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Rebels Unable to Overcome Slow Start

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas jumped out to a 17-0 in the first quarter and took advantage of six Ole Miss turnovers on the way to a 30-0 shutout win Saturday in Fayetteville.

"I was concerned all week, for whatever reason, that we weren't totally locked in," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "That showed at the beginning of the game. That's my fault. I have to make sure our kids are ready. It was a weird week for whatever reason. It's disappointing that we didn't start better."

Two of the Ole Miss turnovers came inside Arkansas' 20-yard line, as the Rebels were looking to get back in the game. Down 17-0 late in the first half, quarterback Bo Wallace had Ole Miss driving to the Arkansas 13-yard line before being intercepted in the end zone. 

Arkansas dealt a final decisive blow to the Rebels, as safety Rohan Gaines intercepted Wallace in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown, extending the Razorbacks' lead to 27-0 with 3:38 left in the third quarter.

"You can't turn it over the number of times we did and expect to win for sure," Freeze said. "I kept hoping we could get something good to happen and cut it to a score or two. Our defense would have played well enough to give us a chance, but we never did."

Playing with an ankle injury for much of the game, Wallace was 16-of-31 for 235 yards, accounting for 218 of the team's 316 total yards and breaking Eli Manning's school record for career total yards, but he turned the ball over four times with two interceptions and two lost fumbles. 

"He was hurting, but he was adamant he wanted to play," Freeze said. "He's had such a good career for us, and I felt like he was our best chance to get back in the game. He took us down the field a couple of times, and then we had the turnovers, which resulted in zero points, so we couldn't make a game of it."

The Rebels entered Saturday in contention for the SEC Western Division title, needing to win out and an Auburn win over Alabama, which made the loss, their third straight in league play, all the more disappointing.

"Our kids played hard until the end," Freeze said. "We didn't come out sharp for sure. We did some things that you can't do being an elite team. We have been a good team this year, but we haven't been elite at times. That's where we want to get to."

"It's tough, knowing what was in our grasp," tight end Evan Engram said. "That's what we thought about all week. That was our fuel. That was what we were working toward. For this to happen, it's tough. We had everything in our grasp. We were going to try to win out, play our best football, and see where it put us in the West and the Playoff. That's all pretty much out of the window."

After a 7-0 start and rising as high as No. 3 in the polls, Ole Miss now sits at 8-3, looking to finish the regular season on a high note, improving its bowl standing and playing spoiler to rival Mississippi State in the process.

"If you can't get up for that one, you probably don't need to be playing," linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "It's everything, it's the Egg Bowl. And for the seniors, it's Senior Day. If I have to motivate people for next week, they probably shouldn't be playing."

Rebels Ahead of Schedule in Year Three

It's sometimes easy to forget where the Ole Miss football program was just three short years ago, when Hugh Freeze was interviewing for the head coaching position.

The Rebels had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games. 

Three years later, No. 8 Ole Miss is 8-2 (4-2 SEC) and remains alive in the SEC Western Division race and the College Football Playoff discussion, but that was not the original plan, and Freeze is glad the Rebels have gone off-script.

"My original plan that I had, that I actually presented in my interview, was that we would be going to a bowl game this year," Freeze said. "The goal was to be very competitive and find a way to get enough wins to go to a bowl game. That was the original plan, but we're excited it didn't work out. I'm glad I was wrong."

Many of the seniors endured that 2-10 season in 2011, and their buy-in, doing the little things and holding the team accountable, Freeze said, has been a reason the turnaround has happened as fast as it has.

With two games remaining in the regular season, Freeze said they have talked about the possibilities at their fingertips and what they can go earn by finishing strong.

"It's kind of bittersweet that it's coming to an end," senior cornerback Senquez Golson said. "But we have a chance to finish as one of the best team in Ole Miss history. I'm ready to see what happens. I came in at 2-10, and for me to maybe leave 10-2, that would say a lot about where we came from over these few years and where the program is headed."

"Let's get No. 9," Freeze said. "Senquez is a little bit ahead of his coach there. I'm thrilled in year three for us to be were we are. It's way ahead of schedule. Of course, we want to finish strong. Anything above this now certainly expedites our journey a little faster, but you have to go earn it. The only thing I can think about is playing at Arkansas on Saturday and hopefully competing at a level that gives us a chance to win it in the fourth quarter."

Starting Five Back Together

Ole Miss had its starting offensive line back for practice this week, a group that helped the Rebels to a 7-0 start with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, left guard Aaron Morris, center Ben Still, right guard Justin Bell and right tackle Fahn Cooper.

Still missed the LSU game and played through injury against Auburn, while Tunsil missed the Auburn and Presbyterian games and Morris missed the Presbyterian game.

"It will be interesting to see him go back out and play after three weeks off," said offensive line coach Matt Luke of Tunsil. "He's anxious to get back out there, but he's practiced and tested out well. He's done everything. I look for him to be 100 percent, or close to it."

"He can't play receiver," said Bell, when asked if Tunsil had any limitations in practice. "If anything, that's probably his only limitation."

Behind the starting five, Robert Conyers gives Ole Miss options at center and tackle, having started the last three games at both spots, while Rod Taylor has gained valuable experience and earned his first career start against Presbyterian.

Luke said Morris and Bell will start, as they did through the first seven games, but he looks for Taylor to play as many snaps as both of them, giving Ole Miss a three-man rotation at the two guard positions.

"He's really come on, said Luke of Taylor. "Getting in there and playing, sometimes a light bulb goes off. The more you play, the better off you are. He's played really well the last two weeks against Auburn and Presbyterian. He graded out the highest of all the linemen, so I'm really proud of him and the development he has showed."

Landsharks Brace for Hogs Ground Attack

Arkansas is one of just two teams in the nation with two running backs to rush for 800-plus yards, boasting two of the Southeastern Conference's top five rushers. Junior Jonathan Williams ranks fourth averaging 93.2 yards per game, while sophomore Alex Collins ranks fifth averaging 88.6 yards per game.

Williams and Collins have benefited from running behind a massive offensive line averaging 328.4 pounds per player, larger than any NFL starting offensive line.

"We don't really look at size," sophomore defensive end Fadol Brown said. "I mean, you can look at guys like Issac Gross, who's been holding his own since his freshman year, and C.J. Johnson. I guess athleticism and movement makes up for some of the size."

Arkansas ranks fourth in the SEC averaging 232.9 yards per game and ranks third averaging 5.45 yards per carry, but they have had significantly more success in non-conference play than conference play. 

The Razorbacks average 151.8 yards per game and 4.00 yards per carry through five conference games compared to 354.5 yards per game and 7.13 yards per carry in non-conference game.

"It's the best run game we've seen all year long," Brown said. "Every game, they come with it. They just try to power you off the hole, pound you constantly and run the same plays over and over to try to get you out of the gap."

In its eight wins, Ole Miss allowed just 96.1 rushing yards per game and a 2.82 yards per carry average. In its two losses to LSU and Auburn, Ole Miss allowed 256.0 rushing yards per game and 5.07 yards per carry average.

Arkansas, like LSU and Auburn, emphasizes the run, so Brown and the Ole Miss defense expects their success to go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday's game.

"This game is going to be on us and nobody else, just like the LSU game was on us," Brown said. "We have to be physical up front and dominate the line of scrimmage. If we don't do that, then we don't have a chance."

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The Ole Miss football team was off, but it was a busy week in Ole Miss athletics nevertheless, as the men's and women's basketball teams opened their respective seasons. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- The Ole Miss football team did not play Saturday, but the Rebels got the help they needed to remain in the Southeastern Conference Western Division race, as Alabama defeated Mississippi State and then Georgia defeated Auburn. To win the SEC West, Ole Miss still has to win on the road at Arkansas and at home against Mississippi State, and then Auburn must defeat Alabama on Nov. 29.

- On the other side, in the SEC Eastern Division, Missouri controls its own destiny at 8-2 overall and 5-1 in SEC play, with games remaining on the road at Tennessee and at home against Arkansas. If Missouri falters, Georgia would win the SEC East title at 6-2 in the SEC.

- Speaking of Arkansas, the Razorbacks were going to beat somebody, and they finally did it by shutting out LSU 17-0 to snap their 17-game losing streak. Stat of the game: Arkansas held LSU to just 123 yards of total offense.

- Bruce Feldman wrote about Body Blow theory last year, as it related to Stanford football. The same theory can perhaps be applied to this week's Ole Miss-Arkansas matchup. SEC teams are just 1-4 in games the week after playing LSU with the lone exception being Alabama's 25-20 win over Mississippi State.

- If Ole Miss defeats Arkansas and Mississippi State defeats Vanderbilt, Nov. 29 sets up for another memorable day in the SEC Western Division. Ole Miss and Mississippi State would both remain in the SEC Western Division race, while Alabama would control its own destiny and Auburn would look to play spoiler.

- Ole Miss moved up two spots to No. 8 in the Associated Press and coaches polls by virtue of losses by Arizona State and Auburn. The Rebels are the highest-ranked two-loss team in the country

- The men's basketball team dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Charleston Southern in its season opener. Ole Miss went 19-of-63 from the field and 6-of-30 from 3-point range, but it was unable to overcome a 54-50 rebounding deficiency, as the Buccaneers won the game 65-64 on a tip-in dunk with 0.1 seconds left in overtime.

"I have been doing this for 10 years, and I have never had one like this," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "You have to do your best to learn from it. It's easier said than done. It's going to hurt. You want it to hurt. They were stunned in there. They should be."

- One of the bright spots was the play of junior guard Martavious Newby, who led the team with 14 points and seven rebounds. He's a stabilizing force and calming influence, providing a toughness that Kennedy said he hopes can become more contagious and spread throughout the team.

- The women's basketball team is off to a 2-0 start with wins over Grambling State and Mississippi Valley State. Ole Miss suffocated MVSU, as they held the Lady Devilettes to just 38 points and forced 46 turnovers, turning them into 51 points off turnovers.

"I have coached teams that have forced that number of turnovers," head coach Matt Insell said. "That's a number we look at. We can gauge our hustle on how many turnovers we force and how many deflections we get. Sometimes you may not turn a team over a lot, but you get a lot of deflections. That's just as good as a turnover. We really gauge a lot of what we're doing on turnovers, deflections and steals. If those numbers are high, we played pretty darned good defensively."

- Newcomers make up six of the top seven scorers, with five of them already finishing in double figures this season. Leading the way, however, is senior forward Tia Faleru averaging 21 points and 12.5 rebounds through two games. She also became the 26th 1,000-point scorer in program history.

Rebels Rebound with Hard-Fought Draw

Playing in their fourth overtime game of the season, the Ole Miss soccer team played Arkansas to a 1-1 double-overtime draw on Thursday night. 

The teams combined for 30 shots, including 13 on goal, but the game was characterized more by the physical play with a combined 22 fouls and two yellow cards for Arkansas in the second half. 

"When you get into the SEC games, the intensity and physical are up," head coach Matt Mott said. "Both teams were really fighting for the three points. When you have days like that, you have to be physically ready, and our guys did a good job of getting ready and up for the game."

"It was a battle," junior Jessica Hiskey said. "We knew coming out they were going to be very physical and very good in the air, so we knew he had to challenge for everything and keep digging out the second balls."

Arkansas went ahead 1-0 with a goal in the 15th minute and held the one-goal advantage for much of the game before sophomore Gretchen Harknett found the equalizer in the 69th minute on a bending ball from the top of the box to beat the keeper.

It was a big goal for the Rebels, not only battling back to draw even in the match, but also coming off a 4-0 loss at Central Florida this past Sunday.

"We needed it for our confidence," said Mott of the goal. "We needed it for our mentality. Gretchen Harknett is a good player for us, and it's big for her to get that goal and help us settle things down. We created plenty of chances. We should have gotten one in the first half and maybe it would have been a different second half."

With the draw, Ole Miss moves to 6-2-3 overall, 1-0-2 in Southeastern Conference play, ahead of a Sunday showdown with No. 10 Texas A&M, the second-highest ranked team in the league behind No. 7 Florida. The Aggies (7-1-1) are led by the top scoring scoring duo in the SEC in seniors Shea Groom and Kelley Monogue who have combined for 15 goals this season.

"They're really good," Mott said. "They're worthy of their rankings, but it's an SEC game, and we're in every SEC game that we play. It will be a big challenge for us on Sunday, but one that the girls are certainly looking forward to. A&M is very good and they are explosive offensively. Hopefully we can create some things against them."

Ole Miss will take its turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday. Here are a few links to stories of interest for Ole Miss fans from Day Three of SEC Media Days, which featured Steve Shaw (SEC), Justin Connolly (ESPN), Bill Hancock (College Football Playoff), Missouri, LSU and Arkansas.

The Ole Miss official website, OleMissSports.com, and the SEC official website, SECSports.com, will have continuous coverage of SEC Football Media Days, as will ESPNU, ESPN and Watch ESPN.

SEC imbalance: When will the West's dominance over the East end?, writes Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com

SEC coaches using Auburn's magical turnaround as preseason rallying cry, writes Joel A. Erickson of AL.com

Steve Shaw notes changes to targeting rule, quarterback safety and other points at SEC Media Days, writes Drew Champlin of AL.com

SEC Network TV launch looming; some fans in dark, writes John Zenor of the Associated Press

Mizzou was an SEC leader -- not an outlier -- all along, writes Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com

Mizzou's Mauk ready for SEC close-up, writes Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The best of LSU's Les Miles at SEC media day, writes Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com

'It's fun': Les Miles' trip through SEC media days, writes Ross Dellenger of The Advocate

Rabalais: These Tigers should relish the underdog role, writes Scott Rabalais of The Advocate

LSU football to rely on freshmen more than ever in 2014, writes Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com

Freshman Leonard Fournette draws lofty comparisons at LSU, writes Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com

Bielema, Razorbacks Stick With Plan, writes Robbie Neiswanger of the Arkansas News Bureau

Razorbacks mastering their 'Hoganese,' writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Bret Bielema, Gus Malzahn not 'breaking bread,' but hurry-up adversaries do respect each other, writes Brandon Marcello of AL.com


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Amid regional host and national seed discussion, 10th-ranked and second-seeded Ole Miss opens Southeastern Conference Tournament play Wednesday against seventh-seeded Arkansas. The Rebels are squarely on the national seed bubble after finishing the regular season 40-16 overall and 19-11 in SEC play.

Ole Miss will start junior right-hander Chris Ellis Wednesday against Arkansas, followed by sophomore left-hander Christian Trent on Thursday against third-seeded LSU or sixth-seeded Vanderbilt. 

Ellis enters Wednesday with a 9-0 record and 2.12 earned run average with 52 strikeouts and 28 walks in 89.0 innings. He has also posted six consecutive quality starts, including a win over Arkansas on May 2.

"It definitely wouldn't hurt to win a couple of games," senior catcher Will Allen said. "Obviously, we're not going to go down there and not try to win. As long as we're playing baseball, we're going to do the best we can. If we play well and do what we can and make a run in the tournament that would definitely help. It's up in the air, and we'll see."

With a series win at Texas A&M, Ole Miss moved up two spots to No. 13 in this week's official RPI rankings. Fellow SEC national seed contenders Vanderbilt, which Ole Miss might face in an SEC Tournament matchup Thursday, and South Carolina are ranked Nos. 6 and 8, respectively.

"You can't control what they do or how they're playing, but as long as keep playing well, we'll make a run at a national seed," senior third baseman Austin Anderson said. "All we can do is play well and win. If you start looking at that, you get distracted from what we're trying to do. Although it would be great to be a national seed and host a Super Regional, as long we keep winning, it doesn't matter where we play, we'll make it to Omaha."

For Allen and Anderson, they have achieved two team goals for the first time in their four-year careers: win 40 games and claim an SEC Western Division Championship. Other goals, however, remain ahead of them, as they want to finish strong and leave their legacy, individually and as a team.

"It's something we have been focused on the whole year," said Allen of the national seed talk. "One of our goals is to host a Regional and host a Super Regional. You have to take it game-by-game and really focus on the task at hand. Right now, we have the SEC Tournament. It would be really cool win an SEC Championship. None of us here now have done that, so we would love to do that."


Rebels Rolling Entering Hoover

Ole Miss left Tuscaloosa with a 4-5 record in SEC play, having just been swept at Alabama and having lost two of three at South Carolina two weekends previously.

From there, the Rebels have gone 15-6 in SEC play, including four straight series wins to end the regular season. The 21-game stretch also included weekend sweeps of Auburn and Kentucky and just one series loss, at home against LSU.

"Last year, we had a pretty good year, but we seemed to be dying out at the end and lost two of three at LSU," Anderson said. "At Hoover, we won our first game and then lost the next two. It seems like the team is playing well and we have a lot of confidence going into the postseason."

The Rebels have also shown an ability to bounce back this season. Ole Miss is 10-5 after losses, including a 7-1 mark since the 4-5 start in SEC play. They look to continue the trend coming off a 9-6 loss at Texas A&M in the regular season finale.

"Throughout the year, we have lost some close games," Allen said. "It seems like the next game we bounce back. I don't know the record off the top of my head, but it seems like after the games we have lost and the next game we play, we get right back on track. That's huge. To not really go through too many peaks and valleys but just consistently play, we have been able to do that this year."


Allen Wins Regular-Season Batting Title

Will Allen won the SEC regular-season batting title, with a .359 average, edging Kentucky's A.J. Reed by percentage points. He surged to the league lead, going 6-for-12 for the weekend series at Texas A&M. He also ended the regular season ranked second in RBI (55), second in hits (80) and seventh in home runs.

Allen has started all 56 games, including 50 at catcher, after serving primarily as the DH as a junior. He credits two years of maturity and strength and conditioning to coach Ben Fleming, for his ability to maintain his weight and remain consistent throughout the season.

"We lift two times a week and try to maintain my weight," Allen said. "A couple of years ago, I lost quite a bit of weight. I am making sure I stay between 225-230 pounds. I do a lot of stretching on my own before practice. I'm more mature with taking care of myself and making it a priority."

Robinson, Woodman Lift Rebels Late

Freshmen Errol Robinson and J.B. Woodman have been on a tear since the start of the Kentucky series. Robinson has raised his average from .285 to .310, hitting at a .375 clip, while Woodman has raised his average from .280 to .336, hitting at a .435 clip.

Woodman earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his role in helping Ole Miss clinch the SEC West. He drove in the game-tying run in Thursday night's win at Texas A&M and then drove in the game-tying run and scored the game-winning run in Friday's win at Texas A&M.

"The freshmen have had a big impact," Anderson said. "Errol, JB and Colby (Bortles), and Wyatt Short out of the bullpen, have had great years. Even as an older guy, when you see a freshman player with that confidence, it makes it a lot easier for us to feed off of that. Our whole team feeds off one another."


Ole Miss clinched the SEC Western Championship and locked up the second overall seed in the SEC Tournament as the Rebels won two of three games at Texas A&M this past weekend. With the series win, Ole Miss finished the regular season 40-16 overall and 19-11 in SEC play and moved up two spots in week's official RPI rankings, from No. 15 to No. 13.

Fellow SEC national seed contenders Vanderbilt and South Carolina are Nos. 6 and 8, respectively. Other national seed contenders of note are Louisiana-Lafayette (7), Miami (FL) (12) and TCU (14).

As far as the RPI top 25 and top 50, there are a couple of Ole Miss opponents to watch entering conference tournament play this week. Kentucky and Alabama each fell three spots to Nos. 22 and 24, respectively. Arkansas and UCF each moved more solidly into the RPI top 50 to Nos. 41 and 46, respectively, while Georgia fell 10 spots to No. 55. 

The Rebels will open SEC Tournament play with either No. 7 seed Arkansas (No. 41 RPI) or No. 10 seed Texas A&M (No. 33) on Wednesday, followed by No. 3 seed LSU (No. 16), No. 6 seed Vanderbilt (No. 6) or No. 11 seed Tennessee (No. 45) on Thursday.

Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers had Ole Miss among his eight national seeds, while Baseball America's Aaron Fitt had Vanderbilt replacing Ole Miss as a national seed in last week's projections. After Ole Miss' series win over Texas A&M, Rogers still had the Rebels in as the eighth and final national seed with South Carolina and TCU, among other teams also in the mix for a national seed.

Here's a brief look at the NCAA Tournament resume and remaining schedule for Ole Miss, as well as the NCAA Tournament resumes for Florida, LSU and South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Ole Miss Rebels

40-16 Overall | 19-11 SEC (2nd)

RPI: 12

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 22

Record against RPI top 25: 5-7

Record against RPI top 50: 14-11

Record against RPI top 100: 21-14

Road Record: 15-7

Florida Gators

37-19 Overall | 21-9 SEC (1st)

RPI: 2

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 1

Record against RPI top 25: 14-7

Record against RPI top 50: 22-13

Record against RPI top 100: 29-17

Road Record: 12-8

LSU Tigers

40-14-1 Overall | 17-11-1 SEC (3rd)

RPI: 16

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 45

Record against RPI top 25: 4-8

Record against RPI top 50: 12-12

Record against RPI top 100: 18-12-1

Road Record: 10-9

South Carolina Gamecocks

42-14 Overall | 18-12 SEC (t-4th)

RPI: 8

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 34

Record against RPI top 25: 8-7

Record against RPI top 50: 12-9

Record against RPI top 100: 23-12

Road Record: 8-9

Vanderbilt Commodores

40-16 Overall | 17-13 SEC (6th)

RPI: 6

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 4

Record against RPI top 25: 8-6

Record against RPI top 50: 18-14

Record against RPI top 100: 24-15

Road Record: 13-7

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Ole Miss and Arkansas are both looking to improve their Southeastern Conference standing and possibly play their way into a top-four seed and a double bye to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament next week in Atlanta.

The Rebels are tied for sixth in the league standings with LSU, Missouri and Texas A&M and would be the No. 7 seed if the season ended today. Ole Miss is 2-6 on the road in conference play, having lost five straight road games including a 71-60 loss at Texas A&M this past Saturday.

"We're not playing as well as I would have hoped," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We have struggled in a number of different areas. When we put our finger in one hole, another one opens up, whether it's offensive inefficiency or our inability to rebound. We have really struggled, especially on the road, and that continued in our last outing against A&M. 

"We have to come in understanding that there are two games left in the regular season, and there is still somewhat of a logjam in the middle of the pack. We're in the middle of that and we have to try to find a way to win some games and put ourselves in the best possible position heading into Atlanta."

Historically, Kennedy and Ole Miss have had success on the road at Arkansas. The Rebels have won four straight at Arkansas' Bud Walton Arena and have taken nine of their last 10 meetings with the Razorbacks.

"I would like to tell you that those prior four games would have some influence on our game Wednesday night, but unfortunately for us, they will not," Kennedy said. "It's a different set of circumstances, different players and different timing. Arkansas is playing as well as anybody in our league, having won five straight. They are playing with a great deal of confidence and a real sense of urgency that you would expect as they are closing in on trying to get into the NCAA Tournament and we know we will have our hands full."

Arkansas has won five straight games, including a 71-67 win at No. 15 Kentucky this past Thursday to complete the regular-season sweep of the Wildcats. The Razorbacks have moved into a tie with Tennessee for fourth in the league standings, but the Volunteers won the only head-to-head meeting and would be the No. 4 seed if the season ended today. 

"It should be a great game and a great atmosphere," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "It's Senior Night for our players, so we're looking forward to that challenge against Ole Miss. Everyone is trying to jockey for position at this time of year. We're no different than Ole Miss and everybody else in our conference."


SEC MBB Teleconference 3.3

Highlights of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. The Rebels close out the regular season with a road game at Arkansas on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN3) and then host Vanderbilt for Senior Day on Saturday (12:30 p.m., SEC Network).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

On Ole Miss' four-game winning streak at Arkansas' Bud Walton Arena:

I would like to tell you that those prior four games would have some influence on our game Wednesday night, but unfortunately for us, they will not. It's a different set of circumstances, different players and different timing. Arkansas is playing as well as anybody in our league, having won five straight. They are playing with a great deal of confidence and a real sense of urgency that you would expect as they are closing in on trying to get into the NCAA Tournament and we know we will have our hands full.

On how Ole Miss is playing of late:

We're not playing as well as I would have hoped. We have struggled in a number of different areas. When we put our finger in one hole, another one opens up, whether it's offensive inefficiency or our inability to rebound. We have really struggled, especially on the road, and that continued in our last outing against A&M. 

We have to come in understanding that there are two games left in the regular season, and there is still somewhat of a logjam in the middle of the pack. We're in the middle of that and we have to try to find a way to win some games and put ourselves in the best possible position heading into Atlanta.

On the disparity in how teams play at home versus on the road:

That's probably typical of most team in college basketball. For whatever reason, teams don't seem to play as well on the road. I can just speak personally about our group. We have some inexperienced guys at a number of different positions, and even the guys we had returning are playing expanded roles. 

With that comes a little bit of hesitancy and not playing with the same swagger you play with at home, when you can feed off the emotion of the crowd and you're more in the your comfort zone, and as a result, you don't play as confidently as you need to play on the road to make the plays that ultimately decide winning and losing.

On Marshall Henderson's season:

He's certainly been a marked man. His numbers are about the same. He's a volume guy. He broke the record for most threes attempted in a season, and he's leading the nation in 3-pointers attempted again. He's the same guy. He's a volume guy who we need to make shots. He's been more focused this year, and his game has developed as it relates to understanding and staying within the lines and playing with the right sort of focus. He hasn't varied a lot. 

Our biggest problem is we have lost two guys up front who were pillars in our program for a number of years, and we have replaced them with younger and inexperience guys, and as a result, we're not being productive up front.

On Arkansas' roster and depth:

It shows that they have depth and quality of depth. Ky Madden has developed into an all-league level player that everybody envisioned him having the opportunity to be. Michael Qualls has made that huge transformation from freshman to sophomore. They had (Alandise) Harris sitting out and you add a Bobby Portis to that. 

And then all of sudden, Mardracus Wade, who has played a lot of minutes in that program, (Anthlon) Bell, who didn't play as much last year, are now more seasoned and playing with a sense of urgency simply because they obviously want to get on the floor, and Mike (Anderson) has them playing at a very high level.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson

Opening statement:

As we get ready to finish up with conference, we face an Ole Miss team that everyone knows is a very explosive team. They have great guard play with Henderson, and I have always been impressed with Jarvis Summers. He's the head of that basketball team, and Henderson is an outstanding player. 

It should be a great game and a great atmosphere. It's Senior Night for our players, so we're looking forward to that challenge against Ole Miss. Everyone is trying to jockey for position at this time of year. We're no different than Ole Miss and everybody else in our conference.

On Coty Clarke earning SEC Player of the Week honors:

It's good to see his emergence. Being a junior college player, he now feels a lot more comfortable. He's a glue guy and does so many things for our basketball team. He's taken a leadership role, and now we see him doing a lot more things offensively and playing explosively. 

There's a reason why we recruited this young man coming out of junior college. He was one of the better rebounders in the country. He has nose for the ball and the game. To see him have an opportunity to be recognized as a Player of the Week tells you know how well he's playing at this point with our basketball team.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings

Opening statement:

We had a tough week last week. We played fairly well in one game and very poorly in the other. We have a few days here since we don't play until Thursday to hopefully, maybe fix ourselves a little bit. 

Nevertheless, we had a difficult against LSU the first time. We got whipped pretty good. We will have to certainly make some adjustments and play a lot better this time around. They have a very talented team and a very good team. We look forward to the week and hopefully we can play better and have better success than we did last week certainly.

No. 6 Ole Miss (37-20, 15-15 SEC) vs. No. 3 Arkansas (35-19, 18-11 SEC)

May 22 | 9:30 a.m. | Hoover, Ala. | Comcast Sports Southeast/ESPN3

UM So. RHP Sam Smith (3-0, 3.28 ERA) vs. UA Jr. RHP Barrett Astin (4-4, 2.02 ERA)


Ole Miss NCAA Tournament resume:


Overall Record: 37-20

SEC Record/Finish: 15-15/6th

RPI: 18

Strength of Schedule: 9

Record vs Top 50 RPI: 13-16 (includes Tuesday's 4-1 win against Kentucky)

Record vs. 51-100 RPI: 5-2

Record vs. 100+ RPI: 19-2


Ole Miss NCAA Tournament projection:


Mark Etheridge, SEBaseball.com (May 19): No. 2 seed in Louisville Regional

Kendall Rogers, Perfect Game (May 20): No. 2 seed in Clemson Regional


Smith looks for repeat performance: Sophomore right-hander Sam Smith gets the nod for Ole Miss against Arkansas. Head coach Mike Bianco said Tuesday that Smith threw short work before the game against Kentucky. 


It will be his second career start against the Razorbacks, as he took a no-decision in a 6-4 win against Arkansas in 13 innings earlier this season. He allowed one run on three hits with a walk and strikeout in five innings.


The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder remains unbeaten with a 3-0 record to go along with a 3.28 ERA, .281 B/AVG, 1.40 WHIP and 29-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his last six starts, he has allowed nine runs, seven of which were earned, in 29 innings.


Like junior right-hander Mike Mayers on Tuesday, Smith will be pitching on four days' rest, having pitched 3.1 innings against LSU this past Friday, giving up two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and two walks, as Ole Miss lost 5-4.


Astin settles into starter role: Sam Smith will be opposed on the mound by junior right-hander Barrett Astin for Arkansas. In his last outing, a start against Auburn this past Thursday, he took the loss, as he allowed three runs on nine hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings.


"He threw Thursday (against Auburn)," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said Monday. "He's probably, obviously, our freshest starter. Give him about five days rest."


The 6-foot-1, 200-punder has pitched in 16 games, including 12 as a starter, and holds a 4-4 record with a 2.02 ERA, .246 B/AVG, 1.18 WHIP and 56-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has bounced between the weekend rotation and bullpen, settling into the rotation where he has made nine starts. In those starts, he has allowed 15 runs, 12 of which were earned, in 45.2 innings.


He pitched in relief in a 6-4 loss to Ole Miss in 13 innings earlier this season, as he allowed one run on four hits with a strikeout. He also made a relief apperance against the Rebels in 2012, and two relief appearances in 2011.


The Arkansas pitching staff leads the nation with a team ERA of 1.90. The bullpen is a combined 10-7 with 17 saves and a 1.76 ERA


Ole Miss Lineup (career vs. UA JR RHP Barrett Astin)


LF Tanner Mathis (0-for-3)

3B Andrew Mistone (0-for-2)

SS Austin Anderson (0-for-4)

C Stuart Turner (0-for-1)

CF Auston Bousfield (0-for-2)

1B Sikes Orvis (2-for-2)

2B Preston Overbey (1-for-1)

RF Will Jamison (0-for-1, HBP)

DH Will Allen (1-for-2, BB)


Arkansas Lineup (career vs. UM SO RHP  Sam Smith)


DH Joe Serrano (1-for-2)

CF Matt Vinson (1-for-2)

LF Brian Anderson (0-for-2)

1B Dominic Ficociello (0-for-0)

RF Tyler Spoon (0-for-2)

3B Jacob Mahan (0-for-3)

2B Jordan Farris (0-for-0)

SS Brett McAfee (0-for-1)

C Jean Ramirez (0-for-0)

WHAT HAPPENED VS. KENTUCKY: On four days' rest, junior right-hander Mike Mayers pitched a gem, giving up one run (unearned) on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work, as No. 6 seed Ole Miss won its SEC Tournament opener 4-1 against No. 11 seed Kentucky.


"On short rest, the talking point after the game is how terrific Mike Mayers was," head coach Mike Bianco said. "I don't know if we have another guy who can do what Mike just did. It probably worked out better than we imagine; he was terrific today."


Kentucky threatened in the top of seventh, loading the bases, but junior left-hander Jeremy Massie got out of the inning with an infield fly popup and a groundout. In all, Massie allowed one hit with one walk in 1.2 scoreless innings.


"Jeremy Massie came in with a tough position with the tying run at the plate," Bianco said. "They get a swinging bunt, but he was super composed and gets the pop up and ground ball to get out of (the 7th inning)."


Offensively, the Ole Miss offense pounded out 11 hits, including four doubles, as eight of the nine starters recorded hits during the game. The top four in the order were 4-of-14 with two doubles and two RBI. The Rebels scored a run in the first and third, then two in the sixth.


"It was nice to watch guys continue to swing after coming off the last two games at LSU where we swung it pretty well," Bianco said.


Ole Miss advances to play No. 3 seed Arkansas tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. CT. The game will be televised on CSS and will be streamed online on ESPN3.


MAYERS ON SHORT REST: Mike Mayers made his second-straight start on four days' rest after throwing 105 pitches in a 7-1 loss to LSU this past Thursday and 94 pitches in a 3-0 win against Mississippi State the previous Saturday.


"I felt fine," Mayers said. "I think people make a bigger deal on short rest. You grew up, and nobody ever cared about rest. In the big leagues, you throw 200-plus innings. I stayed on the same routine I have been on the last two weeks. 


"It was one of those days. My fastball command was there. I really pride myself on fastball command and pitch off of that. When my fast ball command is there, coach Mike Bianco does the rest, and Stu(art) Turner does a great job behind the plate."


PITCHING PLAN GOING FORWARD: Mike Bianco did not announce a starter for Wednesday's game against Arkansas. He Bianco said on Monday junior right-hander Bobby Wahl won't start Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, but may work out of the bullpen.


"We'll have to see," Bianco said of the pitching plan. "We'll go back. (Sam) Smith threw a little short work today. We'll talk to Coach Lafferty and see how that went prior to the game and look at that. There are some things running through our head, and how we are going to use Bobby this week.


"It has more to do with health and setting up for next week, and remaining sure you can win the next game."


ANOTHER FAMILIAR FOE IN ARKANSAS: Ole Miss and Arkansas met in a three-game series in March in Fayetteville with the Rebels winning two of three to open Southeastern Conference play. Ole Miss won the series opener 7-1, then Arkansas evened the series with a 10-1 win in game two. In the series finale, Ole Miss won 6-4 in 13 innings.


"I thought we got them at a good time," Bianco said of the earlier series against Arkansas. "(Ryne) Stanek wasn't pitching as well. Dominic (Ficociello), he was playing in the series, but certainly hurt. It was good timing on our part. 


"You don't finish third in this league unless you're very, very good. Of course, they're outstanding on the mound. They have one of the best pitching staffs in the country, so it will be a good challenge for our offense."


Ole Miss also played Arkansas in last year's SEC Tournament, where it won 2-0 and eliminated the Razorbacks.


ASTIN TO START FOR ARKANSAS: Junior right-hander Barrett Astin will get the start for Arkansas. In his last outing, a start against Auburn this past Thursday, he took the loss, as he allowed three runs on nine hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings.


"He threw Thursday," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "He's probably, obviously, our freshest starter. Give him about five days rest."


He pitched 2.2 innings of relief against Ole Miss earlier this year, giving up one run on four hits with a strikeout. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder enters Wednesday's contest with a 4-4 record to go along with a 2.02 ERA, .254 B/AVG, 1.22 WHIP and 63-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio.


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