thinkers but they’re not. That’s all that matters to me is what they’re doing.
“So we’re going to just focus on the moment and try to live right there the best we can.”
Ole Miss lost four games in its non-league schedule, including an unprecedented three at home. For perspective, the Rebels have lost all of 22 games in 129 in eight seasons under Kennedy. They entered the year having won 23 straight non-conference games.
But as quickly as Ole Miss seemingly played its way off the bubble, the Rebels have found their footing in SEC play, now sitting with a 13-5 (4-1 SEC) record. Their lone loss was at Mississippi State, the only sub-100 RPI loss on the resume.
Ole Miss currently boasts an RPI rank of 63, according to WarrenNolan.com.
“We can be real special,” junior guard Jarvis Summers, who scored a team-leading 16 points in the 63-52 win in Nashville on Wednesday, said. The win marked the first time in school history Ole Miss has won back-to-back games in Memorial Gym, and followed the Rebels’ first win at South Carolina since 2001.
“If we just stay together and do what coach asks us to do, we’re going to be OK.”
That includes staying in the moment. Kennedy would have it no other way.
“It’s just one at a time for us,” Kennedy said. “It’s never easy on the road. For us to win two of our first three (on the road) shows that this team is maturing. Every game is tough for us. Every game is hard. You’ve got to embrace hard. I think our guys are doing a better job of that.”
Scouting Mississippi State:
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)
Mississippi State is 13-5 on the season and 3-2 in the SEC after knocking off Auburn 82-74 on Wednesday. The Bulldogs are 11-1 at the Hump this season with the only loss coming to TCU during the Big 12/SEC Challenge, but are just 2-4 in away and natural site games. Craig Sword leads the team with a 14.5 points per game average, while Gavin Ware is close behind averaging 11.1 points a game and paces the squad pulling down 8.4 boards per game.
USA TODAY images
The Bulldogs have gotten to the line 148 more times than their opponents, including shooting 153 free throws in conference games compared to just 95 for their opponents. MSU out shot Ole Miss 42-12 at the line in the first matchup of the season.
The Bulldogs are Ole Miss’ most-played opponent, as Saturday’s game will be the 249th meeting between the in-state rivals, which is also the SEC’s most-played rivalry. Mississippi State holds a 141-107 lead in the series, which began in 1914, and but Ole Miss owns a 79-43 advantage in games in Oxford. The Rebels and the Bulldogs have split the last two season series, with each team winning out its home court. Andy Kennedy is 5-10 against MSU in his career.
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)
* Senior G Marshall Henderson recently became the 34th member of the 1,000-point club at Ole Miss and ranks 34th in school history with 1,002 career points. He is just the fourth player in Rebel history to eclipse the 1,000-point mark in two seasons joining Denver Brackeen, Gerald Glass and Don Kessinger. Junior G Jarvis Summers is close behind with 986 career points and needs just 14 points to become the 35th member of the 1,000-point club at Ole Miss.
* Three Rebels rank among the SEC’s active career leaders as Henderson ranks sixth among active players with 1,002 career points, while junior G Jarvis Summers is third among active players in assists (310) and seventh in points scored (986). Junior F Aaron Jones is fourth among active players with 102 career blocks.
* Ole Miss is 24-8 (.750 winning percentage) over its last 32 games versus SEC opponents dating back to 2012, which is the best mark over 32 games in school history. It also leads in the SEC, besting both Florida and Kentucky (23-9) over that span.
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy meets the media following the Rebels' win at Vanderbilt on Wednesday.