Off to its best conference start in 17 seasons, Vanderbilt looks to keep the momentum going. Facing a Mississippi team that’s dropped three of four could help the 17th-ranked Commodores continue their push toward the top of the SEC East standings.
Vanderbilt looks to snap a two-game road losing streak Thursday night at Tad Smith Coliseum, where the Rebels will try to get their season back on track.
Led by sophomore Lance Goulbourne’s career highs of 18 points and nine rebounds, the Commodores improved to 19-5 and 8-2 in conference with Saturday’s 77-69 victory over LSU. It is the first time Vanderbilt has opened 8-2 in SEC play since 1992-93.
With Saturday’s home game against SEC East-leading Kentucky looming, the Commodores can move within one game of the second-ranked Wildcats with their first road win since an 85-76 victory over then-No. 14 Tennessee on Jan. 27.
Vanderbilt lost to then-No. 1 Kentucky by 13 on Jan. 30 and fell at Georgia, 72-58 on Feb. 6.
Mississippi (17-7, 5-5) is 0-4 against ranked teams this season but has won three straight in Oxford against Top 25 foes, including a 74-58 victory over then-No. 19 Vanderbilt on Jan. 30, 2008.
Rebels guard Chris Warren scored 20 points in that matchup as Ole Miss snapped a six-game slide in this series.
Warren, who missed a 71-61 loss at Vanderbilt on Feb. 7 of last season due to a knee injury, will try to bounce back from one of the worst games of his career. The Rebels’ leading scorer at 16.2 points per game missed eight of nine shots and finished with a season-low three points in a 71-63 loss at Mississippi State on Feb. 11.
“He’s kind of like the head of that snake,” Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said of Warren, who is two points shy of passing Rahim Lockhart (1,160) for 21st all-time at Mississippi.
While Rebels coach Andy Kennedy would like for Warren to have a more productive game Thursday, Ole Miss would also likely benefit with the return of freshman forward Reginald Buckner, who is second in the SEC with 2.2 blocks per game. Mississippi has lost three of four since he was sidelined with a sprained ankle. Buckner is questionable Thursday when the Rebels open a three-game homestand.
Commodores sophomore forward Andre Walker could also miss Thursday’s game after being sidelined Saturday with a shoulder injury suffered the day before during a collision with teammate Steve Tchiengang.
Freshman guard John Jenkins, Vanderbilt’s leading scorer off the bench with 10.4 points per game, could return against the Rebels after missing the last two games with the stomach flu.
Senior Jermaine Beal leads the Commodores with 14.8 points per game, but he is averaging 19.8 in his last six while making at least three 3s in each of these contests.
Junior center A.J. Ogilvy, who is 14 points shy of passing Billy McCaffrey for 16th all-time at Vanderbilt with 1,360, led the Commodores with 17 and nine boards in the Feb. 7 victory over Mississippi.
The home team has won 20 of the last 23 in this matchup. Vanderbilt leads the all-time series 70-39.