By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas coach Mike Anderson thought he was close to stealing one on the road when the Razorbacks visited Ole Miss in early January.
Ultimately, close was all the Hogs could get, as the Rebels dominated the glass and won 71-63 in spite of 23 turnovers against the Arkansas pressure defense.
The rematch is tonight at 6 at Bud Walton Arena, and the game will be televised by ESPNU.
Change of venue often makes a big difference in college basketball. For Ole Miss, it was a 50-point swing over the weekend as the Rebels turned a 26-point defeat in Baton Rouge into a 24-point Tad Smith Coliseum win over LSU.
“We’ve done well defending home court with the exception of the last two games,” Anderson said.
The long-time assistant to former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, Anderson is in his first season as head coach after successful stints at UAB and Missouri.
Anderson says the Rebels will arrive with confidence, and the LSU game supports the theory of Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy that the past doesn’t dictate the future.
Ole Miss has won seven of the last eight in the series, including four straight and the last three meetings here.
“Quite frankly, I don’t believe they have any relevance whatsoever, other than the fact that two or three guys on this team who will play prominent roles in the game have had success in the building,” Kennedy said. “Those were different circumstances, different coaches, different teams.”
For Kennedy, there’s greater value in the fact that his team appears to be handling the basketball better than it did in the first meeting when the Arkansas pressure defense forced 23 Ole Miss turnovers.
The Rebels (16-12, 6-8 SEC) have given it away an average of 11.5 times over their last four games.
Ole Miss averages 14.9 turnovers on the year, last in the SEC, while Arkansas leads the league in turnover margin at plus-3.25 per game.
The Rebels were able to offset 23 turnovers in the first game, because they were plus-22 on the glass with a 48-26 rebounding edge.
Such dominance was routine when the Rebels were 4-3 over their first seven SEC games, but they’ve outrebounded their opponent in just two of the last seven games.
In the first round against the Razorbacks (18-11, 6-8), Murphy Holloway had a double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds. It was his first game back from an ankle sprain.
The key for Ole Miss, Kennedy says, will be not just successfully breaking the Arkansas press but demoralizing the press and finishing with transition baskets on the other end.
“Typically teams that press are more efficient in their home venue, and we anticipate that. … We’ll have to be aggressive and attack the pressure, not only attack it to break it, but attack it to score,” Kennedy said.