The 23rd-ranked Ole Miss Rebels will try to extend the SEC's longest active winning streak on Thursday night, as they play host to the Tennessee Volunteers at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Tennessee had been losers of a season-high four-straight games prior to its 72-57 triumph at home over Mississippi State last Saturday -- its first win in conference this season. The Vols are now 9-7 overall, but they have not fared well away from home, losing all four of their true road matchups.
Ole Miss ran its current winning streak to seven games by claiming a 76-64 decision over Arkansas last Saturday, climbing to 15-2 and 4-0 in SEC play. The Rebels' recent run has allowed them to crack the Top-25 for the first time since 2010, and they are off to their best start to a season since the 1936-37 campaign when they were 16-2 and 5-0 in conference.
Ole Miss has won two in a row against Tennessee, including a 92-74 decision in Knoxville earlier this season, but the Vols still hold a 69-40 advantage in the all-time series.
The Volunteers were able to snap their recent skid last weekend by putting together an impressive all-around effort in the 25-point win, shooting 46.7 percent from the field while holding Mississippi State to 37.5 percent. Jarnell Stokes was the catalyst in the UT frontcourt with 18 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, while Josh Richardson scored 16 points and Jordan McRae netted a dozen. The bench got into the act as well, with Trae Golden tallying 10 points and nine assists, and Armani Moore grabbing 11 rebounds. The majority of Tennessee's success this season has come thanks to a stellar defense, as the team yields just 62.3 ppg on 40.7 percent field goal efficiency. Its defensive play helps make up for a rather modest offensive attack (.430 FG percentage, 65.6 ppg). McRae had scored at least 20 points in four straight contests prior to the MSU game, which has helped to position himself as the team's top scorer at 13.8 ppg. Stokes records 11.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg and more than a block per contest, while shooting 52 percent from the field. Golden adds 10.8 ppg and 4.5 apg, but he has been relegated to the bench in recent weeks, which perhaps has something to do with his disappointing field goal percentage (.359).
Ole Miss sports the nation's third-best scoring offense, as it pours in 82.4 ppg, and while it didn't reach that mark in its most recent game, it was still able to notch a double-digit victory by holding Arkansas below 40 percent shooting while forcing 19 turnovers. The Rebels have seen much better days from the field themselves (28-of-70), but they still had five players reach double figures, led by 16 points from Marshall Henderson, who is the SEC's leading scorer at 18.9 ppg. Murphy Holloway (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Reginald Buckner (10 points, 10 boards) both logged double-doubles, while Jarvis Summers (seven assists) and Nick Williams each tallied 14 points. While Henderson is the team's catalyst, there are others who made regular contributions. Murphy is outstanding in the low post, netting 15.8 ppg on nearly 56 percent shooting, while ranking first in the SEC in rebounding with 10.6 per contest. Buckner (10.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.9 bpg) is even more efficient, making greater than 63 percent of his attempts from the floor, and Williams (10.3 ppg) and Summers (8.7 ppg, 3.7 apg) round out a starting five that can compete with anyone in the conference.