FAYETTEVILLE – Divergently attained 2-game SEC winning streaks intersect tonight when the Arkansas Razorbacks and Ole Miss collide.
Tip-off for tonight’s SEC Network game is 7:30 p.m. at Walton Arena between Coach Eric Musselman’s hosting 12-4 overall/4-4 in the SEC Razorbacks and Coach Kermit Davis’ 8-6, 3-4 Rebels.
Arkansas amassed 167 points for its last two games overcoming a 19-point deficit and Auburn, 75-73 last Wednesday at Walton and vanquishing Vanderbilt, 92-71 last Saturday at Vandy’s Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.
Ole Miss totaled just 125 but only yielded 96 combined for its 64-46 and 61-50 victories last midweek at Mississippi State and at home last Saturday in Oxford, Miss. against Texas A&M.
Davis’ Rebels play a sticky mix of man and zone defense enhanced by a patient, milk the shot clock offense.
“Coach Davis is a great coach,” Musselman said. “They control tempo. They pride themselves on the defensive side of the floor. Anytime you score points offensively or defensively, or you limit somebody offensively or defensively, it’s kind of both sides of the ball.”
While Musselman essentially coaches man to man defense but has mixed in more zone and some presses this season, Davis deals from a thoroughly mixed bag.
“They seem to be a little more aggressive in their 1-3-1 this year which also morphs back into a 2-3 zone,” second-year Arkansas Coach Musselman said. “So I think just for us, really, really take care of the basketball, understand what their themes are in the game.”
One Ole Miss theme that Musselman stresses, Ole Miss may appear to play slow but guards Devontae Shuler and Jarkel Joiner, the transfer from California-Bakersfield, and forward KJ Buffen defensively play very fast and jet offensively when the occasion arises.
“They’ll run,” Musselman said if there is an opportunity to seize. “You’ look at their scorers. Shuler (the Rebels’ leading scorer averaging 14.9 points) is really effective in transition. Shuler can really score the ball and is an experienced player. Joiner can really shoot mid-range pull-ups off the bounce, jump shots. Buffen can beat people off the dribble and score around the rim.”
Musselman knows enough about Ole Miss’ tallest starter, 6-8 Romello White, that he tried to recruit him when the graduate transfer via Arizona State submitted his name to the transfer portal.
“He wasn’t interested,” Musselman said.
Musselman then explained why he was interested in White.
“White’s got a ton of experience playing in the Pac 12 at Arizona State and is a physical player inside,” Musselman said. “Talking to Pac 12 coaches, they thought his scoring around the rim, his offensive rebounding, his ability to block shots, he’s a really, really, really good player.”
Luis Rodriguez, a 6-6 starting swingman, leads the Rebels rebounding averaging 6.8 per game.
“They pride themselves on defense,” Musselman said. “And some of the little things like getting loose balls and long rebounds are gonna be really important as well.”
Off guard Moses Moody, capable of scoring from about anywhere, point guard Jalen Tate, Arkansas’ best defender assigned Shuler tonight, Musselman said, and forward Justin Smith forged as Arkansas’ offensive catalysts against Vanderbilt.
Moody scored 26 points with eight rebounds. Tate tallied 25 points with eight assists while Smith scored 12 points with seven boards.
Those stats likely will be hard to repeat against a team playing at Ole Miss’ pace and defensive prowess. However whether from the aforementioned or a Desi Sills or JD Notae the Hogs likely will need a wonderful Wednesday from somebody to wrest the tempo from the Rebels tonight.
ARKANSAS (12-4, 4-4)
F-Justin Smith 6-7 Sr. 10.9 pts. 6.4 rebs.
C-Connor Vanover 7-3 So. 7.0 5.6
G-Jalen Tate 6-6 Sr. 11.5 4.0
G-Moses Moody 6-6 Fr. 17.3 5.9
G-Desi Sills 6-1 Jr. 11.7 3.8
OLE MISS (8-6, 3-4)
F-Luis Rodriguez 6-6 Sr. 7.4 pts 6.8 rebs.
F-KJ Buffen 6-7 Jr. 9.4 4.6
F-Romello White 6-8 Sr. 10.4 5.4
G-Devontae Shuler 6-2 Sr. 14.9 2.4
G-Jarkel Joiner 6-1 Jr. 10.9 2.4