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Bulldogs Renew Rivalry With Rebels In Oxford

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Roquez Johnson had 10 points and 6 rebounds last Saturday against LSU.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Through all the change that Mississippi State basketball has experienced in Rick Ray's tenure as head coach, one fact has remained constant - Ole Miss is still the Bulldogs' archrival.

Wednesday, the fiercest hardwood rivalry in the Magnolia State is renewed as the Bulldogs travel to Oxford to take on the 23rd-ranked Rebels at Tad Smith Coliseum.

CSS will televise the 8 p.m. tilt, with Dave Baker and Daymeon Fishback serving as courtside commentators.

Both teams enter the contest on losing streaks and in need of a big win. Mississippi State (7-13, 2-6) dropped a heartbreaking 69-68 decision to LSU in the final seconds on Saturday, while Ole Miss (17-4, 6-2) has dropped two straight after falling 78-64 at Florida.

"I think guys understand the importance of a rivalry, but you've also got to break things down as far as how you execute throughout the course of the game," Ray said. "I'm not going to get into how important this game is to the fan base and to us and things like that. I'm going to work on giving our guys a way to win the ballgame.

"If you just put it on emotion, then if you don't have emotion and things don't go well, where do you turn? So you better have a way as far as X's and O's and the way you're going to execute to actually try to win the ballgame."

MSU has come up short in six-consecutive SEC games, while Rebels have lost two-straight after a program-best 6-0 start in league play.

Wednesday's clash will mark the 246th meeting between the two schools. The Bulldogs hold a 139-106 advantage in the series and have won 21 of the last 28 meetings, including six of seven since 2009 and three out of four in Oxford.

Last January, Ole Miss upset No. 15 MSU 75-68 in Oxford, but the Bulldogs gained a measure of revenge with a 70-60 win in Starkville in February.

Freshman forward Gavin Ware has been in solid form recently, scoring in double-digits in four-straight games. His 6.8 rebounds are best on the team and the 10th best among SEC players.

Fred Thomas (10.5 points) and Craig Sword (9.6 points) lead the MSU scoring attack.
Ole Miss boasts the conference's best offensive unit, averaging over 79 points per game. Marshall Henderson leads the SEC in scoring with 19.5 points, while Murphy Holloway leads the league in rebounding with 10.1 boards a game. Holloway's 14.6 point scoring clip is second-best on the team, and he is the only player in the SEC that averages a double-double.

Following Wednesday's showdown, the Bulldogs continue their two-game road trip at No. 2 Florida on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. at the O'Connell Center, with Fox Sports South providing the game's telecast.



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