Rivals collide Saturday

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

As Ole Miss keeps pushing and reaching for an NCAA tournament bid, Mississippi State continues to search for answers.
The Rebels (20-7, 9-5 SEC) are coming off an 88-55 win over Auburn and have a chance to keep moving forward this week. They host Texas A&M on Wednesday and visit MSU on Saturday.
Ole Miss had lost three of four before the Auburn game.
“We haven’t played well. I just wanted us to play well, and the score would take care of itself,” coach Andy Kennedy said. “I was very pleased.”
Kennedy, now the program’s all-time winningest coach, understands that nothing is guaranteed in the SEC.
“There’s very little separation when you get past Florida,” he said. “Anybody can beat anybody on a given night.”
MSU (7-19, 2-12) is hoping that’s true this week. The Bulldogs have lost 12 in a row, and their 72-31 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday marked their lowest point output since ’85.
Thin maroon line
State has suffered four SEC home losses of 30-plus points. When asked about his team losing so badly at home, first-year coach Rick Ray became a bit defensive.
“All these stats in the difference of how bad we’re getting blown out, I’d like somebody to go back and look at the stats and see how many scholarship players (previous teams) had,” Ray said.
MSU has had only six scholarship players available for the past five games due in part to suspensions of Jalen Steele and then Roquez Johnson, the latter of whom has missed the last two games.
The Bulldogs travel to Kentucky on Wednesday, then have a shot to avenge a Feb. 6 loss to Ole Miss. To pull an upset or two, this current way of play can’t continue.
“As we continue to play, something’s got to change,” center Gavin Ware said. “We’ve got to develop more, we’ve got to find some way where we can start producing on the defensive and offensive end.”
brad.locke@journalinc.com