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In the early part of the week, Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze reached an agreement on a new contract. In the late part of the week, the Rebels learned their postseason bowl destination. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- Bjork and Freeze broke the news of a new contract via Twitter early Tuesday. The terms of the new contract will be released as they are finalized and are expected in the coming days.

- For the second straight season, No. 9 Ole Miss will end its season in the same city in which it began it, having defeated Boise State in Atlanta in its season opener and now returning to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 against No. 6 TCU.

"It's an exciting time in college athletics, and we are thrilled to be one of the teams selected in the first 'New Year's Six' bowls," Freeze said. "We are honored to accept this great invitation and take on an outstanding TCU team. Atlanta is a place that is very dear to our program, and it's important to us that we represent our great university."

- When the regular season was said and done, Ole Miss had defeated the only two teams to be ranked No. 1 in the CFB Playoff Rankings (Alabama and Mississippi State) and three 10-win teams (Alabama, Boise State, Mississippi State), all of whom are also playing in "New Year's Six Bowls." Check out this infographic recapping the Rebels' 2014 season.

- TCU was ranked No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings last week, only to fall to No. 6 behind No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Baylor in the final rankings. Despite his team's exclusion from the national semifinals, TCU head coach Gary Patterson doesn't expect a letdown. 

"I don't think it will linger at all," Patterson said. "Ole Miss has been ranked as high as third in the national standings. So, for us, we know we're playing a very good football team. We want to prove that we were a team that should have been in the playoffs, and the Peach Bowl and playing Ole Miss is exactly the game we should be in." 

- Freeze has become the only coach in school history to guide Ole Miss to bowl berths in each of his first three seasons.

- Ole Miss will put its 23-12 bowl record (.657 winning percentage), the second-best in the nation, and a six-game bowl win streak, tied with Florida State for the longest in the nation, on the line against TCU.

- The matchup presents the No. 1 scoring defense (Ole Miss) against the nation's No. 2 scoring offense (TCU), which as both coaches noted on the media teleconference is kind of ironic, given Freeze's background as offensive coach and Patterson's background as a defensive coach.

"He's the defensive guru that I have wanted to learn from," said Freeze of Patterson.

- As Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com noted on Twitter, Bo Wallace has a chance to the be the first Ole Miss quarterback in school history to start and win three bowl games, having earned MVP honors in bowl wins over Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech the last two years.

- The Rebels' return to Atlanta is another homecoming of sorts for nine players from the Atlanta area, headlined by Evan Engram, one of the nation's best tight ends, Mike Hilton, the Rebels' leading tackler and Robert Nkmediche, a Lombardi Award semifinalist.

- Ole Miss has traveled well for bowl games in recent years, and within hours, discounted Ole Miss student tickets for the Chick-fil-A Bowl sold out. More ticket info here

"We were really excited to find out about the announcement of both TCU and Ole Miss because both teams are renowned for their passionate fan bases, and so we believe we'll be in for our 18th straight sellout with both fan bases flocking to Atlanta to support two of the top-10 teams in the country," said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl president and CEO.

- Be sure to visit and bookmark Ole Miss Bowl Central and Chick-fil-A Bowl Central and stay tuned to @OleMissFB and @CFAPeachBowl for all things Chick-fil-A Bowl related.

- Men's basketball head coach Andy Kennedy notched perhaps the best non-conference win of his nine-year tenure, as Ole Miss defeated Oregon 79-73 in Eugene on Sunday afternoon. Stefan Moody led the Rebels with 22 points, including this first-half buzzer beater.

- Through eight games, Ole Miss has three quality non-conference wins, all away from home (vs. Creighton, vs. Cincinnati, at Oregon), while both of its losses came at home against Charleston Southern and TCU.

- Similar to Kennedy who sent a message to his team a couple of weeks ago, women's basketball head coach Matt Insell said his team has to get their effort back right and their toughness has to get better, having lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.

"We have to go back to the drawing board this week and figure out some things," Insell said. "I'm going to break down film and figure out what we can fix as a basketball team and why we're not playing as well as we played over Thanksgiving break and how we can start getting back to playing better before we head into SEC play."

- It's final exam week on the Ole Miss campus, so check out this creative hype video from Ole Miss Sports Productions.


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It's that busy time of the year with the Ole Miss football, volleyball, men's and women's basketball teams all in action. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was in Ole Miss sports:

- A slow start (17-0 first-quarter deficit), a stalled running game (33 carries for 37 yards) and six turnovers (two in the red zone) all had a hand in a 30-0 loss at Arkansas, ending the Rebels' SEC West title hopes. There's not much else to say.

"I told our kids in locker room," Freeze said, '"I don't like the way we finished year two and I don't like the way we played tonight.'

- It's clear Ole Miss misses Laquon Treadwell, not just his production, but also his leadership and playmaking abilities. Playing without the sophomore star for the first time in SEC play, Ole Miss was shut out for the first time this season. The Rebels managed just three plays of 20 or more yards, and their active leading receiver, Vince Sanders, was held without a catch in the contest.

- Give the defense credit for keeping as close as they did for as long as they did. Facing a short field for much of the game, the Ole Miss defense allowed just one touchdown in five trips to the red zone for Arkansas. The Razorbacks started on average from their own 43-yard line and they had scoring drives of 52, 24, 49, 41, 0 and 0 yards, respectively.

- Ole Miss also found itself on the wrong side of history, as Arkansas became the first unranked team to ever shut out two ranked opponents in back-to-back games.

- With Arkansas becoming bowl eligible, an entire division will advance to the postseason for the first time in Southeastern Conference history. What's more impressive, the SEC West is a combined a 38-3 against non-SEC West opponents, including a combined 28-0 against non-conference opponents.

- For the second straight season, both SEC divisions will be determined on the final weekend. Alabama and Missouri each control their destiny, while Georgia needs an Arkansas win over Missouri, and Mississippi State needs a win over Ole Miss and an Auburn win over Alabama. Ole Miss, like Arkansas and Auburn, will play a spoiler role, looking to eliminate Mississippi State from SEC West title contention.

"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."

- Ole Miss volleyball's Nakeyta Clair set the school single-season kills record in the rally scoring era, putting down nine kills in a four-set loss to No. 6 Florida this past Friday. The Rebels bounced back with a five-set win over Alabama on Sunday, the second match in a four-match homestand to close out the regular season. Ole Miss will host Texas A&M on Friday for Senior Day, where the Rebels will honor the senior trio Marie-Pierre Bakima, Cara Fisher and Rachael Weathersby.

- Father, Rick, and Middle Tennessee State got the best of son, Matt, and Ole Miss, in the first-ever meeting between father and son head coach in NCAA Division I women's basketball history. The result was not what Matt and the Rebels wanted, but the matchup provided a tough test for a young team learning every game and created some buzz and excitement surrounding the program.

- Here's a nice story on Rick and Matt Insell from Will Borthick from the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Check it out.

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team rebounded nicely from a heartbreaking overtime loss to Charleston Southern, rattling off three straight wins over Troy, Southern and Northern Arizona, going into this weekend's game in Niceville, Florida. The Rebels will face Creighton and then either Cincinnati or Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Jays, which return one starter from last year's 27-8 team, is off to a 4-0 start, including a win over No. 18 Oklahoma.

- Head coach Andy Kennedy said he has been surprised by how much he has learned a lot about his team, one that includes five newcomers, and he spoke very honestly about what he has learned through four games: "We're not as tough physically as I would have hoped," said Kennedy after an 80-74 win over Northern Arizona. "We make excuses. I didn't know this group would do that. I know some of it is a defense mechanism. I get that. I have done this a long time. Sometimes, that's the easy way out. It's the default mode. I get it, but we have to get tougher. We have to play to our abilities. I don't think we have played to our ability yet."

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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.

Recapping the SEC Network Launch

More Links:

Photo Gallery

Notes and Quotes from SEC Network's Debut

 

 

Bjork Talks Hoops On Studio 18 Live

Studio 18 Live - March 19, 2014 from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork recaps the 2013-14 men's and women's basketball seasons and shares his thoughts on Auburn hiring Bruce Pearl as men's basketball coach.


AUDIO: SEC WBB Teleconference 3.3

Audio of Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell's time on the SEC teleconference Monday as well as audio of Arkansas head coach Tom Collen and Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy.

Ole Miss is the No. 14 seed in this week's 2014 SEC Tournament in Duluth, Ga., and will open tournament action against 11-seed Arkansas in the first round Wednesday (7:30 p.m. CT, Fox Sports South/SportSouth). The winner of Wednesday's game will play 6-seed Auburn in the second round Thursday.

Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell

Arkansas head coach Tom Collen

Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy

VIDEO: Matt Insell UF Postgame Presser

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Three things from Ole Miss women's basketball head coach Matt Insell, previewing the Rebels' game vs. Mississippi State Thursday night:

1. Rivalry Game

This is the 86th meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The Rebels hold a 62-23 series advantage, but the Bulldogs have six of the last seven meetings. Prior to an Ole Miss win last season, Mississippi State had won the previous six meetings, its longest winning streak in the series. 

Head coach Matt Insell said they can't get too high or too low in a rivalry game. He has talked to the team about having poise in all situations and not playing on emotion, particularly in the first four to five minutes of the game.

"It's the next game on the schedule," Insell said. "Rivalry games are important because you want to win them, but it's no more important than the last game was against Arkansas. We're going to attack this game no different than we attacked the Arkansas game or the Vanderbilt game. We're going to go in and prepare for this game the same way. 

"I'm sure there will be an extra edge. There is with our staff, and I know the players will have an extra edge in terms of focusing in and preparing themselves because you always want to beat your rival. It's important not only to you, but it's really important to your fan base and the whole Rebel Nation to get a win over Mississippi State."

2. Breaking Through

With Sunday's 68-65 loss at Arkansas, Ole Miss is now winless in its last 10 SEC games, dating back to the 2012-13 season. However, in SEC play this season, the Rebels have lost three of their five games by nine points or less.

"We're at that point where we're having a chance to win games," Insell said. "Now, we have to win those games. We have to start making that shot when you're open, and we have to start getting that rebound when it comes off. We're right there at that point. 

"I talk about the process. Early on, the process was to convince our team that we can compete in these games. Now that we have shown that we can compete, the process changes. Now, you have to start talking about how we're competing, but how can we finish these games."

3. Following McFarland's Lead

Senior guard Valencia McFarland leads the team and ranks seventh in the SEC in scoring averaging 16.2 points per game. McFarland has scored 20 or more points in back-to-back games with a career-high 28 points against Vanderbilt, followed by 25 against Arkansas, marking her sixth and seventh 20-point game of the season.

McFarland also ranks second in the SEC in assists averaging 6.2 assists per game. Insell noted that McFarland has played at this high level despite teams double-teaming her and doing other things defensively against her.

"She has taken her game to a different level," Insell said. "I have said time after time that she's the best point guard in this league. She's showing that night in and night out. She's going out and giving us what she has to give us. Her game is at a high, high level right now, and other people are taking notice."

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Three things from the SEC teleconference on Wednesday, previewing Ole Miss' game vs. No. 24/No. 25 Vanderbilt on Thursday night:

1. Rebels Remain Confident Despite 0-3 SEC Start

With a 93-79 loss at Alabama in its last game on Sunday, Ole Miss dropped to 0-3 in Southeastern Conference play. The loss also extended Ole Miss' SEC losing streak to eight games dating back to the 2012-13 season. Entering league play, the Rebels had won eight of nine games, with an 87-80 loss at No. 9 Baylor.

"We're in a good place," head coach Matt Insell said Wednesday. "We're not happy about being 0-3. We know we're 0-3, and it's not something we're hiding behind. We hurt ourselves in a lot of those games. We have to get better as a team, and if we do that, the wins will come. 

'We are still as confident as we were before we started SEC play. We're going to play our game. We're going to do what we do. We're going to go out there and get better executing and show some more toughness defensively, and that's the thing I'm asking them to do."

2. Newly Ranked Commodores Look To Continue Momentum

Vanderbilt's No. 24 ranking in this week's Associated Press poll marks the Commodores' first appearance in the poll since Nov. 19, 2012. The Commodores have won 11 of their last 12 games, including a 74-63 upset win over No. 8 Tennessee.

The Commodores are third in the SEC in scoring offense (79.2 ppg) and shoot the ball exceptionally well, leading the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage (41.6%) and ranking second in field goal percentage (48.1%).

"Vanderbilt has a great team and coming off a great win," Insell said Wednesday. "They're a very fundamental team and running their stuff, and that's what makes them really good. In their offensive sets, Vanderbilt is as good as any team in the league or any team in the country, in terms of executing what they want to execute. 

"They have the right people taking the shots that they want to take. You don't see a lot of deviating outside of what they're doing offensively. That presents a big challenge because they run so much stuff that you have to worry about guarding. That's tough for you defensively."

3. McFarland-Lister Point Guard Battle

Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb credited the play of her two seniors, Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister, for the Commodores success this season. Foggie leads the team in scoring (18.8 ppg), followed by Lister (16.3 ppg), who was recently named SEC Player of the Week. Lister also leads the SEC in minutes played (35.2 mpg).

Lister runs the point for the Commodores, and for the Rebels, senior point guard Valencia McFarland was recently named to the Nancy Lieberman Watch List, which is given to the nation's top point guard. McFarland is second on the team in scoring (15.0 ppg) behind junior forward Tia Faleru (16.2 ppg). She is also second in the SEC in assists (6.2 apg) and ninth in steals (2.0 spg).

"Jasmine Lister is one of the best guards in the league," Insell said. "She brings toughness, and she's one of the toughest kids in the league, in terms of playing through a lot of adversity at times. When things are going good or when things are going bad, she always finds a way to make a play, like she did against Tennessee. Her toughness on the floor shows in the rest of the players who play with her. I have a lot of respect for her game, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of having to play against her tomorrow night."

SEC WBB Teleconference 1.15

Full transcript of Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, as well as selected questions and answers from Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb. The Rebels host the Commodores on Thursday night (6 p.m.) and then travel to Fayetteviile, Ark., to play the Razorbacks on Sunday (2 p.m., Cox Sports).

Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell

Opening Statement:

We're still in the process of growing as a team. We're not as far along as I would have liked to be at this point. Our record doesn't show where I would like it to be at this point. We are doing better as a team each day and as a program, and I'm very happy with the progress that we're making. We will continue to make strides and continue get better, and our record will show that as the year continues.

On Vanderbilt and senior guard Jasmine Lister:

Jasmine Lister is one of the best guards in the league. She brings toughness, and she's one of the toughest kids in the league, in terms of playing through a lot of adversity at times. When things are going good or when things are going bad, she always finds a way to make a play, like she did against Tennessee. Her toughness on the floor shows in the rest of the players who play with her. I have a lot of respect for her game, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of having to play against her tomorrow night. 

Vanderbilt has a great team and coming off a great win. They're a very fundamental team and running their stuff, and that's what makes them really good. In their offensive sets, Vanderbilt is as good as any team in the league or any team in the country, in terms of executing what they want to execute. They have the right people taking the shots that they want to take. You don't see a lot of deviating outside of what they're doing offensively. That presents a big challenge because they run so much stuff that you have to worry about guarding. That's tough for you defensively. And then you go offensively, and they run a lot of defenses, from a 2-3 zone, to a 1-3-1 zone, to a 3-2 zone, to a 1-2-2 zone. They run different stuff to try to keep you out of sorts offensively. That's something that we have worked hard on the last couple of days and not worrying about what they're in and executing what we want to execute. If we will do that, it should be an interesting game.

On the team's confidence after starting 0-3 in Southeastern Conference play:

We're in a good place. We're not happy about being 0-3. We know we're 0-3, and it's not something we're hiding behind. We hurt ourselves in a lot of those games. We have to get better as a team, and if we do that, the wins will come. We are still as confident as we were before we started SEC play. We're going to play our game. We're going to do what we do. We're going to go out there and get better executing and show some more toughness defensively, and that's the thing I'm asking them to do. 

If we will show toughness defensively and we start guarding people, instead of giving up 80-90 points, we will have a chance to win these games. We're scoring enough points to win games; we're just not guarding people well enough right now, and that comes with toughness. We will continue to get better at that, so our confidence is as high as it's been.

On the impact of the 87-80 loss at No. 8 Baylor on the program's growth:

It showed us that we can compete with anybody in the country. We played well that night. A lot of situations with us are about matchups. We're not very big, and so when teams are bigger than us, that hurts us from time to time in rebounding. We need to do a better job of boxing out, and we're working hard at that. But that game showed us that we can play at the top level, so now we have to take that effort that we had in that game, and we had great effort that game and we played as a team. 

I told the team yesterday that the only game we played all together, all 12 of us together and believing in the process and believing in what we're doing, was that game. If we can find out what we did in that game to do that and bundle that up and put it in these game coming up, then we have a chance to win some games and get some big wins. That game helped us and showed us where we're at, and it showed us where we can be. 

You look at what Baylor did to Connecticut the other night. With two minutes to go, they were in the game, and with two minutes to go against us, they were up two. So we have to take that game and that effort and we have to figure out what we did in that game and put it all together moving forward in SEC play.

Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb

Opening Statement:

We're just focused on our next game. We have done a really good job of taking it one game at a time. I have two seniors who are playing the best basketball that they have played in their four years here, and they are playing like seniors. We are looking forward to getting down to Ole Miss and playing better in each game, playing a little bitter than we just did coming off that win against Tennessee

On Ole Miss under first-year head coach Matt Insell:

They're scoring a lot of points. They're running and good in transition. They're uptempo. They're very guard-oriented and they crash the board really well. We will have to defend them and check out, which is the way you have to play a lot of games in the SEC. Where they have improved a lot from last year is their scoring.

On Vanderbilt senior guards Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister and their composure:

It starts with Jasmine Lister and her ability to control her emotions this year. She's a fiery kid, but this year, she's so much more consistent. There's an emotional maturity that they have both been working on and getting better at. And so you see down the stretch, between their experience and confidence, they have worked extremely hard on their preparation. They prepare like their seniors. They prepare like their pro basketball players, and when players do that in my program and in my system in their senior year, you usually have that confidence and composure that we need to put us in a situation to be successful.

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