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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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