Primer: Ole Miss - LSU

Ole Miss (10-5, 1-1 SEC) plays host to LSU (10-4, 1-1) tonight at 8 p.m. What to watch for? We take a look.

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Game: Ole Miss - LSU
Date: Jan. 15, 8 p.m.
Location: Oxford, Miss.
TV/Radio: CSS/Ole Miss Radio Network

The Lede:

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy would rather not think back to what could have been.

Johnny O'Bryant was in his senior season at East Side High School in Cleveland, Miss., four years ago. A four-star prospect and McDonald's All-American, his offer list ranged from every SEC West school, to Miami (Fla.), Maryland and Georgia Tech.

Ole Miss, however, was long thought to be his favorite throughout the recruiting process. That is, until he opted for LSU instead, spurning the Rebels, who had made O'Bryant their top priority in the class of 2011.

"We spent a lot of time and energy recruiting Johnny," Kennedy said on the SEC teleconference earlier this week. "He's just up the road from us, and we knew he was going to be a tremendous talent. Nothing he's done at LSU has been surprising to me. I felt like he was a guy that was going to come in and make an immediate impact, which he did as a freshman.

"As he evolved into sophomore season, he was an all-league caliber player like we anticipated. Now he's one of the best front court players in all of college basketball. I'm proud to see him develop. He's a good kid from a good family. I certainly wish he was wearing the red, white and blue on Wednesday."

But he's wearing purple and gold. Now, the 6-foot-9, 256-pound Bryant is only leading the Tigers with 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Johnny O'Bryant
USA TODAY images

"Coach Kennedy was one of those few coaches that I had a real relationship with throughout the recruiting process," O'Bryant told the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate, in a recent story in the (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger. "I was at Ole Miss a lot. He was real great guy around my family. He's just a great coach, and I've got a lot of respect for him."

The emergence of Bryant in his junior season is doubly tough for an Ole Miss team that has been consistently inconsistent in its efforts to replace Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner, a pair of accomplished front-court players who graduated last season.

The Rebels were outrebounded in six straight games before totaling more boards in a losing effort at Mississippi State on Saturday. Bryant, meanwhile, has the Tigers as the 13th-best rebounding team in the nation and No. 2 in the SEC behind only Kentucky.

"We think Johnny has made some real positive strides for us," LSU head coach Johnny Jones said. "He really finished the year strong for us last year. He had a tremendous summer and Johnny is a part of everyone's scouting report now. A lot of times, the teams that we're playing, their defense has been designed to try and take Johnny away from us. And when that's happened, he's made the extra pass. He's played well."

Jones said it's only natural for O'Bryant to have some added motivation returning to his home state.

"I do think you have a little added weight," he said. "But we try to make sure they don't lose concentration and focus and that they play between those lines once we throw the ball up. It's not where you're playing but how you execute and the impact that you're able to make for your team."

Scouting LSU:
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)

LSU is 10-4 on the season and 1-1 in the SEC after splitting its week one matchups at home against Tennessee (L, 68-50) and on the road at South Carolina (W, 71-68). The Tigers are 6-2 at the PMac and 4-2 in away and natural site games. Mississippi native Johnny O'Bryant leads LSU averaging 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, while freshman Jordan Mickey is close behind with 13.9 ppg and 7.2 rpg. Mickey also ranks second in the league in blocked shots just ahead of Ole Miss junior Aaron Jones at 3.5/game. LSU ranks fourth in the league in scoring offense at 75.5 points per game, second in field goal percentage defense at .383.

Jordan Mickey
USA TODAY images

The series with the Tigers, which began in 1909, is the second-longest in Ole Miss basketball history. LSU leads the all-time series 117-86. Last season marked the first time since 1940 the two formers SEC West rivals have not played a home-and-home series in the same year. The Rebels have won five of the last six meetings over the Bayou Bengals, including an 81-67 victory in Baton Rouge last season. Ole Miss owns a 53-34 advantage all-time in games played in Oxford and have won three in a row in the series at home. Andy Kennedy owns an 10-5 record against LSU in his career. He is 9-5 with Ole Miss and faced the Bayou Bengals once as the Cincinnati head coach in 2005-06, earning a 75-72 victory at the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.

(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)

* Ole Miss leads the SEC, and ranks fourth in the nation, averaging 7.1 blocked shots per game. Junior F Aaron Jones is ranks third in the league, and is tied for 35th in the nation, averaging 2.6 blocked shots per game, while junior C Demarco Cox is tied for eighth in the conference averaging 1.3 blocked shots a game. Ole Miss has blocked 106 shots this season.

* Junior G Jarvis Summers is one of the most improved players in the league this season upping his scoring 8.8 points per game (17.9 from 9.1), field goal percentage 12.0 percent (52.4% from 40.4%) and his 3-point field goal percentage 17.8 percent (51.8% from 34.0%) over last year's totals. Summers has led the Rebels in scoring a team-high eight times including a career-best 29 points in Ole Miss' overtime loss to Dayton. He has posted 6 20+ points games this season and is averaging 22.2 points per game over the last five contests.

* Junior F Ladarius White is averaging 13.0 points a game through two conference games after posting 7.7 ppg in non-conference action. White ranks first in the SEC in league games with a 55.6 3-point field goal percentage and tied for fifth with five 3-pointers made.

Ole Miss forward Sebastian Saiz meets the media to preview the Rebels' meeting with LSU.

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