Ole Miss men’s basketball ready for Hall of Fame series showdown with Cal

Published 4:26 pm Friday, December 15, 2023

By Ole Miss Athletics

The No. 25 Ole Miss men’s basketball team takes their undefeated record on the road this weekend, traveling to Texas to battle California in the 2023 Hall of Fame Series on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 6:30 p.m. in the Frost Bank Center on the SEC Network.

Ole Miss Rebels (9-0)
Head Coach: Chris Beard • 1st Season at Ole Miss (9-0) • 246-98 career record (12th Season)

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California (3-6)
Head Coach: Mark Madsen • 1st Season at California (3-6) • 73-57 career record (16th Season)

Television/Online: SEC Network
Play-by-Play: Kevin Fitzgerald
Color: Carolyn Peck

Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network
Play-by-Play: David Kellum
Color: Marc Dukes

Just the second game between these two programs on the court, this will be the first contest between Ole Miss and Cal in the regular season. In their first meeting, the Rebels and Golden Bears were paired in the first round of the 2011 NIT, with Ole Miss traveling to Berkeley, Calif., where they lost a close game by three, 77-74.

• Cal led a majority of the contest, with Ole Miss making it a one-point game late. However, free throws pushed the Golden Bear’s lead to three, with a missed three as time expired by the Rebels ending the game.
• Chris Warren led the Rebels in scoring with 23 points, sinking five three pointers. Zach Graham (17 points) and Terrance Henry (11 points) scored in double figures as well.
• Cal had a pair of 20-point games from Jorge Gutierrez (25 points) and Allen Crabbe (20 points).

Cal has started their 2023-24 campaign with a 3-6 record, picking up wins over St. Thomas, CSU Bakersfield, and Santa Clara. Their record may not do the team justice, as two of their losses have come in overtime, and three more were by just three points.

A transfer from Texas Tech, and Texas before that, the Golden Bears are led offensively by Jaylon Tyson. The junior landed on the preseason watchlist for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award, and is currently averaging 19.9 points per game. Sixth-year forward Fardaws Aimaq is averaging a double-double thus far, at 17.3 points and 10.7 boards per game. Guard Jalen Cone averages 17.0 per contest and has made a team-best 33 three pointers.

A team that leans on the three-point shot, Cal ranks No. 51 in the NCAA in attempts from deep per game, averaging 25.9 per outing. They’re shooting translates to the free throw line as well, as their team percentage of 75.3 is the 52nd-best mark in the nation. Led down low by Aimaq, Cal’s rebounding margin of 6.7 is No. 56 in the NCAA.

In his first year with the program, head coach Mark Madsen joined Cal after four successful years at Utah Valley, where he won 70 games including 28 last season. Earning a bid to the 2023 NIT with the Wolverines, Madsen guided them to a first round win over New Mexico, a victory at Colorado, and took down Cincinnati to advance to the semifinals.

With their 9-0 record, Ole Miss earned a top-25 ranking for the first time since January 2019 in the most recent polls. Earning 79 points in the USA Today Coaches Poll, Ole Miss is ranked 25th in the country, and earned 86 points from the AP to sit just outside at No. 27. The Rebels are the only unbeaten team in the country not ranked in the AP Top 25.

With the hiring of Chris Beard last March, the Ole Miss men’s basketball program is prepared to take the next step forward, bringing in one of the most successful coaches of the last decade.

Compiling a record of 246-98 as an NCAA head coach since 2012, Beard holds one of the highest win percentages in the nation, ranking 10th among active head coaches with 10 or more years of experience at 71.5%.

The 2019 AP National Coach of the Year has led three different programs to the NCAA Tournament over the previous eight years, and is undefeated in the opening round at 5-0. His all-time record in the NCAA Tournament is 11-5 (.688).

Ole Miss is one of just seven teams in the country who remain unbeaten, and are the only one in the SEC, at 9-0. This marks just the fourth time in program history the Rebels have gone undefeated through their first nine games of the season, with the last coming in 2007-08.

2007-08: Began 13-0
2000-01: Began 11-0
1936-37: Began 11-0

With 12 points in Ole Miss’ win over NC State, Matthew Murrell surpassed the 1,000-career point mark, becoming the 42nd student-athlete in program history to do so. Now at 1,065 points in his career with the Rebels, he Murrell is 39th in school history and sits one point behind next on the list, Jason Harrison (1998-2002).

After posting the third double-double of his career in the season opener (15 points, career-best 12 rebounds), Allen Flanigan followed it up with a career-best 29 points against Eastern Washington. The senior guard surpassed the 1,000 career-point mark against the Eagles, and played a key part in securing the victory by scoring eight of the last 11 points for the Rebels.

He once again led the team in scoring with 23 against Sam Houston, connecting on a career-best 14 makes from the free throw line. The senior helped lead Ole Miss to victory in their first road game at Temple with 26 points, the second-most scored in a game for his career, while tallying a career-best seven assists. Flanigan added his second double-double of the year in a 20-point win over NC State in the ACC/SEC Challenge with 15 points and 10 rebounds and helped Ole Miss take down Memphis with 18.

His 18.0 points per game average ranks third in the SEC and No. 88 in the NCAA.

Averaging 6.7 blocks per game, Ole Miss ranks sixth in the country and is keeping opponents to just 39.5 percent shooting from the floor which ranks No. 42 in the nation. The muscle in the paint for the Rebels so far has been Jamarion Sharp, who leads the SEC in blocks per game (2.33) and is second in blocks (21), ranking No. 18 and No. 29 in the NCAA, respectively. Ole Miss has been even better at defending down low recently with the recent waiver approval of forward Moussa Cisse, who averages 1.83 blocks per game for his career, the 12th-best average in the NCAA among all active players.

Through the first nine games of the season, Ole Miss has shown elite ball control and movement on the offensive side. With a total of 141 assists compared to just 98 turnovers, the Rebels’ assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.44 ranks No. 52 in the nation.

The team is led in assists by Jaylen Murray (39 assists to 15 turnovers) and Matthew Murrell (29 assists to 21 turnovers). Murray’s 2.6 assists-to-turnover ratio ranks 79th in the NCAA and seventh in the SEC.

Ole Miss has been one of the best in the country at defending the three-point shot this season, holding opponents to 26.8% from deep through nine games, the 14th-best mark in the nation. The Rebels have kept their foe to 20% or less in five games this year, including four straight:

Eastern Washington: 4-22 (18.2%)
NC State: 3-25 (12.0%)
Memphis: 3-18 (16.7%)
Mount St. Mary’s: 5-25 (20.0%)
UCF: 4-22 (18.2%)

The roster for Ole Miss this season has the tallest student-athlete in Division I in forward Jamarion Sharp, and has the shortest student-athlete in the country in guard Cam Brent. The two stand a full two feet apart in height, with Sharp at 7’5″ and Brent at 5’5″.

Career milestones to watch for the Rebels:

Jaemyn Brakefield
• Career Rebounds: 436
• Ole Miss Career Assists: 99
Allen Flanigan
• Career 3PM: 99
Matthew Murrell
• Career Points: 1,065 – Ranks 39th at Ole Miss (No. 38: Jason Harrison, 1,066)
• Career 3PM: 159 – 163 enters top-10 in school history
• Career 3PA: 467 – Ranks 10th at Ole Miss (No. 9: Stefan Moody, 494)
• Career FTM: 198

Forwards Jamarion Sharp and Moussa Cisse rank among the nation’s best in active career leaders in a handful of statistical categories. After becoming the fifth player ever to lead the NCAA in blocks in two seasons, Sharp ranks first in both career blocks and career blocked shots per game. Establishing himself as a premier shot blocker as well, Cisse ranks 12th in blocks per game and 15th in total blocks.

Averaging 7.2 rebounds per game in his career, Sharp ranks No. 45 in the country, while Cisse’s 632 career boards rank No. 73. Cisse also ranks among the top-50 in double-doubles with 15.

On October 27th, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced their 20-member watch list for the 2024 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award. For the second consecutive year, Jamarion Sharp saw his name on that list.