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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."

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