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
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
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
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.