Rebels and Dawgs Seeking First Conference Win

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Dawgs taking on their 3rd straight ranked opponent

Mississippi (12-3) is ranked #21 in the AP poll and #23 in the Coaches.  Seeing a trend here?  Wednesday night’s game in Athens will mark the Dawgs’ third straight game against a ranked opponent (Georgia Tech & Kentucky being the other two).

Ole Miss returns all five starters from last year’s team, along with freshman forward Reginald Buckner.  Buckner (6’8″, 233lbs) has provided some much-needed size on the inside for the Rebels, averaging 2.2 blocks and nearly 5 rebounds per game.  Last season Ole Miss finished 10th in the conference in blocks at 3.3 a game; this year they are 4th in the conference at 6.2 a game.

The main thing that the Rebels do well is score (a very important part of the game of basketball).  Ole Miss is  leading the SEC in scoring at 83.6 points a game.  They have five players that average in double-figures (balanced enough?).

Leading the way for the Rebel attack are guards Chris Warren (junior) and Terrico White (sophomore), who are both averaging 16.7 points per game (or 40% of Mississippi’s offense).  White exploded on to the SEC basketball scene last year as a freshman, averaging 13.7 points and winning the league’s SEC Freshman of the Year award.  He built up a reputation as a Sky-Walker after throwing down a monster dunk on Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson last season.  White flirted with the idea of going pro following his freshman year, but unfortunately for Georgia he decided to come back and give college another try (and thus has Ole Miss ranked and ready to get an NCAA tournament bid).

It will be  a homecoming game of sorts for Ole Miss reserve, Zach Graham, who is providing some effective bench production at 10.7 points and 3.9 rebounds a game…Graham is a native of Suwanee, GA.

Ole Miss is leading the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.31, which is probably fairly common of teams that return a lot of players.  They play smart with the basketball and will probably not be very intimidated by the fact that they are on the road.

“Keys to the Game”

Play to Your Strengths – so far this year it seems that the Dawgs have been most successful when they slow the game down, and get physical inside (with Thompkins, Barnes, Price and Jackson UGA is equipped with a plethora of meaty bigs).  Georgia is actually 4th in the conference in rebounding margin at +3.2 a game.  Georgia needs to dictate a slow pace in this one so that their bigs can have time to get down and work the offensive and defensive glass.  One way to slow things down considerably is to pack it in and run a half-court zone defense.  Mississippi State did this for a majority of the second half in their upset win at Ole Miss last Saturday…I think the Dawgs would be wise to mimic this strategy.

“Help! You know I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody.  Help… – The Dawgs’ starters (or the “Big Four” as I like to call them) are playing way too many minutes.  Ware and McPhee each average just under 30 minutes a game, while Thompkins is notching 28.9 and Leslie 25.4 (and all four go well above their averages against stronger opponents like Georgia Tech and Kentucky).  This cannot continue if Georgia hopes to finish the season strong.  Several bench players need to step up and become regular contributors…Jeremy Price, Chris Barnes and Ebuka Anyaorah, I am definitely looking your way on this one.  All three of these guys have provided sparks off the bench in games this year, but none of them have done it on a night in/night out basis.

Other notes:

– Terrico White and Trey Thompkins were teammates last summer on the USA’s Under-19 basketball team

– Since losing at home to Wofford, Georgia has won 6 straight at home

– Travis Leslie is averaging 1.5 ESPN “Top Plays” highlights per game over the last two contests

The game tips off at 8pm Wednesday night and will be televised on the SEC Network (aka Peachtree TV)…as always on the radio at 750AM.

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