Rebels, Bulldogs heading in opposite directions

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

Murphy Holloway and his Ole Miss teammates have won four-straight SEC games to open league play, status last achieved by the program 76 years ago.
As the conference season enters its third week the Rebels (15-2, 4-0 SEC) want to remain focused, keep streaking, and win their way into the NCAA tournament in March.
A 76-64 win over Arkansas before a second-straight sellout crowd at home Saturday was the Rebels’ seventh-straight win .
“We’ve waited so long just to be relevant. We still have to be hungry. Instead of trying to be … we’ve just got to stay hungry,” Holloway said.
Mississippi State (7-9, 2-2 SEC) lost 72-57 at Tennessee on Saturday and has dropped its last two after a 2-0 SEC start.
Against the Vols, State missed a key player, Jalen Steele, for several minutes with cramps.
“We’ve got to figure out what’s going on and get those cramps taken care of, because he’s playing well for us. He’s obviously our best player as far as coming back with some experience and being able to shoot the basketball,” MSU coach Rick Ray said.
The Bulldogs remain on the SEC road, traveling to face Arkansas in Fayetteville on Wednesday night at 8 in a CSS television game.
Ole Miss has more rest at the front end of the week but a quick turnaround. The Rebels play at home against Tennessee on Thursday night at 6 on ESPN2 before traveling for an 8 p.m., tip at Auburn on Saturday in a Fox Sports Net TV game.
MSU is also at home Saturday, hosting No. 10 Florida at 8 p.m.
strength of schedule
Ole Miss and Florida are the only teams without a loss in league play. They meet Feb. 2 at Florida.
Ole Miss RPI jumped to 33 according to WarrenNolan.com. Ratings Percentage Index considers wins, losses, strength of schedule and opponent success in determining a number that is valued by the NCAA tournament passing out at-large bids.
Ole Miss rallied from 13 points back to force overtime to win 89-79 at Vanderbilt last Tuesday. On Saturday, the Rebels lost a 13-point lead in the second half but regrouped and held on to win.
“As as group, I feel like we’re mentally tough. The game got close, but we didn’t get scared,” Holloway said. “We pushed it back out and kept playing.”
Holloway says Ole Miss is motivated by its two losses, at Middle Tennessee State and against Indiana State on a neutral floor. Both are top 50 RPI teams.
“Those two losses helped us find ourselves as a team,” he said.
parrish.alford@journalinc.com