Jacksonville St.-Mississippi Preview

While Mississippi struggled for a second time against an elite

team its last time out, it will have two games against

less-than-imposing opponents to regain some confidence before

beginning SEC play.

The 15th-ranked Rebels look to bounce back from their worst

offensive performance of the season when they return home to take

on Jacksonville State on Tuesday night.

Mississippi (10-2) has been one of the top scoring teams in the

nation, but came out stagnant in a 76-66 loss at No. 6 West

Virginia on Wednesday. The Rebels, who were averaging 85.4 points,

shot 67.7 percent in their previous game – a 108-64 rout of

Centenary on Dec. 19 – but followed with a season-low 36.4 percent

against the Mountaineers and were 5 of 24 from 3-point range.

The win snapped Mississippi’s six-game winning streak and was

the third time in five games the team has had to try and come back

from a first-half deficit.

“I don’t think that we came out terribly focused,” coach Andy

Kennedy said. “They hit us in the mouth and we didn’t respond. As a

result, we’re going home a loser.”

Both of Mississippi’s losses have come against top-tier teams.

Its other defeat came Nov. 22 against then-No. 5 Villanova as the

Rebels shot 38.1 percent and committed 21 turnovers in the 79-67

setback.

Although beating ranked opponents on the road has been difficult

for Mississippi, winning at home against unranked ones has not. The

Rebels are 6-0 there this season, outscoring opponents by an

average of 23.7 points. They have won 36 of their last 37 games in

Oxford against non-conference foes and will play their next three

contests there.

Mississippi doesn’t have much time to work out any remaining

struggles. Tuesday is one of two remaining tune-ups before

beginning the conference slate. After Jacksonville State, they

Rebels will host Central Florida before facing SEC-opponent

Mississippi State on Jan. 9.

It will be critical for Chris Warren, Mississippi’s leading

scorer at 17.6 points per game, to bounce back. After pouring in a

season-high 32 in a win over UTEP on Dec. 16, the junior guard

totaled 19 on 7 of 18 shooting against Centenary and West

Virginia.

He’ll be looking to put up big numbers against Jacksonville

State (5-5) which is playing its first ranked opponent since losing

to Mississippi State in 2004.

The Gamecocks are coming off a 60-55 loss to Nicholls State on

Dec. 21, when they shot 38.3 percent and trailed the entire way.

Trenton Marshall scored 18 while Jeremy Bynum added 15 as the duo

shot a combined 9 of 30.

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak. Only three of the

team’s wins are against Division I opponents.

The Gamecocks are 1-33 against the SEC, with their lone victory

coming against Alabama during the 1952-53 season. Mississippi is

3-0 all-time in the series, including 64-56 in 2003.

Already a tough venue for opponents to play in, Tad Smith

Coliseum could become even more hostile as school officials have

offered free admission. Fewer than 6,000 people were on hand to see

the team beat Centenary in an arena that seats more than 9,000.