Ole Miss looks to secure postseason position with win over Tennessee

Posted on Feb 27 2019 - 5:50am by Jack Gentry

After an emotional weekend that included eight players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of a pro-Confederate rally on campus, Ole Miss must shift its focus to a matchup with a dangerous Tennessee team.

The No. 7-ranked Tennessee squad, led by head coach Rick Barnes, has been a juggernaut for the majority of the season.

The Volunteers, who are deadlocked in a three-way tie for No. 1 in the SEC, will roll into The Pavilion on Wednesday night. The Rebels have proven they can finish on top against top-25 opponents, as their record sits at 2-2 in such games.

Tennessee’s starting lineup features five upperclassmen, four of whom average in double figures. The Volunteers lay claim to two of the top five scorers in the SEC in Grant Williams, who leads the SEC at 19 points per game, and Admiral Schofield, with 16.9. Williams is not only a frontrunner for SEC Player of the Year honors but also a candidate for the Naismith Award, which goes to the best player in the country.

Jordan Bone is the floor general for the Vols, leading the SEC with 6.3 assists per game and averaging 13.2 points per game. The two sharpshooters for Tennessee — Lamonte Turner, with 11 points per game, and Jordan Bowden, with 10.6 points per game — round out the group of five Volunteers who average double figures.

“They’ve got great character, they’ve got depth, they’ve got physicalness (sic), and you’re going to have to match toughness. Our guards are going to have to be terrific in the game,” said Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis. “I know this place will be rocking on Wednesday.”

With the SEC tournament just two weeks away, the Rebels know that a bid to the NCAA tournament is within their grasp.

“Definitely, I am aware of it. I haven’t been in the tournament yet, so it’s something I think about every day,” Rebel guard Breein Tyree said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think everybody on this team should be thinking about it on a daily basis and trying to figure out what our best way to the tournament is and how we are going to finish out the year as strong as possible.”

Ole Miss guard Breein Tyree drives the ball down court during the game against Arkansas on Jan. 19. The Pavilion is sold out for the game tonight versus Tennessee. File photo by Christian Johnson

Kermit Davis did not mince words when asked if he was aware of where the Rebels stand in relation to the postseason.

“It’s what we all play for, so to act like you don’t know its coming — that’s just not true. Everybody knows what their NET is. I don’t care what a coach says. Everybody knows,” Kermit Davis said. “It’s every guy’s goal and every coach’s goal to play in (the tournament) when you tip it up for the first time. It’s something we don’t harp on, but it’s sure something our guys are striving to get to.”

The Rebels have the opportunity to bolster their resume with their first top-10 win of the season on Wednesday night. ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi ranked Ole Miss as a nine seed in the latest installment of his famed bracketology. The game is set to tipoff at 6 p.m.