Both Mississippi State and Ole Miss have enjoyed stellar seasons so far including 4-2 starts in conference play.
The Rebels and 18th-ranked Bulldogs are both jockeying for seeding the SEC Tournament and also postseason bids. The two Magnolia State rivals will clash in Oxford at 8 p.m. tonight on the SEC Network.
“I’m at Mississippi State and we’re not supposed to like those folks,” said MSU coach Vic Schaefer. “I understand that completely. But you have to have an appreciation for the job that they’re doing and how hard those kids play. They’re completely different than a month ago.”
Ole Miss is 14-5 on the year with three losses coming against ranked opponents. MSU will be the third straight ranked opponent the Rebels will face. Ole Miss downed then No. 22 Georgia 55-52 at home last week before falling at 10th-ranked Texas A&M 58-49 on Sunday.
“I knew it was going to be a tough stretch for us and going into it I knew I was going to be ecstatic if we got all three,” said Ole Miss coach Matt Insell. “I also told myself I was going to be ecstatic if we get two out of three and I’m going to be ecstatic if we get one out of three. Once you get one, you want to get two out of three and this is going to be a big one against State at home. We have to continue to protect our house.”
Ole Miss leads the all-time series 63-24 but it is the Bulldogs who have claimed nine of the last 12 contests.
Three of the last five meetings between the two programs have gone into overtime including both outings last year. The Rebels edged State 87-85 in Oxford and the Bulldogs returned the favor 72-70 in Starkville.
“I always take Ole Miss as an important game because of the rivalry,” said MSU guard and Richland native Kendra Grant. “It’s tradition. I take it seriously. We’re going there first and then they’ll come here. I really want to get a win on the road because last time we lost up there. I’m looking at it as redemption.”
The Bulldogs (19-2) got back on track following their first two losses of the year with a 66-50 home win against Alabama on Sunday. Mississippi State surrendered just 13 field goals to the Crimson Tide.
Schaefer’s squad continues to lead the SEC averaging 78.9 points a game and are led by wing Victoria Vivians. Vivians leads all SEC freshmen with 14.2 points.
Senior forward Tia Faleru paces the Rebels by averaging a double-double with 15.9 points and 10.6 rebounds. Faleru tops the SEC with eight double-doubles on the year and scored 48 points and grabbed 29 boards in two games against the Bulldogs last year.