Another Challenge

It was going to be an important game anyway. Maybe Ole Miss' most recent loss at Southern Mississippi made tonight's Southaven encounter with Middle Tennessee State even bigger.

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Southern Miss sent another message it is a team to be reckoned with when it won at Arizona State Monday night.

In that game, Southern Miss, now 9-2, was able to finish as it had against Ole Miss. A 3-point shot by Darnell Dodson at the horn gave USM a 64-61 win against the Sun Devils.

Dodson was playing in his first game for Southern Miss, even though he had become eligible to play against the Rebels last Saturday.

Against MTSU, Ole Miss hopes former McDonald's All-American Jelan Kendrick can step up and begin to contribute. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound freshman guard, in his first game for the Rebels, got on the court against the Golden Eagles but didn't make much of a difference.

The Atlanta native played eight minutes, shot twice missing both shots, had one assist and one personal foul.

"I was trying to get him in the game," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said of Kendrick following the loss in Hattiesburg. "He's deserving of the opportunity to get in. Obviously we're 11 games in, and it's difficult to play everybody. I thought he gave us some quality minutes. In the second half, we wanted to tighten our rotation because of the magnitude of the game."

Defensively, the Rebels had arguably their worst half of the season, at least in a game they could have won. The loss to Marquette was by a 96-66 final score, and the Rebels gave up 51 points in the first half of that one. In the second half of the USM game, the Golden Eagles scored 53.

Kennedy agreed the Rebels weren't anywhere near their best.

"It was our worst defensive performance," he said. "Even against Marquette (a 96-66 loss) I don't think we gave up 53 points in a half."

Andy Kennedy
Bruce Newman

The Rebels, now 9-2, had some trouble shooting in the early part of the season. That seems to be improved now, and the stats say so.

Against USM, Ole Miss shot 45 percent for the game (28-62), 42 percent from 3-point range (5-12), and 78 percent from the free throw line (21-27). All are adequate numbers and ones a team can often post victory with.

Now comes a Blue Raider team riding high at 10-2. Ole Miss first-year assistant coach Al Pinkins should be able to help his current team prepare for the contest. He came to Ole Miss from MTSU this season.

Blue Raider head coach Kermit Davis, Jr., is in his tenth season as head coach at MTSU.

Middle Tennessee State, which hasn't played a game in eight days, is coming off a quality win over Belmont (65-62) in its most recent outing. It was the second time the Blue Raiders have faced Belmont. MTSU lost the first matchup 87-84 in double overtime on Nov. 20.

On the Blue Raider resume' is a 86-66 win against UCLA in Los Angeles. In that contest MTSU shot an amazing 91 percent from 3-point range (10-11) and a school-record 71 percent from the floor (35-49).

Davis' team is averaging 76.8 points per game and is surrendering just 63.2 ppg to opponents. MTSU boasts a +3.8 rebounding margin (35.3-31.6).

A trio of Blue Raiders average double-figure points, led by 6-foot-9 Laron Dendy (14.7 ppg), who also tops the club with 6.7 rebounds per game. Marcus Knight, at 6-2, adds 13.3 ppg and 5.8 rpg, while 6-8 J.T. Sulton contributes 12.1 ppg and 6.1 rpg.

And some football, too

New Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze will speak to fans at the Desoto Civic Center prior to tonight's game. Freeze will speak in the arena's Main Banquet Room at 7 p.m. Fans with a ticket to the game will be granted admission, space permitting.

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