Primer: Ole Miss - Mississippi State

Ole Miss (10-4, 1-0 SEC) travels to face in-state rival Mississippi State (10-4, 0-1) today at 3 p.m. What to watch for? We take a look.

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Game: Ole Miss - Mississippi State
Date: Jan. 11, 3 p.m.
Location: Starkville, Miss.
TV/Radio: ESPNU/Ole Miss Radio Network

The Lede:

Ole Miss was in familiar territory Thursday night.

The Rebels, opening Southeastern Conference play against Auburn at home, were locked in a one-possession game - a game they ultimately won, 65-62, to run their overall record to 10-4 (1-0).

Such games have become the norm for Ole Miss in 2013-14. In 14 games played this season, six have been decided by three points or less. The Rebels are 3-3 in one-possession contests.

Ole Miss had lost three straight - Kansas State, Mercer and Dayton - before downing Auburn.

"The result is ultimately what shows progress," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said following Thursday's win. "We're in a results-oriented business. I'm excited. We've been in this situation a lot. I'm really proud of this group for battling, battling, battling and finding a way to win a hard-fought game."

Five days after suffering a last-second, 83-80 loss to Dayton, the Rebels again found themselves clinging to final-minute lead. But unlike the loss to the Flyers, when they blew a four-point advantage with a minute to play, the Rebels came through.

Andy Kennedy
USA TODAY images

A confidence-building performance, perhaps?

"We've been here time and time again. We don't get startled. We don't get shocked. Just stay calm and start making plays," junior forward Aaron Jones, who had 12 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and five steals in the game, said.

Ole Miss could very well need a similar performance this afternoon at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have won 14 of the last 15 meetings between the schools in Humphrey Coliseum, including each of the last four.

Overall, Mississippi State has won 22 of the last 30 in the series.

The Rebels will once again be without Marshall Henderson, who will sit in the last of a three-game suspension. And they'll be making the dreaded Thursday-to-Saturday turn, which means less preparation time.

"Kids are pretty resilient," Kennedy said. "You've got to bounce back. We've got 18 more (games) guaranteed. Every one of them will be a battle, and I'm sure Saturday will be no different."

At this point, what with all the one-possession games, Ole Miss is accustomed to battling.

"I think (Mississippi State head coach) Rick (Ray) has done a good job," Kennedy said. "His team's playing hard. They've got the same cast. Those guys have gotten a little bit older. I know they've got a number of different weapons, and that place has never been very friendly to the Rebels."

"I expect us to go in there and play hard and come out with a win," Jones said. "It's a big rivalry game. We've just got to stay focused and be tough."

Scouting Mississippi State:
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)

Mississippi State is 10-4 on the season and 0-1 in the SEC after falling 85-63 to Kentucky in Lexington. The Bulldogs are 8-1 at the Hump this season with the only loss coming to TCU during the Big 12/SEC Challenge. MSU is 2-3 in away and natural site games with losses to Kentucky, Utah State and UNLV. Craig Sword leads the team with a 14.6 points per game average, while Gavin Ware is close behind averaging 10.7 points a game and paced the squad pulling down 9.0 boards per game. The Bulldogs lead the SEC in steals (9.5/game) and rank second in turnovers forced (16.6/game), but are last in the league in field goal percentage defense at 43.2%.

Aaron Jones
USA TODAY images

The Bulldogs are Ole Miss' most-played opponent, as Saturday's game will be the 248th meeting between the in-state rivals, which is also the SEC's most-played rivalry. Mississippi State holds a 140-107 lead in the series, which began in 1914, and a 92-24 advantage in Starkville. The Rebel have split the last four meetings with MSU, but are seeking their first win in Starkville since 2009. Ole Miss won 93-75 earlier last season in Oxford before falling 73-67 in Starkville. Andy Kennedy is 5-9 against MSU in his career.

(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)

* Junior F Aaron Jones posted 12 points, 7 boards, a career-high 5 blocked shots and a career-high 5 steals as Ole Miss edged Auburn 65-62 in the SEC opener. Sophomore G Derrick Millinghaus scored 16 points, Junior G Jarvis Summers added 14 and Ole Miss won its second-straight SEC opener. The Rebels are looking for a 2-0 start to league play after opening with a school-record 6-0 mark last year.

* Ole Miss has blocked 102 shots this season and leads the SEC and ranks third in the nation averaging 7.3 blocked shots per game. Junior F Aaron Jones ranks third in the league and is tied for 36th in the country averaging 2.7 blocked shot per game.

* Three Rebels rank among the SEC's active career leaders as senior G Marshall Henderson ranks sixth among active players with 947 career points, while junior G Jarvis Summers is third among active players in assists (290) and eighth in points scored (908). Junior F Aaron Jones is fourth among active players with 90 career blocks.

Spirit's Pick:

Ole Miss

Ole Miss Logo
Starkville, home to the in-state rival Mississippi State Bulldogs, has seldom been kind to Ole Miss basketball. The Rebels last won there in 2009. Even more, Mississippi State is 92-24 all-time in the series in Starkville. So, throw out the records and MSU's RPI rank of 155. Basically, all Ole Miss is guaranteed Saturday afternoon is a hard-fought, grind-it-out game that will likely come down to a possession here and a possession there. Think last season's six-point loss to one of the worst Mississippi State team's in its history. Will Ole Miss buck the trend in 2014? Here's saying it will.

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