Rebels look for quality win at UMass

Published 12:00 pm Friday, December 4, 2015

It’s technically a neutral-site game, but Ole Miss’ trip to Massachusetts this weekend is really an opportunity to grab a shiny road win for its postseason resume.

The Rebels will travel up the East Coast on Saturday (3 p.m., NBCSN) to take on UMass in the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase in Springfield, Massachusetts, roughly 25 miles from the Minutemen’s Amherst campus. UMass has won five of its first six games, including victories over Harvard, an NCAA Tournament team the last three years, and Boston University, a top-100 RPI team.

The Minutemen returned home after splitting games against Clemson and Creighton in the MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas to pummel Boston by 30 on Wednesday, putting them at No. 57 in the NCAA’s latest RPI rankings. A top-100 RPI win is something the Rebels (5-2) don’t have yet.

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“It’ll be another difficult game for us,” Kennedy said. “Another road opportunity. Even though it’s neutral, we realize Amherst to Springfield is a little closer than Oxford to Springfield, so they’ll probably have a few more fans there than we will.”

The game sets up for an intriguing guard matchup between Ole Miss’ Stefan Moody and UMass’ Jabarie Hinds. Moody, who’s taken over at the point on a full-time basis, is averaging 22 points a game while Hinds, a West Virginia transfer, isn’t far behind at 19.7 points per game in his second season in the program.

Trey Davis (18.8 points) and Donte Clark (16.8) join Hinds in UMass’ backcourt to combine for more than 55 of the Minutemen’s 83.3 points per game. Ole Miss has won the rebounding battle in all but one game this season but has given opponents extra chances in the open floor with nearly 12 turnovers a game, something Kennedy knows can’t happen against the Minutemen’s guard trio.

“The thing that’s really hurting us is our open-floor, live-ball turnovers,” Kennedy said. “If we can eliminate some of those, then I think we’ll do a much better job with our effective field-goal percentage defensively.”