Ole Miss Returns Home to Host UT Martin Tuesday

Published 8:11 am Tuesday, December 22, 2020

– Ole Miss enters Tuesday’s matchup ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense (54.6) and fifth in turnovers forced (20.6).
– Tuesday’s contest is the Rebels’ third annual Christmas Vacation game; Ole Miss is 2-0 in Christmas Vacation games (we’re serious, Clark).
– Ole Miss is playing its sixth game in 13 days.
– The Rebels have allowed the fewest points (273) over their first five games since the 1998-99 season (262), a year that resulted in a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
– Ole Miss is the only team in the SEC to play multiple true road games to this point of the season, following back-to-back road games last week; the Rebels defeated Middle Tennessee before falling to Dayton.
– The Rebels are 14-2 in December under Kermit Davis.
– Ole Miss is 28-5 all-time against current members of the Ohio Valley Conference.
– Averaging 2.2 steals per game, Devontae Shuler leads the SEC; Shuler has 153 career steals to rank ninth in program history, one away from tying Rod Barnes (Ole Miss All-American and former Rebel head coach) for eighth.
– Devontae Shuler (990) and Romello White (988) are nearing 1,000 points for their careers.
– Opponents have shot a combined 28.6 percent (34 of 119) against Ole Miss in the first half, scoring only an average of 19.8 points.
– Luis Rodriguez pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds at Dayton, the most by a Rebel since Sebastian Saiz had 15 rebounds against Georgia Tech in the NIT quarterfinals (March 21, 2017).
– KJ Buffen and Jarkel Joiner produced two double-figure scoring games apiece during last week’s road trip, season highs for both Rebels; Buffen had 11 points at Middle Tennessee before scoring 12 at Dayton, while Joiner tallied 10 points in both contests.
– Ole Miss produced a season-best rebounding margin (+17) against Dayton with a 41-24 advantage on the glass.
– Matthew Murrell, the lone true freshman on the team, turned 19 on Saturday.

– Ole Miss ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense (54.6).
– The Rebels are fifth in the country in turnovers forced per game (20.6).
– Ole Miss’ +6.4 turnover margin is 13th in the nation.
– The Rebels are limiting opponents to a 36.8 field goal percentage, ranking 23rd nationwide.

– Ole Miss leads the SEC in turnovers forced per game (20.6).
– The Rebels rank second in scoring defense (54.6) and turnover margin (+6.4).
– Ole Miss ranks third in field goal percentage defense (36.8)
– Devontae Shuler leads the SEC in steals (2.2), while ranking fourth in free throw percentage (88.2) and sixth in scoring (16.6 ppg).
– Luis Rodriguez ranks third in steals (2.0) and fifth in rebounding (8.4); his 6.6 defensive rebounds per game are third as well.
– Romello White ranks fifth in blocks (1.6); White would be the conference leader in field goal percentage (75.0), but his 24 field goals made (4.8 average) fall just below the NCAA/SEC minimum of 5.0 makes per game in order to be considered ranked.

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the start of the college basketball season was pushed back to November 25. Then, the virus hit the Rebels, forcing the cancellation of the Justin Reed Ole Miss Classic (Nov. 25-27) as well as a matchup against Memphis (Dec. 5). The program paused team activities until December 7. When the Rebels tipped off their season Dec. 10, Ole Miss was the final Power 5 team (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) to start its season. Ole Miss wasted no time in getting games in, playing four over a one-week span. The Rebels’ contest against UT Martin will be the team’s sixth game in 13 days.

– UT Martin enters Tuesday’s matchup with a 3-1 record; the Skyhawks suffered their first loss of the season Sunday, falling at home to Western Illinois 81-63.
– The Skyhawks lead the OVC in three-point field goal percentage (38.6) and free throw percentage (75.5).
– Cameron Holden is UT Martin’s leader in scoring (18.3 ppg), rebounds (7.3 rpg) and steals (1.8 spg).
– With a 6.5 assist/turnover ratio, Eden Holt ranks sixth nationally and tops the OVC.
– Jaron Williams adds 11.8 ppg with a team-best 51.4 field goal percentage.
– Montez Robinson is UT Martin’s interim head coach, his sixth season as a head coach after spending five seasons at Alcorn State (2015-20).

Ole Miss leads the all-time series with UT Martin 3-0, as all three matchups have occurred this century. The two programs first met in Southaven, Mississippi (Dec. 16, 2001), and the Rebels emerged with an 83-72 victory. Three years later, the Rebels and Skyhawks met in Tupelo (Dec. 21, 2004) where Ole Miss cruised to a 92-64 win. In the latest matchup (Nov. 16, 2016) that tipped off the 2016-17 season, Ole Miss had to hold off a pesky UT Martin team to claim a narrow 86-83 win in The Pavilion.

Ole Miss did just enough in the season opener to begin the 2016-17 campaign as UT Martin’s final two shots of the game did not fall to give the Rebels the 86-83 victory (Nov. 11, 2016). In his first game as a Rebel, Deandre Burnett announced his presence by leading Ole Miss with 23 points. Burnett was a perfect 10 for 10 from the free throw line, including two at the end of the game to pull the lead to three. Terence Davis provided a spark off the bench for Ole Miss with his athleticism, cutting through UT Martin’s defense for 19 points (a career high at the time) with an efficient 9 for 13 shooting. The Rebels were able to get the win despite the team’s leader Sebastian Saiz getting into early foul trouble and playing just 17 minutes. Justas Furmanavicius picked up the slack on the boards without Saiz, grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds.

Ole Miss is 28-5 all-time against the current members of the Ohio Valley Conference. Along with going 3-0 against UT Martin throughout history, the Rebels have also faced Austin Peay (4-0), Belmont (2-0), Eastern Illinois (1-1), Eastern Kentucky (2-0), Jacksonville State (4-0), Murray State (3-3), Southeast Missouri State (2-0) and Tennessee Tech (7-1).

Ole Miss thrives in the month of December under Kermit Davis. Over three seasons, the Rebels are 14-2 in the final month of the calendar year.

When the Rebels were victorious at home last season, they won in dominating fashion. Eleven of Ole Miss’ 12 wins in The Pavilion were by double digits, outscoring the opposition by an average of 18.5 ppg (77.5-59.0). The Rebels shot 49.9 percent in home victories. Meanwhile, Ole Miss held the opposition to 36.8 percent, including just 24.3 percent from three-point range. The Rebels finished with a 12-5 record at home last season. That trend continued into the 2020-21 season with the 35-point win over Jackson State followed by a 20-point victory over UNCW before beating Central Arkansas by 14 points.

Winning at home has been a trademark at Ole Miss. Over the past 15 seasons, the Rebels are 169-52 (.765 win pct.) in home games. In five-plus seasons (opened January 2016) playing in the $96.5 million Pavilion at Ole Miss, the Rebels hold a 56-26 (.683) advantage against the opposition. Ole Miss has won 294 of its last 378 games (.778 win pct.) in Oxford dating back to the 1996-97 campaign. Under head coach Kermit Davis, the Rebels are 26-10 (.722 win pct.) at home.

Head coach Kermit Davis loves a team that plays good defense with toughness. His Rebels have been that team this season, starting off as one of the best defensive squads in college basketball. Ole Miss kept its first four opponents under 60 points, accomplishing the feat for the first time since the 1944-45 season (76 years). Allowing just 54.6 ppg (fourth nationally), the Rebels have allowed their fewest points over the first five games of the season since the 1998-99 campaign. Overall, Ole Miss is at the top of the SEC and the country in several defensive categories.

Category Stat SEC Rank NCAA Rank 
Scoring Defense 54.6 2nd 4th
Turnovers Forced 20.6 1st 5th
Turnover Margin +6.4 2nd 13th
FG% Defense 36.8 3rd 23rd

Graduate transfer Romello White has brought his toughness and physicality to Oxford, dominating the post. The Arizona State transfer is averaging 12.2 ppg and 7.0 rpg, ranking second on the team in both categories. He has been unstoppable down low, making 24 of his 32 attempts for a 75 percent clip. With eight blocks over the first five games, White sits fifth in the SEC in blocks per game. Earning his first start as a Rebel, he made seven of his eight shot attempts on his way to a game-high 20 points versus UNCW (Dec. 12). It was the fourth 20-point game of White’s collegiate career and the first since February 4, 2018 (at Washington State) when he was a freshman at Arizona State.

– After back-to-back road games last week (at Middle Tennessee, at Dayton), Ole Miss is the only SEC team to play multiple true road games to this point of the season.
– KJ Buffen played his best games of the season on the road, first recording 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds in the win over Middle Tennessee. At Dayton, Buffen scored a team-high 12 points with all of them coming in the second half; it was also a season high for the junior forward.
– Jarkel Joiner had his two highest-scoring outputs as a Rebel away from home, tallying 10 points in both road contests. The week marked the first time the Oxford native scored in double figures for his hometown team.

A pair of Rebels are nearing 1,000 points for their respective careers. Devontae Shuler has 990 career points, all at Ole Miss, while Romello White has 988 points. White scored 927 of his points at Arizona State.

Ole Miss has built large first half leads, starting with its lockdown defense. The Rebels are limiting opponents to an average of 19.8 points in the opening 20 minutes, while causing them to shoot just 28.6 percent (34 of 119) from the field. While Dayton made 40 percent of its shots, the 24 points were the fewest the Flyers scored in a half all year.

Opponent FG (Made-Att.) FG% Halftime Advantage
Jackson State 5-25 20.0 +29 (41-12)
UNCW 7-23 30.4 +20 (38-18)
Central Arkansas 5-21 23.8 +12 (35-23)
Middle Tennessee 8-28 28.6 +10 (32-22)
Dayton 9-22 40.9 +7 (31-24)

Ole Miss has dominated the paint in wins, outscoring opponents by 22.5 points (39.5-17). Here’s a look at paint points for each victory.

Ole Miss Opponent
Game 1 vs. Jackson State 38 14
Game 2 vs. UNCW 50 20
Game 3 vs. Central Arkansas 22 18
Game 4 at Middle Tennessee 48 16

With Terence Davis and Breein Tyree, All-SEC guards from the previous two seasons, graduated and in the NBA, Devontae Shuler has become the Rebels’ leader. Shuler paces the team in scoring (16.6 ppg), assists (3.0 per game) and steals (2.2 spg). His 2.2 steals per game lead the SEC. The Irmo, South Carolina, native is making 43.8 percent of his attempts from the floor, including 40.0 percent from long range. Shuler has also found success at the line, going 15 of 17 (88.2 percent) on the young season, good enough for fourth in the SEC.

After going one full year without playing (season-ending foot injury on November 27, 2019), Luis Rodriguez has returned to become a leader for the Rebels. The Los Angeles, California, native paces the team in rebounds (8.4 per game), while ranking second in assists (2.8 per game) and steals (2.0 per game). He’s third in the conference with 2.0 steals per game, while is 8.4 rebounds per game rank fifth. In the win over UNCW (Dec. 12), Rodriguez produced his first career double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. He pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds at Dayton (Dec. 19), the most by a Rebel since Sebastian pulled down 15 in the NIT quarterfinals versus Georgia Tech (March 21, 2017).

Kermit Davis is in his third season at the helm of Ole Miss Basketball. A nine-time conference coach of the year, Davis is 38th among active Division I head coaches with 442 career wins over 23 seasons, including stints at MT, Idaho and Texas A&M. In 26 seasons as a college basketball head coach, he has amassed 508 wins. Davis wasted no time making an impact in Oxford. With the Rebels coming off a last-place finish in 2017-18, the media picked Ole Miss to land at the bottom of the SEC standings again in 2018-19. However, the Rebels posted a 20-13 record to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years. With a return to March Madness for the sixth time in his career, Davis joined a list of 63 coaches in college basketball history to take three different schools to the NCAA Tournament. Davis was named SEC Coach of the Year by his peers and the Associated Press, earning conference coach of the year accolades for the ninth time in his career. He became just the third active coach (Dana Altman, Bob Huggins) to be named coach of the year in four different conferences.

In accordance with the State of Mississippi’s most recent executive order in response to COVID-19, capacity at The Pavilion at Ole Miss has been reduced to 10 percent for Rebel basketball games through at least January 15.

After playing six games in 13 days to start its season, Ole Miss gets a week off for the holidays. When the Rebels return to the court (Dec. 29), they’ll be starting conference play. Ole Miss begins SEC action on the road, traveling to Alabama to battle the Crimson Tide. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. CT on SEC Network.