The Ole Miss basketball team will get an early chance to measure itself tonight when the Rebels play No. 5 Villanova in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
The Rebels (4-0) will be playing a top-five opponent for the first time since losing to No. 1 Florida in January 2007. Villanova (4-0), which reached the Final Four season, enters after a 71-65 semifinal win against No. 18 Dayton.
“We’re excited,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “We came over with the hope of having an opportunity to play in the championship game.”
Ole Miss is averaging over 89 points per game this season,with wins over Indiana and Kansas State in Puerto Rico. Sophomore Terrico White leads the team with 17.3 points per game.
Junior guard Corey Fisher leads Villanova with 15.3 points per game. Four Wildcats are averaging double figures.
Antonio Pena averages 9.8 rebounds per game for the Wildcats, who have outrebounded opponents by nearly 13 boards per game.
Ole Miss has only played Villanova once, when the Rebels defeated the Wildcats 72-70 in the first round of the 1999 NCAA Tournament. The last time the Rebels defeated a top-five opponent was a 73-69 win over No. 3 Kentucky in 1997.
The Rebels are 4-7 against ranked teams under Kennedy.
The Rebels have reached the championship game of the Puerto Rico tournament for the second consecutive time. They won the tournament in their last appearance in 2007.
Warren and Terrico White led the Rebels to their 86-74 semifinal win over Kansas State, with 27 and 25 points respectively.
Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal