Ole Miss men’s basketball to host Middle Tennessee Wednesday
Published 11:21 am Wednesday, December 15, 2021
OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss men’s basketball returns home to start a four-game homestand, beginning with a tilt against head coach Kermit Davis’ former team in Middle Tennessee on Wednesday night.
Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT inside The Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss and on SEC Network+.
Ole Miss Rebels (6-3, 0-0 SEC)
Head Coach: Kermit Davis • 4th Season at Ole Miss (57-45) • 526-308 career record (27th Season)
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-2, 0-0 Conference USA)
Head Coach: Nick McDevitt • 4th Season at MTSU (32-62) • 130-128 career record (9th Season)
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BACK TO WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis and assistant coaches Win Case and Ronnie Hamilton will see a familiar team on the opposite bench Wednesday night when the Blue Raiders come to town.
The trio were together on staff for four seasons at MTSU and coached the Blue Raiders to the biggest wins in program history.
They helped produce a stretch in which Middle Tennessee won three straight Conference USA titles, recorded two NCAA Tournament upsets over No. 2 seed Michigan State (2016) and No. 5 seed Minnesota (2017), and won a school-record 31 games (2016). Meanwhile, Davis and Case were in Murfreesboro for a decade together, leading Middle to seven conference titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances.
As the head coach at Middle Tennessee for 16 seasons, Davis won 332 games to become the winningest coach in both school history and Sun Belt Conference history.
SERIES HISTORY VS. MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Ole Miss leads the all-time series vs. Middle Tennessee, 7-6, with head coach Kermit Davis coming out on the winning end in each of the last five matchups going back to 2016 across his time both at MTSU and Ole Miss. This is the sixth straight year the Rebels and Blue Raiders have met, as well as the ninth time since rekindling the series in 2011.
The Rebels won the first three games of the series in 1947, 1960 and 1963 before the Blue Raiders took six of the next eight meetings. Four of those Middle Tennessee victories were led by Davis over the Rebels in 2011 (68-56, in Southaven), 2012 (65-62, in Murfreesboro), 2016 (77-62, in Oxford) and 2017 (77-58, in Murfreesboro).
LAST MEETING: Dec. 16, 2020 (W, 70-51, in Murfreesboro)
• All five Rebel starters scored in double-digits (last time an Ole Miss team has done so)
• Ole Miss: 55 percent shooting, 48 points in the paint, 22 points off 19 turnovers
• Middle Tennessee: 30 percent shooting
• Romello White: 16 points, 6 rebounds (leading scorer)
• Jarkel Joiner, Luis Rodriguez: 10 points apiece
SCOUTING MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Middle Tennessee comes to Oxford at 8-2 after winning five of its last six games and starting off 5-0 at home. The Blue Raiders hold a top-100 NET rating at the moment at No. 98, and have succeeded thus far with a stingy defense and timely free throw shooting.
MTSU stands 13th in the NCAA and second in Conference USA in turnovers forced per game (13.9), while also holding the NCAA’s 37th-best scoring margin (+15.0, No. 2 C-USA) and 42nd-best steals per game average (9.2, No. 3 C-USA). The Blue Raiders also lead Conference USA in both free throws made (159) and attempted (220), the 33rd-best in each category nationally for a season line of 72.3 percent.
Leading the way for the Blue Raiders is Eli Lawrence, who is averaging 13.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.0 assists per game and leads Middle Tennessee with 20 threes made.
PUTTING THE TEAM ON HIS BACK
Senior Jarkel Joiner has proven his veteran leadership in the early stages of the season, not only leading in several categories but by also rarely leaving the floor.
Joiner ranks fifth in the SEC in minutes played per game at 32:40, and he has put the team on his back with the SEC’s fifth-most threes per game (2.1), sixth-most field goal attempts (113), seventh-most points per game (15.7) and 10th-best shooting percentage (.442).
In his career, Joiner averages 30.6 minutes played per game in 101 career games played and 93 career starts.
Joiner has scored in double digits in all nine games this season, as well as his last 13 in a row and 15 of his last 16 dating back to last season.
REBELS TAME NATIONALLY-RANKED TIGERS
No. 18 Memphis nearly erased what had been an 11-point Ole Miss second half lead, but the Rebels never faltered and closed out strong at the free throw line to cap off an impressive 67-63 upset over the Tigers in front of an electric crowd of 8,629 at SJB Pavilion on Dec. 4. Ole Miss frustrated a Memphis squad that entered as one of the elite defending units in the nation, ranking No. 1 in the NCAA in blocks and No. 19 in opposing field goal percentage prior to tipoff.
Defense was the name of the game as both teams shot a combined 37 percent, but the Rebels were also beneficiaries of timely shooting, two bombastic showings from Jarkel Joiner and Matthew Murrell, and – most importantly – a 23-of-29 clip from the charity stripe that helped hold their lead over the Tigers down the stretch.
The Rebels were paced offensively from two stellar performances from Oxford native Joiner and Memphis native Murrell, who combined for 39 points, 40 percent shooting, five threes made and a 14-of-17 mark from the free throw line.
Joiner was clutch every time his number was called, ending the day with 20 points and a season-high in both rebounds (8) and steals (5) – as well as a near-perfect 7-of-8 clip from the free throw line. Murrell’s offensive awakening continued to great effect for the Rebels, as he blew by his career-high with a new best of 19 points on a dynamite 4-of-9 three-point shooting effort that fired up the crowd at SJB Pavilion. Murrell was also clutch from the free throw line, going 7-of-9 overall, all coming in the second half.
The Rebel defense fought fire-with-fire against the nationally ranked Tigers, forcing an Ole Miss opponent season-high 20 turnovers that turned into 20 points, while stifling standouts Emoni Bates (seven points, four rebounds) and Jalen Duren (two points, four rebounds) to a combined nine points. Ole Miss was also smart with the basketball on the offensive end, not allowing the ferocious Memphis shot blocking defense to affect the game by keeping them to a season-low three blocks.
BEWARE THE REBELS
Following its 67-63 upset over No. 18 Memphis on Dec. 4, Ole Miss has now notched four consecutive Top-25 wins for just the second time in school history. The other other such occurrence came across the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, when Ole Miss ripped off four in a row against No. 6 Florida on Feb. 16, 2002 (68-51), No. 6 Alabama on March 3, 2002 (84-56), at No. 23 LSU the following season on Jan. 18, 2003 (67-57), and three days later vs. No. 15 Alabama on Jan. 21, 2003 (76-57). The current streak has come against No. 10 Tennessee on Feb. 2, 2021 (52-50), No. 10 Missouri on Feb. 10, 2021 (80-59) and at No. 24 Missouri on Feb. 23, 2021 before last week’s win vs. Memphis. This is also the first time since 2001 that Ole Miss has won against four ranked teams within the same calendar year. That season the Rebels did so five times against No. 10 Tennessee on Feb. 10 (87-71), No. 20 Alabama on March 3 (105-71), No. 5 Florida in the SEC Tournament (74-69), No. 19 Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament (59-56) and the following season against No. 22 Memphis on Dec. 7 (71-67).
2020-21 / 2021-22
Feb. 2, 2021 – vs. #10 Tennessee (52-50)
Feb. 10, 2021 – vs. #10 Missouri (80-59)
Feb. 23, 2021 – at #24 Missouri (60-53)
Dec. 4, 2021 – vs. #18 Memphis (67-63)
2001-02 / 2002-03
Feb. 16, 2002 – vs. #6 Florida (68-51)
March 3, 2002 – vs. #6 Alabama (84-56)
Jan. 18, 2003 – at #23 LSU (67-57)
Jan. 21, 2003 – vs. #15 Alabama (76-57)
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
After not getting to the line very often to start the season, the Rebels have been getting to the charity stripe and using it to great effect in the process. After starting the season just 17-of-31 (.548) from the free throw line, Ole Miss has since been 85-of-119 (.714) since playing Elon on Nov. 19. During its three-game winning streak that started on Nov. 26 vs. MVSU, Ole Miss went 54-of-76 (.711) — which accounted for 25 percent of all Rebel scoring during the streak.
Senior Jarkel Joiner was named one of 60 men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes nationally named as candidates for the 2021-22 Senior CLASS Award on Dec. 7. Ole Miss women’s basketball senior Shakira Austin was also named a candidate, making Ole Miss the only SEC school to be represented on both lists and one of just four schools nationally alongside BYU, Michigan and Virginia Tech.
To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School ®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
In the classroom, Joiner holds a 3.13 GPA in multi-disciplinary studies, and is a staple in his hometown community. Joiner was named to the 2020-21 SEC Community Service Team, working closely with the Reading with the Rebels program in addition to the Stronger Together Mississippi initiative and Adopt-A-Basket, which helps feed local families during the holiday season.
The men’s and women’s candidates will be narrowed to two fields of ten finalists later in the season, and those names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will then select one male candidate and one female candidate who best exemplifies excellence in the four C’s of community, classroom, character and competition. The Senior CLASS Award winners will be announced during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Final Four® and NCAA Women’s Final Four® this spring.
KEEP SHOOTING, MATT!
Sophomore Matthew Murrell’s offensive awakening could not have come at a better time for the Rebels, helping lead the Rebels to a three-game winning streak thanks in part to riding Murrell’s hot hand from beyond the arc. Murrell set a career-high in points in two straight outings, first with a 14-point performance vs. Rider on Nov. 30 and then with a crucial 19-point effort in Ole Miss’ 67-63 upset win over No. 18 Memphis. In those two games, Murrell averaged 16.5 points and shot a combined 7-of-15 from three after averaging 5.2 points per game and shooting 2-of-10 from three prior to the Rider game. Murrell was also clutch from the free throw line, shooting 10-of-13 on his free tries vs. Rider and Memphis after only getting to the line 10 times all season prior.
Murrell is the program’s highest rated recruit ever nationally, signing with Ole Miss ranked No. 39 overall by both ESPN and the 247Sports Composite in 2019-20.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Ole Miss recorded a historic rebounding effort against Rider on Nov. 30, hauling in 57 total boards and winning the battle on the glass by a margin of 21. The 57 rebounds stood as the most by a Rebel team since recording 64 vs. Troy on Nov. 27, 2007. Since 2007, Ole Miss has tallied 50 rebounds in 14 total games. Those 57 team rebounds also stand as the most by any SEC team this season, and tied for the 28th-most in a game nationwide this season.
Games With 50+ Rebounds Since 2007 (14)
11-30-21 – vs. Rider (57)
01-17-17 – Tennessee (50)
12-22-16 – South Alabama (50)
12-12-15 – Southeast Missouri (53)
11-16-15 – Georgia Southern (50)
11-14-14 – Charleston Southern (50)
11-08-13 – Troy (53)
01-29-13 – Kentucky (52)
11-09-12 – MVSU (54)
11-14-11 – Grambling (51)
02-24-10 – Auburn (50)
12-28-07 – Southern Miss (51)
11-27-07 – Troy (64)
11-16-07 – Lamar (53)
CHEF BROOKS IS COOKING
Ole Miss graduate transfer Nysier Brooks is coming off a torrid two-game stretch rebounding the ball, hauling in a combined 25 rebounds (10 offensive) in back-to-back outings vs. Mississippi Valley State (10 rebounds, 5 offensive) and Rider (15 rebounds, 5 offensive). Brooks’ 15-rebound game vs. Rider tied a career high and stands as the best single-game rebounding output since Sebastian Saiz tallied 17 vs. Georgia Tech in the 2017 NIT. Furthermore, Brooks recorded his sixth career double-double against MVSU after a 15-point showing to go along with his 10 boards — the first Rebel double-double this season. On the year, Brooks ranks seventh in the SEC at 7.4 rebounds per game and is also averaging 7.9 points. He has hauled in at least six rebounds in all but one game this season, and he also tallied three blocks in back-to-back games vs. Rider and Memphis.
PROTECT THE BALL
Ole Miss has forced double-digit turnovers in all nine of their contests so far this season, and have yet to turn the ball over more than they have forced their opponents to. The Rebels hold a season turnover margin of +3.0, and are fourth in the SEC in fewest turnovers per game (11.7). In the Kermit Davis era, the Rebels are 45-19 when having fewer turnovers than their opponents, and are 34-13 when forcing 15 turnovers or more.
Team defense has been a calling card of the Rebels in the early going, holding opponents to 70 or fewer seven times in nine games, including 60 or fewer in four of their last six outings — capped by a season-low 51 to Rider. Disruption and mayhem have led to plenty of buckets in transition for Ole Miss, with their turnover margin (+3.0) helping lead to a nearly identical Rebel advantage in both points off turnovers (129-80) and points on the fastbreak (114-69). Luis Rodriguez has been helped lead that charge for the Rebel defense, currently ranking 14th in the SEC in steals per game (1.7).
SHARING IS CARING
Ole Miss notched exactly 23 dimes in each of its first two games, the first time since 1994 that a Rebel team recorded 20 assists in the first two games of the season, with the ‘94-95 Ole Miss squad tallying 22 to open against Morgan State on Dec. 1, 1994, and 20 against Sam Houston State two days later on Dec. 3, 1994. In available records through 1987-88, no Rebel team has had 23 or more in their first two games of the season. The Rebels rank fifth in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) and sixth in assists per game (14.8).
JACK OF ALL TRADES
Senior Tye Fagan has been a Swiss Army knife for Ole Miss, contributing in significant ways in multiple facets of the game. On the year, Fagan is averaging a balanced stat line of 7.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.4 steals and 0.2 blocks while averaging an assist-turnover ratio of 1.2 in 19.4 minutes played per game. Fagan tied a career-high with 10 rebounds vs. Rider, and tallied a career-high six assists to go along with an Ole Miss career-high 11 points vs. Elon — his second double-digit effort as a Rebel following an opening 10-point performance vs. New Orleans. Fagan has also added a three-point shot to his repertoire, currently sitting at six threes made despite entering the year with a career line of 19-of-68 (.279). Combined with his three previous years of experience at Georgia, Fagan has played in 98 career games and started in 29 — with his first Ole Miss start coming vs. MVSU.
YEAR FOUR OF THE DAVIS ERA
Kermit Davis enters his fourth season at the helm of Ole Miss Basketball. Over his first three seasons, Davis led the Rebels to a pair of postseason appearances (2020 postseason was cancelled due to COVID-19). With 57 victories as head coach of the Rebels, Davis is one of only four coaches in Ole Miss history to rack up at least 50 wins over their first three seasons. A nine-time conference coach of the year, Davis is 38th among active Division I head coaches with 460 career wins over 24 seasons, including stints at Middle Tennessee, Idaho and Texas A&M. In 27 seasons as a college basketball head coach, he has amassed 526 wins.
DAVIS ERA TRENDS TO WATCH
• 48-14 when leading at half
• 5-0 when scoring 90+, 26-3 when scoring 80+, 44-18 when scoring 70+
• 41-16 when winning the rebounding battle
• 24-3 when at 50 percent shooting or better
• 16-5 when shooting 40 percent or better from three
• 55-28 when keeping opponents below 50 percent shooting (32-5 when below 40 percent)
PROTECTING CRADDOCK COURT
Winning at home has been a trademark at Ole Miss. Over the past 15 seasons, the Rebels are 181-56 (.764 win pct.) in home games. In five-plus seasons (opened January 2016) playing in the $96.5 million SJB Pavilion, the Rebels hold a 68-30 (.694) advantage against the opposition. Ole Miss has won 306 of its last 394 games (.777 win pct.) in Oxford dating back to the 1996-97 campaign. Under head coach Kermit Davis, the Rebels are 38-14 (.731 win pct.) at home.
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