Preview: Middle Tennessee State at Mississippi
After a 6-0 start, Mississippi has been brought back down from the clouds in its last two contests, dropping both to make its Saturday matchup with Middle Tennessee State close to a must-win game. The Rebels will play three home contests in the span of eight days prior to Christmas, and coach Andy Kennedy certainly wants to get his team back on the winning track. Not that the two losses have been bad - a three-point setback at Kansas State followed by an overtime shootout loss to nationally ranked Oregon - but Mississippi certainly would rather collect some wins before the holidays.Middle Tennessee State certainly won't be a pushover for the Rebels, as the Blue Raiders sport an equally gaudy 7-2 mark. Florida is the biggest name on Middle Tennessee State's schedule thus far, and the Gators handed the Raiders one of their two losses. But the Rebels can't afford to look past the Raiders and plan on an easy win, or they may find themselves saddled with their third loss.TV: 5 p.m. ET, ESPN3ABOUT MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (7-2): Coach Kermit Davis is doing a little tweaking to his lineup heading into Saturday'si game, hoping to get his three post players more time on the floor. Davis plans to move Neiko Hunter to small forward, which would allow forward Jacquez Rozier to get into the starting lineup rather than play sparingly off the bench in place of Hunter and Shawn Jones. "They are all jammed up at the same two spots, so hopefully in the next two or three weeks, we can get better (with all three playing together)," Davis told the Daily News Journal. The move to the bigger lineup is made easier by the early-season departures of guards Eric Wortham (dismissed) and Ronald Ross (transferred).ABOUT MISSISSIPPI (6-2): One game after holding Kansas State to 61 points but losing because of a lack of offense, the Rebels scored 105 points and still lost, giving up 115 to Oregon. It was a frustrating turn of events for Kennedy, who wants his team to focus more on the defensive end, knowing that the offense will come on most nights. "We never got key stops (against Oregon)," Kennedy said. "You can't let a team come into your building and shoot 59 percent and score 115 points and expect to win."TIP-INS1. The Blue Raiders have had at least four players finish in double figures in scoring in seven of nine contests this season. 2. Mississippi G Marshall Henderson's 23 3-point attempts against Oregon were more than the Rebels recorded as a team in five of their previous seven contests this season.3. Middle Tennessee State leads the overall series with the Rebels 4-2, winning the last four meetings - including a three-point victory last December.
PREDICTION: Mississippi 89, Middle Tennessee State 78