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The top-seeded Ole Miss Rebels, led by first-team All-SEC guard Devontae Shuler, are set to play the fourth-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in an opening-round NIT game on Friday night in Frisco, Texas.
Shuler, a 6-2 senior, leads Ole Miss in scoring (15.3) and assists (3.3) in what has become a breakout season.
Ole Miss (16-11) is a five-point favorite against Louisiana Tech (21-7), and Shuler is a big factor. He is the SEC's active leader in steals and assists and ranks second in points.
"I'm proud of Devontae," Rebels coach Kermit Davis said. "It's like with your children. When you spend so much time with these guys, coaching them, it's not all hugs.
"But he's matured and grown into a great young man. (The All-SEC honor) is well-deserved."
Ole Miss leads its series against Louisiana Tech, 8-5. However, the Rebels have won eight of their past nine games against the Bulldogs, including a 99-80 blowout in their most recent meeting on Dec. 15, 2015.
This season's Rebels team prides itself on defense and rebounding. Ole Miss leads the SEC in scoring defense (65.4), defensive rebounding percentage and offensive rebounding percentage during conference play. The Rebels have also held four SEC teams to 50 points or fewer, the first time Ole Miss has accomplished that feat since 1948.
In addition, the Rebels are 12-0 when holding teams to 40-percent shooting or less.
Louisiana Tech, led by Conference USA Coach of the Year Eric Konkol, won 12 of its final 14 regular-season games and then advanced in the league tournament with a win over Florida Atlantic before bowing out in the semifinals with a 54-48 loss to North Texas.
The Bulldogs' best player is Isaiah Crawford, who made third-team all-conference and leads the team in scoring (12.1). Kalob Ledoux (11.3) and Kenneth Lofton Jr. (11.0) are Tech's other double-figure scorers.
Lofton, who also leads the Bulldogs in rebounds (7.3), was named the C-USA Freshman of the Year.
Playing Ole Miss represents a big opportunity for the Bulldogs.
"Only 16 percent of the nation's Division 1 teams have qualified for the NCAA Tournament or the NIT," Konkol said. "We feel honored to get this far.
"Ole Miss is very talented. We know coach Davis from when he was at Middle Tennessee. He likes to mix zone and man defenses.
"(The Rebels) just missed making the NCAA Tournament. I'm sure they're going to be very hungry to prove they belong there."
--Field Level Media