Rivalry Renewed

ATLANTA, Ga. - Ole Miss, with its waning postseason hopes hanging in the balance, will begin its SEC tournament title defense tonight at approximately 8:30 p.m.

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And, almost fittingly, the Rebels must first go through in-state rival Mississippi State.

"Our team, we're ready," Ole Miss forward Anthony Perez, who is averaging 7.2 points per game and 3.5 rebounds, said. Perez is averaging 9.9 points per game over his last 15 games.

"We need everybody on the team to win this game."

Ole Miss and Mississippi State are set for the 250th meeting between the teams, and just the second in the SEC tournament. The No. 14-seeded Bulldogs, who split the season series with the Rebels, upended No. 11 seed Vanderbilt, 82-68, Wednesday night to advance.

Martavious Newby
USA TODAY images

They snapped their 13-game losing streak - the longest such streak to close out a regular season in school history - shooting a staggering 59 percent from the field.

"I think once we set foot on the court, we have a shot," Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray said of playing Ole Miss. "People don't understand how good Jarvis Summers is. He's a really good basketball player. I think sometimes you get so caught up in Marshall Henderson that you allow Jarvis Summers to go one-on-one. And when you allow him to go one-on-one, he's a really good player."

"We've been waiting to play them since they beat us the first time," Mississippi State forward Roquez Johnson, who scored 18 points on 8 of 10 shooting against Vanderbilt, said. "We're going to come out there and play our hardest and do what we have to do."

The Rebels, after winning three games in three days as the No. 3 seed last season, are the No. 6 seed this week. They were off Wednesday, with their most-recent action a win over Vanderbilt to finish the regular season with an 18-13 overall record.

The winner of tonight's game will face No. 3 seed Georgia in the Friday late game. Ole Miss has played Mississippi State once in the SEC tournament, losing 73-64 in 2003.

"We're very familiar with them," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, who is 6-10 in his career vs. Mississippi State, said. "We've just got to go out and perform."

"We prefer to play Mississippi State or Vanderbilt," sophomore guard Martavious Newby said. "It doesn't matter. Either one of them, we know what to do when we play them. We're taking it one game at a time. Beat them, get to the next game, whoever we play next."

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