Rebels face huge tests, MSU looks to rebound

Published 6:41 pm Tuesday, January 29, 2013

One-third of the way through the SEC schedule, it s become clear that Ole Miss and Mississippi State are headed in opposite directions. But that trend could hit the curb for this week, at least.

The No. 23 Rebels (17-2, 6-0 SEC), off to their best league start in school history, could be brought back to Earth this week. On Tuesday, reigning national champion Kentucky visits Oxford, and then Ole Miss travels to No. 8 Florida on Saturday.

As for MSU (7-11, 2-4), which has lost four consecutive games, a pair of winnable home games are on tap, against Texas A&M and LSU. The Aggies have lost four in a row, while LSU is 1-5 in SEC play.

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But MSU has some issues to work out after another blowout loss, by 35 points to Florida. First-year coach Rick Ray said the inexperience of this group is showing through.

They ve always had success doing things the way they ve done them in high school and in the past, Ray said. After the Arkansas game, when we turned the ball over 29 times, to me if that s not a wake-up call that you need to play a different way.

Instead of trying to play fast, you need to slow the basketball down.

The issues facing Ole Miss are less glaring, and but even after Saturday s 63-61 win at Auburn, coach Andy Kennedy had some concerns. Namely, the free throw shooting the Rebels made just 4 of 17 at the line.

Kennedy was happy with the way his team defended down the stretch. Auburn shot just 28 percent in the second half.

We were up five or six points and had the chance to stretch it, Kennedy said. Our inability to make foul shots kept them in the game.

Ole Miss shot up the national basketball rankings Monday, jumping to No. 16 in both the Associated Press media poll and USA Today coaches poll.  The Rebels are 17-2 overall and 6-0 in the SEC following victories last week over Tennessee and Auburn. Ole Miss was previously ranked No. 24 by the AP and No. 23 by the coaches.  Southern Miss also received votes in the coaches poll, but did not crack the Top 25. The Golden Eagles are 17-4 overall, 6-0 in Conference USA.  Ole Miss hosts defending national champion Kentucky at 8 p.m. Tuesday in a game to be televised live by ESPN. Southern Miss is at UAB at 7 p.m. Saturday.