Wild Hogs

In desperate need of a win, Ole Miss takes to the road for a Wednesday tilt at Arkansas. Read about it inside.

With only two regular season games left until next week's SEC Tournament, Ole Miss heads to Arkansas in need of a win.

A once promising run that included victories over Tennessee and Georgia has quickly turned sour for Andy Kennedy and the Rebels, following a week they'd soon like to forget.

The young squad suffered consecutive blowout losses to Auburn and Alabama and is now 15-13 on the season and 6-8 in SEC play.

With Arkansas up next, Ole Miss hopes to keep its postseason dreams alive, but also regain a little momentum with Tampa just around the corner.

"We watched Arkansas play Sunday as a team, which is unusual for us," said Kennedy. "It was good to kind of put Alabama behind us and force us to move forward, which we needed.

"I was really impressed (with Arkansas). They play with a lot of energy and a lot of confidence. They seem like they're having fun. They've always been talented. In that venue, this game will be a difficult challenge for us."

After a strong start to the regular season, the Razorbacks enter Wednesday's matchup in dire straits.

The team defeated Texas and Oklahoma earlier this year, but hold a porous 2-12 record in conference games. Despite being buried in the Western Division cellar, the squad defeated Georgia 89-67 Sunday.

A contributing factor in Arkansas' struggles has been its youth.The Razorbacks feature a roster with seven freshmen and, like Ole Miss, have no scholarship seniors.

Four of the team's top six scorers are freshmen, with only juniors Michael Washington and Stefan Welsh considered valuable members on last year's NCAA Tournament team.

"They're young and don't have the depth I'm sure they'd like to have," Kennedy explained. "When you're dealing with youth and a lack of depth, which we well know, it's pretty fragile. They've been in a number of games. They've led in the second half in five of their last six games, or something like that. They're close.

"They've certainly shown capable by what they did against Texas and Oklahoma. We know it's going to be a difficult challenge for us, regardless of who we're playing. We have to be good to give ourselves a chance."

Arkansas presents a balanced scoring attack led by Washington who averages 15.8 points per game – one of four players who average in double figure points.

Courtney Fortson (14.8), Rotnei Clarke (11.8) and Stefan Welsh (11.8) are also important in the Razorbacks efforts, with the team averaging 75.2 points per game.

Arkansas is stingy defensively as well, with the team tied for second among league teams at 7.9 steals per game in SEC contests.

"They're still playing hard and trying to compete in every game," said Ole Miss guard Terrico White. "Even with a record of 2-12 in the conference, they're still playing hard and trying to win games."

The matchup of Fortson and White will be one to watch, as the pair appears to be in a battle for SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

While Fortson has certainly been impressive, White has produced six 20-point outings against conference opponents, including a career-high 24 against Auburn.

"Courtney Fortson's a great player and has had a great year," Kennedy said. "He hurts you in a number of ways. You don't even realize how versatile he is until you look at his numbers. He rebounds, is great in assists-to-turnovers and steals the ball. He's, without question, their engine.

"Terrico has evolved as a team leader for our team. He's tremendously talented. For him to go into a new position, as a true freshman, and lead us the way he has – I'd be hard-pressed to find anybody that's been more valuable to his team than he's been for us."

While White admitted that some might use the outcome of tonight's contest as a deciding factor in voting, he's only focused on helping his team claim a victory.

"Really, I'm just trying to help this team get to the postseason," he said. "That's all I'm worried about. The last time we played Arkansas, (Fortson) showed us how quick he is. He really gets low on his dribble and it's hard to steal the ball from him. He goes straight to the basket."

In a series that dates back to 1937, Wednesday's game will be the 64th meeting between Arkansas and Ole Miss, with the Razorbacks holding an all-time series lead of 40-23.

Since joining the conference in the 1991-92 season, however, Arkansas trails Ole Miss in the series, with the Rebels holding a 18-17 advantage. The Rebs have also won 15 of the last 22 meetings.

The teams first met in Ole Miss' SEC home opener January 14th. The Rebels were victorious in Oxford, grabbing a 74-65 win. Terrico White led four Rebels in double figures with 18 points in the effort.

The teams have split the season series each of the last three years with each winning on its homecourt. Arkansas holds a 14-6 series lead in games played in Fayetteville.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. inside Bud Walton Arena.


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