Tiger Tip-Off Preview: Ole Miss

Though there were plenty of positives to take away from the game, Mizzou couldn’t overcome the absence of senior forward Kobe Brown in an 85-64 loss to Alabama on Saturday. The Tigers will look to build off the promising signs it saw and hope Brown returns as they continue to search for their first road win of SEC play, taking on Ole Miss.

The Rebels haven’t looked all that impressive this year, currently sitting below .500. Despite nearly pulling off an upset over Tennessee in its conference opener the team currently sits in last place in the league. Ole Miss has lost seven of its last eight games, the one win coming against South Carolina on Jan. 17, 70-58. It’s defeated just two teams this year in the KenPom top 100: FAU and Stanford.

If Brown is healthy, Mizzou will have the opportunity to test out its roster at full strength and pick up steam as it heads into a big matchup in the Big 12/SEC Challenge this weekend.

TIP TIME INFORMATION

Missouri (14-5, 3-4 SEC) vs. Mississippi (9-10, 1-6)

WHEN: 6 p.m. CT

WHERE: Pavilion at Ole Miss, Oxford, Mississippi

TV: SEC Network

SERIES: Ole Miss leads, 15-6

KENPOM PREDICTION: Ole Miss 75, Missouri 74

PROJECTED STARTERS

BY THE NUMBERS

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Keep a foot in the paint. Ole Miss is one of the worst in the country from the 3-point line, connecting on just 30.0% of its shots from distance, ranking in the bottom 50 in the nation. Among players who attempt at least one trey per game, just three are shooting above the NCAA Division I average of 33.8%. Junior forward Jaemyn Brakefield makes the highest percentage of triples, knocking down 40.0% of his tries, but only pulls up from outside 2.4 times per game. Junior point guard Matthew Murrell has more than double the attempts from deep than any other player on the roster but only gets them to drop at a 29.5% clip. Murrell has had a few games this season in which he gets hot, such as the Rebels’ win over South Carolina when he shot 5-11 on 3-pointers. But if no one is able to threaten Mizzou from beyond the arc consistently, the Tigers’ focus should be to protect the paint — according to CBB Analytics, 38.7% of Ole Miss’ field goal attempts come at the rim, where it converts 62.1% of the time.

2. Put the ball in a pressure cooker. Per KenPom, the opponents steal the ball away from the Rebels on 11.7% of possessions, the 19th-most in the country. Picking up extra possessions against by pressing Ole Miss has been helpful to opponents in earlier games this season. Mississippi State, for example, swiped 12 steals against the team in their matchup on Jan. 7. The Bulldogs ended the game scoring 10 points off of 15 forced turnovers in the 64-54 victory. Missouri, which leads the nation with 11.4 steals per game, should be aggressive in trying to pry the ball loose and scoring in transition. The fast pace could rattle the Rebels, who have a slow adjusted tempo of 66 possessions per 40 minutes.

3. Regain rhythm from 3. The Tigers are coming off their worst shooting performance of the season in which they went 3-28 from long range against No. 4 Alabama. The team could try to remedy its shooting slump by attacking inside against Ole Miss, but that might not be the best idea. The Rebels block 12.6% of their opponents’ 2-point shots according to KenPom and have held teams to 44.8% inside the arc, the 25th-best mark in the NCAA. Mississippi isn’t as great at defending 3-pointers, allowing opponents to shoot 33.4% from deep, nearly identical to Mizzou’s percentage from outside for the season. The Tigers will have a chance to return to form and build their confidence back up from distance.

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