Rivalry Rematch

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy had a tough Sunday.

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The night before, the Rebels fell in double overtime at Alabama, 69-67. Ole Miss lost by one in double overtime to Auburn three weeks prior. Actually, in its last six games, Ole Miss was 3-3. The Rebels largest margin of defeat in their losses was a four-point home loss to Florida.

Ole Miss is 14-8 overall and 4-4 in Southeastern Conference games. The Rebels are fighting for their postseason life with a road trip to No. 18 Mississippi State up next. And they're doing so knowing their record could have been much better.

"They're hard on the head coach," Kennedy said of the close losses.

Kennedy sat in his office in the team's practice facility Sunday afternoon. Kennedy's office neighbors the practice floor. He was listening for his players as they made their way to the gym. Kennedy was waiting to see if he needed to provide some words of encouragement to lift their spirits.

"It sounded like Mardi Gras out there," he said. "Kids are resilient. They're moving on to the next day. They probably didn't have as tough a Sunday as the old head coach did."

"It's hard, man. We're a few possessions away from being around 7-1," junior forward Murphy Holloway said. "But we're also a few possessions away from being worse than that, also. Got to take the good with the bad, just keep playing. We'll be all right."

Andy Kennedy
Associated Press

Ole Miss now turns to Mississippi State (18-5, 5-3 SEC) tonight at 6 p.m. Ole Miss beat the in-state rival Bulldogs in the first meeting between the teams this season, 75-68, snapping a five-game losing streak.

Ole Miss is looking for its first sweep of the series since 1998.

"I'd like to tell you we've figured out the code to beat them," Kennedy said. "We know it's going to be a difficult challenge. Mississippi State's good. They've got good players.

"Rick (Stansbury) knows what he's doing. We realize it's going to be difficult. They've made some changes since the last time we played. We've made some changes since the last time we played. Ultimately it comes down to who's going to play best over those two hours."

"It's always hard to beat a team twice," Holloway said. "We beat them the first time. I think we're better than them."

Ole Miss is No. 52 in the nation in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA. Ole Miss has played the nation's No. 49 ranked scheduled and has faced 10 teams with RPIs of 100 or better. Ole Miss is 3-7 in those games.

Mississippi State, meanwhile, is tied for third in the league standings. The Bulldogs have won three out of their last four games since losing to Ole Miss in Oxford Jan. 18, including an impressive 78-77 overtime road win at Vanderbilt.

Mississippi State holds a 90-24 advantage in games played in Starkville.

"We know that because of the fact that we're both from the same state and it's Mississippi State-Ole Miss, there's going to be a lot of passion in the building for the Bulldogs," said Kennedy, who is 4-7 in his career against Mississippi State. "We realize that."

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