GAME NOTES: The Kansas State Wildcats will continue their season-long four- game homestand on Thursday night, as they face off with the unbeaten Ole Miss Rebels at Bramlage Coliseum as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
On the heels of its SEC Tournament Championship run a season ago, Ole Miss has picked up where it left off in the new campaign with wins in each of its first six games. The highlight of the Rebels' young season came last weekend in the Barclays Classic in Brooklyn, where they came away with wins over Georgia Tech (77-67) and Penn State (79-76) en route to the championship.
Meanwhile, Kansas State is off to a more modest 4-3 start to the season. It too participated in an early-season tournament, having traveled to San Juan for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, and after losses to Charlotte (68-61) and Georgetown (90-63) in the early rounds, it redeemed its trip with a win over Long Beach State (52-38). The Wildcats returned home on Sunday afternoon and dismissed Central Arkansas, 87-54.
Ole Miss has beaten Kansas State on all three previous occasions, most recently claiming an 86-74 decision in November of 2009.
The Rebels claimed the Barclays Classic title last Saturday behind a 46.2 percent shooting performance, which included an 11-of-24 showing from 3-point range. Marshall Henderson provided a spark off the bench with 19 points on 4- of-9 from beyond the arc, while Jarvis Summers also netted 19 points on top of handing out five assists. Derrick Millinghaus put up 14 points, while Demarco Cox (seven points, eight rebounds, three blocks) was named the tournament MVP after posting a 15-point, 13-rebound double-double the previous night versus Georgia Tech. On the season, Ole Miss has played outstanding on both ends of the floor, as it outshoots its opponents from the field, 44.3 percent to 38.1 percent, for a +15.5 scoring margin while also committing 3.5 fewer turnovers than it creates. Summers (15.7 ppg), Millinghaus (15.3 ppg) and Henderson (15.2 ppg) are all neck-and-neck for the scoring lead, and each player has reached double-digit 3-pointers. Cox is a sturdy presence in the paint with 8.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and more than a block per game.
The Wildcats did what was expected of them at home versus Central Arkansas the last time out, as they shot an impressive 46.3 percent from the floor and dominated the rebounding battle (52-22) en route to the 33-point victory. Shane Southwell led the charge with 19 points on 8-of-14 from the field, while Thomas Gipson added 17 points. Marcus Foster chipped in 10 points to the winning effort, while Will Spradling and Nino Williams just missed double- digits with nine points apiece. Scoring points hasn't come that easy for Kansas State this season, as it nets just 66.1 points per game on less than 42 percent from the field. Luckily, its defensive effort has been top-notch, as it allows only 61.6 points on 39.7 percent field-goal shooting. Foster (13.9 ppg) is the top scoring option, but he needs to improve upon his lackluster percentage from the floor (.405). Gipson (11.4 ppg) and Southwell (9.4 ppg) are both active on the glass with at least five boards per game.
Kansas State has the defensive scheme in place to slow down Ole Miss' playmakers. Playing at Bramlage Coliseum will certainly give KSU a leg up, but it'll ultimately be hard-pressed to keep up with a Rebels' squad that has played sound defense in their own right this season.
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