For the Rebels, Wednesday's 80-76 final was a much-needed mulligan. It salvaged a home loss to in-state rival Mississippi State in their conference opener, with Ole Miss now 13-3 (1-1 SEC) on the season.
On the surface, before the successful trip to Athens, an 0-3 standing to open the conference schedule was a distinct possibility. Now, the Rebels can enter Knoxville with an added boost of momentum with road trips in three of their next four games.
"I liked our effort. I thought we really played with a sense of urgency, most especially in the second half," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said of the win. "We did some very good things offensively, shot a high percentage. I thought Georgia did a good job of controlling tempo, but we were still able to make it to 80 points. Defensively, I like the way we attacked them in the second half, and I think their field-goal percentage was reflective of that."
The Volunteers, who sit 13-2, 1-0 on the season, return to action after overcoming a double-digit deficit Thursday for an 81-55 win against Auburn. Tennessee trailed 34-22 with 5:30 remaining in the first half, before outscoring its opposition 59-21 the rest of the way.
It was an emotional hangover, if you will. Just four days prior, Tennessee moved back into the national conversation with an upset of No. 1 Kansas.
Though the team was missing four key contributors, including leading scorer Tyler Smith, it was able to use a late 7-0 run to pull away from the Jayhawks. It was Kansas' first loss of the season.
Tennessee has won five straight games entering Saturday. Scotty Hopson leads the Vols with 13.6 points per game. Wayne Chism adds 11.3 points per game and a team high 6.1 rebounds. Tennessee also outscores opponents by an average of 18.1 points (81.5-63.3).
"They're going to continue to put pressure on you offensively," said Kennedy of Tennessee. "They've still got Wayne Chism, a four-year starter, J.P. Prince, who's been around forever, Scotty Hopson, one of the most talented kids in the country, and Bobby Maze, the starting point guard.
"With the exception of Tyler Smith, they lost depth. I think it has cut into their ability to pressure for 40 minutes, but they still certainly play Tennessee basketball."
In Tennessee, Ole Miss is facing its third ranked team this season. The Rebels are 0-2 in those games thus far, though they've won 3-of-4 in their last seven such outings.
Today's meeting is the 104th all-time between Ole Miss and Tennessee. The Vols hold a 65-38 advantage in the series, with the home team having won each meeting since 2004.
Last season, the Rebels claimed a 81-65 win in Oxford. Now-sophomore Terrico White scored a game-high 21 points, with fellow sophomore Murphy Holloway adding 18 points and 13 rebounds. The last meeting in Knoxville was a classic between the 8th-ranked Vols and 15th-ranked Rebels, with UT winning 85-83 on a late Tyler Smith bucket.
Kennedy is 2-1 against the Vols in his career.
On the Road Again
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