By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Both Ole Miss and LSU were missing key components when the Tigers thrashed the Rebels by 26 points in the SEC opener.
Both have gone through wild swings throughout the conference season, and the pendulum has now swung back.
As it was when LSU beat Ole Miss 81-56 in Baton Rouge, the Rebels come in on a downturn, the Tigers with a bit of confidence.
Both teams will try to put their best foot forward today when they tip off at 12:30 p.m. at Tad Smith Coliseum for the SEC Network TV game.
When they met on Jan. 7, the Rebels were still without their top rebounder, the injured Murphy Holloway, and were playing their first game since the dismissal of sophomore guard Dundrecous Nelson, their leading scorer at the time.
LSU was missing freshman starter Johnny O’Bryant, a frontcourt contributor and a Mississippian targeted with great effort by Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, as well as senior reserve forward Malcolm White, a transfer from Ole Miss. O’Bryant was injured, White was attending his grandmother’s funeral.
The teams are so different now that LSU coach Trent Johnson saw no value in reviewing the video.
“I haven’t watched any of that,” he said.
Johnson has watched more recent video on Ole Miss (15-12, 5-8 SEC) and says he sees a physical presence from Holloway and a catalyst in point guard Jarvis Summers.
“Not only is Holloway big, strong and athletic, but mentally and physically, he brings a lot of toughness to the table,” Johnson said. “(Summers) has emerged as one of the best point guards as a freshman in this league.”
LSU (17-10, 7-6) has won its last four, including Wednesday’s 61-53 decision against Georgia in Baton Rouge. The Tigers are led by Iowa State transfer Justin Hamilton, who averages 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds, both team highs.
Hamilton had 23 points and 16 rebounds in the first game.
O’Bryant has come on to average 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds.
The Rebels left Baton Rouge and won four of their next six games. But the rebounding success they were having during that stretch has evaded them of late. Tennessee had a commanding 40-28 edge on the glass in a 73-60 win in Knoxville on Wednesday.
Kennedy is calling on his upperclassmen – including Holloway, whose rebounding average has dropped by almost two boards a game since Dec. 4 – for greater production.