Ole Miss (13-10 overall, 4-5 in the SEC) had its three-game win streak snapped a week ago at Vanderbilt 71-61. LSU, the Southeastern Conference leader, beat Mississippi State 97-94 in double OT Wednesday night as the Rebs had a week between games.
The hope, but likely not the reality, is that LSU is worn down after that long struggle. Maybe they will be, maybe they won't be.
The Rebels, meanwhile, needed a break from games and got one. Andy Kennedy hopes it helps as his team battles the Bayou Bengals (20-4, 8-1) today at 6 p.m.
"I'm not sure that will play into it much at all," he said of the Tigers' lengthy road engagement in Starkville while the Rebels were resting in Oxford that same night. "We've got to go down there and make the plays that are necessary. We've got to be efficient offensively. We've talked about some of our slow starts. We were down like 11-0 (vs. LSU in Oxford) and we'd taken one shot. We were really careless with the ball. We've got to get out of the gate better offensively, and defensively we have to be consistently solid."
Kennedy has allowed himself to view the tape of the first meeting, no matter how painful it was for him.
"I watched the tape in preparation for this game," he said. "I had a hard time recognizing the team in that Ole Miss uniform. We were really bad. They were really good. That's a tough combination. Since then we've made some strides and gotten better. Hopefully that will show up Saturday night."
LSU has also played well since then. Tasmin Mitchell continued his strong league play in Starkville with 41 points (12-15 FGs, 15-18 FTs), 11 rebounds and 5 assists. Entering Saturday's game, the Tigers boast a 16-1 home record in all games and a 4-0 mark against SEC teams in Baton Rouge.
First-year head coach Trent Johnson has led the Tigers to eight straight wins over league foes after dropping the SEC opener at Alabama. LSU owns the top scoring margin in the SEC (+12.9) and the second-best rebounding margin (+7.1). Marcus Thornton is the club's top scorer at 19.9 ppg, in front of Mitchell (16.7) and Bo Spencer (11.6). Chris Johnson adds 8.1 ppg and a team-best 7.7 rpg.
LSU leads the all-time series 115-80, although the Rebels hold a 14-13 edge in the last 27 meetings. The teams split last year's series with each winning on its home court. LSU holds a 75-25 lead in games played in Baton Rouge. The last Rebel triumph at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center was a 67-57 final in 2003.
Junior David Huertas leads the UM squad with 19.3 points per game, fourth among SEC players. Terrico White has become a force in league play, averaging 16.4 ppg against SEC opponents, tops among conference freshmen.
Actually Kennedy does hope his players remember that game from a month ago when the Tigers had their way from the get-go.
"Anytime you get beat as badly as our guys did a few weeks ago, you would hope they're looking to make amends," he said. "Hopefully that wouldn't be a question and we'll get after them this time."
Following today's game, the Rebels host Tennessee Wednesday night and Georgia next Saturday.
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