Ole Miss takes on ailing Vandy

NCAA Men's Basketball

Ole Miss hopes to keep its NCAA Tournament at-large hopes alive Saturday afternoon when the Rebels travel to Nashville, Tenn., to meet Vanderbilt.

The Rebels (13-9, 8-7 SEC and 59th in the NCAA’s net rankings through games of Feb. 25), have plenty of work to do to get there, but Wednesday’s 60-53 victory at No. 24 Missouri kept their faint hopes alive.

“That’s one of the best ones we’ve ever had in the three short years I’ve been here,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said. “We beat a real determined Missouri team. To do what we did in the second half was huge.”

Beating Vanderbilt (6-13, 2-11) wouldn’t do much for the Rebels’ resume, but a loss would probably mean the Rebels need to win the SEC tournament to get there. Ole Miss’s two remaining regular-season games are at home against Kentucky on Tuesday and again against Vandy on Saturday — the latter game added by the league office this week.

Devontae Shuler (15.6 ppg), Jarkel Joiner (10.8) and Romello White (10.7) are the Rebels’ three leading scorers, but Ole Miss needs to rediscover its offense. After reaching 80 points in three successive games (all wins), the Rebels scored 56 and 60 in splitting its last two.

Davis will certainly take the Missouri outcome, when Ole Miss shot only 38 percent, but held Missouri to just 35 percent. Ole Miss counts heavily on its defense and ranks 17th nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions).

However, Ole Miss isn’t great at defending the 3-point line (opponents have hit 36.4 percent). And consider that Vanderbilt seeks most of its points from beyond the arc.

Vandy went 8-of-21 on 2-pointers in Wednesday’s 70-58 loss to No. 25 Tennessee but was in the game inside the final two minutes thanks to 39.4 percent 3-point shooting (13-of-33).

That the Commodores were in the game at all was a minor miracle given the Commodores were without their two leading scorers — Scotty Pippen Jr. (20.5 ppg) and Dylan Disu (15.0). Disu leads the SEC in rebounding (9.2) while Pippen ranks second in assists (5.2).

The school has given no update on Pippen’s hip flexor injury, but Disu was declared out for the season with a knee injury.

“We saw there were some things that could be a potential alarm if we didn’t address it right away,” coach Jerry Stackhouse said Wednesday. “Could he have probably finished the season? Maybe. But now I think the thing for us and for him and his family was wanting to get back as soon as possible.”

Guards Trey Thomas (14 points) and Maxwell Evans (13) led Vanderbilt in scoring against Tennessee.

Ole Miss hammered Vanderbilt by an 86-60 score the last time the teams met, which was Feb. 29 of last season.

–Field Level Media

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