By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Two teams heading in different directions meet at Tad Smith Coliseum tonight, and Ole Miss players say it’s not time to let off the gas.
The Rebels have won back-to-back SEC games for the first time this season and will go for win No. 3 in a row against a team they previously defeated by 27 points.
LSU arrives in town, amid the threat of three inches of snow, on a six-game losing streak.
Tipoff is 8 p.m., and the game will be televised by CSS.
“We don’t need to relax. We’re on a little win streak,” junior center Terrance Henry said. “LSU has not been playing good. They’ve been struggling. We just need to come out and play hard and keep the win streak going.”
When the Rebels (15-8, 3-5 SEC) and Tigers (10-13, 2-6) first met, Ole Miss had dropped four-straight SEC games.
Since losing 84-74 at Vanderbilt on Jan. 19, Ole Miss has won three of its last four, starting with a 78-51 romp at LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
That was loss No. 2 in the current streak for the Tigers. Four of the six losses have been by 22 points or more, the largest margin a 38-point defeat at Kentucky to begin the downward SEC turn.
It’s been almost a month since LSU won 58-53 against Arkansas in Baton Rouge.
All things considered, junior guard Trevor Gaskins doesn’t believe focus will be a problem for the Rebels.
“I’m not concerned about anything. I’m confident that we will win tomorrow. I’m ready to play,” he said.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy is confident too, not because of LSU’s struggles, but because he sees his frontcourt taking shape.
“The questions coming into the season were about our frontcourt. We had gaping holes,” he said.
In the last two games, however, Kennedy has gotten double-figure points from both Henry and sophomore forward Reggie Buckner each time.
Buckner has hit 11 of his last 14 field goal attempts and tied the school single-game record with eight blocked shots in last Saturday’s 69-60 win at Arkansas.
“When those guys are playing well, our team is in most every game,” Kennedy said.
Henry and Buckner will challenge LSU center Malcolm White – the starting center for the Rebels two years ago – in White’s first game in Oxford since his transfer. He struggled with foul trouble and turnovers against Ole Miss in Baton Rouge.
The Tigers will have a slightly different look with freshman guard Ralston Turner, of Muscle Shoals, Ala., in the lineup.
Turner was the Tigers’ leading scorer with 13.2 points a game when he was sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot. He did not play against Ole Miss in the first meeting.
“All games in this league have been competitive,” Kennedy said. “We don’t anticipate anything other than that. We shot exceptionally well in Baton Rouge. If we shoot 62 percent I like our chances again. Odds of us doing that are not great.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600