By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – With its non-conference schedule winding down, Ole Miss is at home tonight at 7, the first of two games over the holiday weekend.
Tipoff against Alcorn State at Tad Smith Coliseum is 7 p.m. A Fox Sports Net television audience will watch the Rebels (9-3) take on the winless Braves (0-9), though Ole Miss will be without its third-leading scorer, guard Trevor Gaskins.
Gaskins sustained a hamstring pull in the Rebels’ 68-61 loss to Colorado State in Cancun last Thursday.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy lists him as “day to day,” though he is certain to miss tonight’s game.
“He’s making progress,” Kennedy said. “Trev is a strong guy. He’s been through a bunch of injuries, and he’s a pretty quick healer, but sometimes hamstrings can linger.”
Gaskins is the team’s third-leading scorer at 10.3 points a game. He’s averaging 3.8 rebounds and is second on the team with 26 assists.
The Rebels took a forward step in rebounding on the road trip. They were out-boarded by five against East Tennessee State, their last home game. In Cancun the Rebels had a rebound margin of plus-18.6 for three games.
A few weeks back Kennedy called on his guards to become more active on the boards, a must when he employs a small lineup to utilize the team’s athleticism.
The guards have pitched in – senior Zach Graham averaged eight rebounds in Cancun – but sophomore forward Reggie Buckner has elevated his game as well, averaging 8.3 rebounds over his last six games.
Ole Miss has risen from near the bottom to No. 6 in the SEC in rebounding with a plus-4.3 margin. The Rebels were minus-0.6 in rebounding margin through their first nine games.
“We certainly emphasized rebounding over and over,” Kennedy said. “We could not be successful long-term if we did not get that problem solved. I’m not sure we’ve solved it, but we had three really good games with emphasis on getting the ball.”
The Rebels stand a good chance to make it a fourth-straight game with strong rebounding against an Alcorn team that has struggled in most phases. The Braves are scoring just 59.2 points a game and giving up 88.0.
Kennedy is hoping his team can build momentum going into SEC play. The Rebels are at home against Sunday against Southeastern Louisiana and at SMU on Jan. 5 before beginning the conference schedule on Jan. 8 at Florida.
“We left Cancun 2-1 and not 3-0, because we shot so dreadfully from 3 (against Colorado State), and that’s one of the things we have to do,” Kennedy said. “We did not achieve our goal.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.