MISSISSIPPI at No. 16 GEORGIA
When/Where: Today, 4 p.m., Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.
Records: Georgia 16-5 (5-3 Southeastern Conference), Ole Miss (17-4, 6-2)
Radio/TV: WRCG-AM 1420/No TV.
Ole Miss starters: F Aaron Harper, 6-5, So. (11.2 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game); F Justin Reed, 6-8, So. (14.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F Derrick Allen, 6-8, Jr. (9.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg); G Jason Harrison, 5-5, Sr. (10-6 ppg, 4.2 assists per game); G David Sanders, 6-3, Jr. (11.6 ppg, 2.7 apg).
Georgia starters: F Jarvis Hayes, 6-6, So. (17.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Chris Daniels, 6-7, So. (12.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg); F Jonas Hayes, 6-6, So. (7.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg); G Ezra Williams, 6-4, Jr. (18.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg); G Rashad Wright, 6-0, So. (7.9 ppg, 4.6 apg).
Outlook: Ahead at the turn, but only by a head, Georgia begins the second half of its SEC schedule in need of a home win. Faced with its first two-game losing streak of the season, Georgia needs to restore confidence and momentum and show it will be more than the first-half rabbit in this conference race.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Ole Miss comes to Athens with four straight SEC wins, including decisive victories over the two teams — South Carolina and Vanderbilt — that just beat Georgia. The Rebels are not ranked, but Coach Rod Barnes' team likely would enter the polls with a win over Georgia.
The 2001 Naismith National Coach of the Year, Barnes again has his team playing better than some expected. The Rebels have wins over two ranked teams — Memphis and Mississippi State — and have lost in conference play only at Tennessee and Kentucky.
Size-wise, Georgia should match up well with Ole Miss, but 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Justin Reed will be a challenge. Reed, one of three Ole Miss starters from Jackson, Miss., is averaging 17 points in the last three wins and is regarded as one of the top all-around players in the league.
Barnes preaches defense, and the Rebels have held three SEC opponents under 60 points and three more to no more than 65 points. In the last four wins, the Rebels have averaged 10.5 steals while forcing an average of 17.8 turnovers.
Led by sophomore point guard Rashad Wright, Georgia has done a good job of protecting the ball. Wright should handle the pressure, but a key will be the minutes provided by freshman Mike Dean in his time on the floor while Wright is resting.
Dean is a natural shooting guard who has been pressed into play at the point due to Tony Cole's suspension and ongoing absence from the team after the suspension was lifted. Cole remains on scholarship but must satisfy undisclosed demands made by Coach Jim Harrick before he is allowed to return to the team.