GAME NOTES: A pair of eight-win teams will square off at E.A. Diddle Arena on Monday night, as the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers host the Ole Miss Rebels in a non-conference affair.
A 3-pointer at the buzzer from Mercer's Langston Hall ended a short two-game winning streak for Ole Miss, which fell, 79-76, to the Bears last Sunday. The Rebels have been idle since. They are 8-3 overall this season, with a 1-1 split of only two true road tests. Ole Miss faces Dayton on Saturday before getting the SEC schedule going next week.
Western Kentucky has begun to pick up stream with wins in three straight and four of its last five outings. The most recent victory came on Saturday, as the Hilltoppers ran over Brescia, 103-65. They are now 8-4 overall, and that includes a perfect 7-0 mark at home. WKU is on the road in its first two Sun Belt bouts against South Alabama and Troy later this week.
This matchup is the first ever between the Hilltoppers and Rebels on the hardwood.
Ole Miss clawed its way back from a 49-33 deficit early in the second half to even things at 76-76 with 13 seconds left on a 3-pointer from Marshall Henderson. The Rebels were silenced at the other end though, as Hall nailed the game-winner in the final seconds.
In the loss, the Rebels shot right around their season average, netting 44.3 percent from the field, while taking a liberal number of shots from beyond the arc (7-of-24). Ole Miss leads the SEC in 3-point attempts (253) and 3-point field goals (60). Henderson (18.7 ppg) is at the center of the long-range barrage, as he leads the team in scoring while shooting 37.6 percent from beyond the arc. Henderson had 18 points on 5-of-16 shooting against Mercer, including a 4-of-14 showing from 3-point range. Jarvis Summers (16.5 ppg) is a more efficient scorer, and is coming off a 21-point effort in the loss to Mercer.
Against NAIA foe Brescia, Western Kentucky had very little trouble. The Hilltoppers connected on 56.9 percent of their shots from the floor, scored 33 points off of 24 turnovers and had a 29-7 scoring advantage from the free- throw line. George Fant tallied 23 points to carry the squad.
Fant (14.2 ppg, 6 rpg) and T.J. Price (16.3 ppg) are a potent scoring tandem for the Hilltoppers, who are only averaging 67.8 ppg and shooting 41.2 percent from the field. They make up for their offensive struggles by holding opponents to 64.5 ppg and a 43.6 percent success rate from the field. Price scored 19 points in the win over Brescia, shooting an efficient 7-of-9 from the floor. Trency Jackson (13.8 ppg) also netted 19 points as he continues to carve out an important spot on the team. He has scored in double figures in three of the four games he has appeared after missing the first seven.
If the Hilltoppers can play up their normally impressive defensive standard, they should be able to keep the 3-point reliant Rebels off balance and collect a win.
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