In most stories that end or are at least trending to a happily ever after ending, there is a villain.
In the case of Arkansas (20-9, 9-7) that would be Ole Miss (17-12, 8-8), a team that has walked away with an unheard of four straight victories in its last four trips to Bud Walton Arena.
Three of those have been on Senior Night – which is exactly what it will be on Wednesday night when the Razorbacks and Rebels hoop it up in a 7 p.m contest.
"I would like to tell you that those prior four games would have some influence on our game on Wednesday night, but unfortunately for us they will not," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "It is a different set of circumstances, a different set of players, a different timing and I think Arkansas is playing as well as anybody obviously in our league.
"Having won five straight, playing with a great deal of confidence and a real sense of urgency as you would expect as they are closing in on trying to get into the NCAA Tournament," Kennedy said. "We are going to have our hands full."
Ole Miss, coming off a 71-60 loss at Texas A&M, has lost five of its last six games and is only 3-7 in its last 10 outings.
"We are not playing as well as I would have hoped," Kennedy said. "We have struggled in a number of different areas. We put our finger in one hole and another one opens up – whether it be offensive inefficency or inability to rebound. We have really struggled, especially on the road and that continued in our last outing against A&M.
"What we have got to do is come in understanding that there is two game left in the regular season and there is still some type of a logjam in the middle of the pack and we are in the middle of that," Kennedy added. "We have got to try and find a way to win some games and put ourseleves in the best possible position heading into Atlanta."
The Rebels have also lost their last five road games and are 2-6 away from home heading into the game at Arkansas, who has won five in a row and seven of its last eight games overall.
"I think that is probably typical of most teams in college basketball for whatever reason," Kennedy said. "Teams don't seem to play as well on the road. I can just speak personably about our group. We have got some inexperience guys at a number of different positions and even the guys that we had returning are playing expanded roles. With that comes a little bit of hesitancy and not playing with the same swagger that you play with at home where you can kind of play off the emotion of the crowd.
"You are obviously much more in your comfort zone at home and as a result you don't play as confidently on the road to make the plays that ultimately decide whether you win or lose," Kennedy said.
Ole Miss is led by 6-2 senior guard Marshall Henderson (19.2) and 6-3 junior guard Jarvis Summers (17.2), who account for almost half of the team's 75.4 point per game.
"He has certainly been a marked man," Kennedy said. "His numbers have been about the same. He is a volume guy. He broke the record for most threes in a season and I was looking at our games notes earlier this morning and he is leading the nation in 3-pointers attempted this season.
"Because of his suspension and the fact that he missed some games, he won't break his record of last year, but he is the same guy – a volume guy that we need to make shots," Kennedy added. "He has been more focused this year and I think his game has developed as it relates to understanding and staying within the lines and playing with the right type of focus."
Summers, hitting 44.7 percent from 3-point range this season, was named the 2014 C Spire Howell Award winner on Monday as the top player in the state of Mississippi – the same award Henderson won the year before.
He has raised his scoring average from 9.1 last season to 17.2 this season and is the only player in the SEC to rank in the top 10 in scoring and field goal shooting and also the top five in assists.
Those two are joined in the starting line-up by 6-9, 220-pound junior forward Aaron Jones (6.3, 6.9), 6-3 junior guard Martavious Newby (2.7) and 6-9, 213-pound freshman forwad Anthony Perez (7.4, 3.5).
The Rebels are clearly missing graduated senior forwards Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner, who combined for 24 points and 17 rebounds last season and manhandled the Razorbacks their last few seasons.
"Our biggest problem is that we have lost two guys up front that were pillars in our program and we have replaced them with younger, inexperienced guys and as a result we are not being productive up front," Kennedy added.
Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson guards Arkansas' Rickey Scott in last year's game in Oxford.
Trying to Play The Villain Again
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