The Florida Gators and Ole Miss Rebels will square off on Saturday in Oxford in an impactful game for both sides for entirely different reasons.
The Gators have gotten off to a perfect 4-0 start in conference play, with wins over Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and a last-second victory in Columbia over Missouri on a steal and layup by Chris Chiozza with 0.1 seconds remaining.
The Rebels are looking to get above .500 in conference play, with a 2-2 mark to this point under head coach Andy Kennedy. Ole Miss has earned wins over South Carolina and Mississippi State, with the two losses coming to Georgia and Auburn.
The Rebels boast a 9-7 overall record, so a win here at home over the Gators would go a long way to improving their NCAA Tournament résumé.
Let’s take a look at the players to watch, the keys to victory for both sides, and a score prediction for Saturday’s SEC tilt.
Players to Watch
Keith Stone (Florida)
The Rebels are very small in the frontcourt, playing only one player over 6-8 in their entire rotation in 7-footer Dominik Olejniczak, who only plays 18 minutes per game.
With that distinct lack of size up front, look for Stone to be a large part of the gameplan for the Gators. The 6-8 forward has been outstanding over the last two games, averaging 15.5 points per game and 5.5 rebounds, as well as shooting 6 of 10 from 3-point range.
The sophomore has been critical to Florida’s hot start in the conference, and as long as John Egbunu is out, Stone will have that increased role in the frontcourt, as well as providing a legitimate perimeter threat from the forward spot.
Look for Stone to have a big game against an undersized Ole Miss roster.
Breein Tyree (Ole Miss)
Tyree has been solid from the bench all season for the Rebels, which prompted Kennedy to start him the last two games.
Tyree has responded well, posting a career high in minutes on Tuesday night against Auburn, while tying a career high in points with 24 in the loss.
He has been a dynamic point guard threat for the two years that he has been at Ole Miss, and with the increase of minutes from last year to this year, the sophomore has posted career high numbers in every statistical category while cutting down on his turnovers.
He is going to have to take on the daunting backcourt of Chris Chiozza and Jalen Hudson, but Tyree can score with the best of the SEC’s guards, so he should have a solid performance against the Gators.
How Florida Can Win
The Gators need to limit the backcourt scoring of Terence Davis, Markel Crawford, Breein Tyree, Deandre Burnett, and Devontae Shuler to have an opportunity to win this game going away.
That backcourt is the lifeblood of the Ole Miss roster, so limiting their production will be important for the Gators’ backcourt.
Florida boasts an incredible backcourt rotation of their own, so they are certainly set up for success in their endeavor to slow down the Rebel guards.
The Gators can seize control of this game early if the Rebels can’t get it going from the backcourt offensively.
How Ole Miss Can Win
The Rebels need to force turnovers in order to have a chance to win this game.
The Gators are fourth in the country in total turnovers, which makes things difficult for the Rebels to create additional opportunities in transition. Ole Miss is 185th in the country in turnovers forced, so it doesn’t exactly excel in that category.
However, the Rebels can force turnovers defensively, so turning up the defensive pressure is important to have an opportunity to win this game.
If Ole Miss can force 15+ turnovers, it should be able to create easy baskets in transition, and in turn, create easy points.
The Gators are simply playing better overall right now.
The Florida frontcourt should excel in this matchup as the Gators move to 5-0 in conference play, with Arkansas and Kentucky looming over the next week.
Prediction: Florida 83, Ole Miss 71