Fresh Start

Facing Arkansas Thursday at 12 p.m., the Lady Rebels look to make a fateful run in the SEC Tournament. Read about it inside.

In search of its first SEC Tournament Championship in school history, No. 9 seeded Ole Miss meets No. 8 Arkansas Thursday at 12 p.m.

The Lady Rebels hold a 23-29 overall record in SEC tournament play, but are 12-5 all-time in the first round.

"Arkansas has played very well as of late," said Ole Miss head coach Renee Ladner. "They have some very talented freshmen and five perimeter players who can shoot the three. They have a true competitor in the post with Whitney Jones. They have my attention."

With their five-game winning streak snapped Sunday against Auburn 94-57, the Razorbacks head to North Little Rock, site of this yera's event, with a 17-12 overall record and 6-8 mark in conference play.

SEC Freshman of the Year Ceira Ricketts leads Arkansas offensively, averaging 12.7 points per game. She is also second on the team with her 6.3 rebounds per game.

The teams met only once in the regular season, with the Razorbacks snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Lady Rebels. For its first win over Ole Miss since 2004, Arkansas was forced to withstand a late Rebel charge after holding a 16-point lead at halftime.

The Rebels battled to within five points in the second half, before finally falling 70-59 in Fayetteville.

"I did not think we played well against them the first time we played," Ladner said. "I didn't think we competed. They won five games in a row prior to the Auburn game, so they've been very good. We will have to play and compete for 40 minutes to take care of our business Thursday."

Ole Miss (16-13, 5-9) is led by guard Bianca Thomas, who was selected to the All-SEC First Team earlier this week, becoming only the 11th player in school history to do so.

In all games combined, the talented junior averages 15.4 points per game. However, she has been lethal in SEC contests, averaging 18.1 ppg.

"I think she's very deserving. I'm very proud of her," said Ladner of Thomas being selected to the All-Conference first team. "She has really emerged as our go-to player.

"If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that she would end up being our main cog on the offensive end, I'm not sure I would have bought that. But she just became more confident as the season progressed. I'm glad she got this honor."

Thomas is very familiar with Arkansas, having dropped 13 points against them on February 15th.

"This is like a new season for us," she said. "We're trying to go in, win four games and a championship. We're playing for the postseason right now and have a chance for the NCAA Tournament."

Thursday's meeting with be the 28th between the two schools and fourth in the SEC Tournament – all in the first round. The Lady Rebels lead the tournament series 2-1 and last defeated the Razorbacks in 2006. That game was also played in North Little Rock.

Ole Miss leads the all-time series with a record of 19-8. If the Lady Rebels win, they will face No. 1 seeded Auburn Friday at noon.

The game will be broadcast on FSN South, who will be covering all first, second and semifinal rounds. Sunday's championship game will be on ESPN2.


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