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Rebels set to face Alabama

 

From Special Reports

 

 

Looking to avenge a 21-point loss to Alabama back in January, the No. 7 seed Ole Miss Rebels, under the direction of SEC Coach of the Year Kermit Davis, will look to even the score with the 10th seed Crimson Tide when they meet in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament Thursday at 6 p.m. 

 

Alabama won the lone matchup of the season, handing the No. 20 Rebels a 74-53 loss in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 22. The Crimson Tide scored 23 points off 16 Ole Miss turnovers to earn another win over a top 20 team on its home floor.  

 

John Petty posted a team-high 15 points off the bench, while Donta Hall posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.  

 

Ole Miss held the home team to just a 38.5 percent (25 of 65) clip from the field, including 7 of 22 (31.8 percent) from beyond the arc. 

 

Terence Davis scored a team-high 10 points in limited action, fouling out early in the second half. Breein Tyree added nine, while Bruce Stevens tallied seven points and team-high six rebounds. Freshman Luis Rodriguez scored a career-high seven points in 18 minutes off the bench, going 2-for-2 from the floor and 3 of 4 from the charity stripe. As a team, the Rebels shot 40 percent (20 of 50). 

 

Ole Miss is 3-2 this season when facing a team for the second time. The Rebels produced season sweeps over Auburn, Georgia and Missouri, while splitting series with Mississippi State and Arkansas. Ole Miss won the first matchup of all five conference home-and-home series this season. 

 

Alabama enters Thursday's matchup with an 17-14 record and an 8-10 mark in SEC play. The Crimson Tide is riding a three-game losing streak, including an 82-70 loss at Arkansas to allow the Razorbacks to claim the tiebreaker for the No. 9 seed.  

 

SEC All-Freshman guard Kira Lewis Jr. leads Alabama in scoring at 13.9 ppg and shoots at an 79.1 percent clip from the charity stripe. John Petty follows at 10.6 ppg with the majority of his scoring coming from three-point land.  

 

Leading the team in threes made, 55 of Petty's 111 made field goals have been beyond the arc. Donta Hall's 13 double-doubles lead the SEC. The senior is averaging 10.6 ppg and 8.5 rpg, including a conference-best 8.9 rpg in SEC play. Registering 53 blocks helped land Hall on the SEC All-Defensive Team.  

 

Avery Johnson is in his fourth season as Alabama's head coach, making the transition to college hoops after seven seasons as a head coach in the NBA. 

 

Thursday's game will be the 180th meeting between the two schools. The Crimson Tide holds a 121-58 lead in the series, which began in 1921, but the Rebels have won four of the last seven against Alabama. The two teams have met eight times in the SEC Tournament. Alabama leads the series 6-2 in the conference tournament, including wins in the last four matchups. The last time the Rebels and Crimson Tide met in the SEC Tournament, Alabama claimed an 81-73 victory (March 10, 2016). 

 

The Rebels have an overall record of 31-54 in 56 SEC tournament appearances. The Rebels have reached five SEC championship contests and have a 2-3 record in those games, taking home tournament titles in 1981 and 2013. Ole Miss has won seven of its last 13 SEC tournament games dating back to 2012. In five of the past eight seasons, the Rebels have won at least one game in the conference tournament. 

 

Coming off a season in which they finished 12-20 (5-13 SEC) and last in the conference, the Rebels were predicted to finish 14th in the SEC this year by the media. However, Ole Miss is used to being underrated before the season begins and only took 15 games to surpass last season's win total. With a record of 20-11, the Rebels' eight-game improvement to this point is the best among the Power 5 schools and tied for the 11th-best turnaround nationwide. Ole Miss finished tied for sixth in the conference. The Rebels have finished above their preseason projection in seven of the last eight seasons since the league moved away from a divisional format, the outlier being the 2017-18 campaign. 

 

In the first year under head coach Kermit Davis, the Rebels are also making their presence known in conversations regarding the NCAA Tournament.  

 

In the new NET, a metric the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee looks at to determine at-large berths, Ole Miss is ranked 34th with four Quadrant 1 victories and three Quadrant 2 wins. The Rebels have played 14 Quadrant 1 games thus far.  

 

CBS Sports Bracketologist Jerry Palm has the Rebels as a No. 8 seed in his current NCAA Tournament projections (March 11). According to ESPN Bracketlogoist Joe Lunardi, Ole Miss is a No. 9 seed (March 11). Andy Katz of NCAA.com has Ole Miss projected to be a No. 9 seed (March 5).  

 

The Rebels will look to remain on the right side of the bubble as March Madness nears in hopes of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years and only the ninth time in 109 seasons of Ole Miss Basketball.

 

 

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