In the land of pork roasts, pineapples, and pronounced waves, Ole Miss and Indiana State will take to the pinewood. The two teams will play in Game 1 of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamondhead Classic in Honolulu at 11 a.m. local time. Whoever wins the game earns the right to play the winner of the proceeding San Diego State (9-1) vs. San Francisco (5-4) game.
Indiana State (5-3) began the season on the short end of 86-59 blowout against UCLA. After that, the Sycamores caught fire, winning their next four before dropping a pair of heartbreakers to New Mexico and Morehead State. They rebounded to beat IUPUI on Saturday to continue their rocky road of inconsistency on the season. Indiana State has appeared in the NCAA Tournament four times, including a trip to the 1979 National Championship Game that saw the Larry Bird-led Syacamores fall to the Magic Johnson-led Michigan State Spartans by a score of 75-64.
ISU lost five of their top seven scorers from last season’s team who went 18-15, but wrestled a pair of wins from big conference programs Vanderbilt and Texas Tech while taking Minnesota down to the wire in a close loss. The Sycamores also defeated Illinois State, a team that later knocked the Rebels out of the NIT. It has been a struggle so far for head coach Greg Lansing’s club as the Sycamores have struggled in every facet of the game this season.
While they can match the Rebels in size, the Sycamores are certainly lacking when it comes to matching the physicality of the Rebels on the glass. Ole Miss ranks 9th in the country in rebounds at 42.9 rpg, while Indiana State is 229th at 34 rpg. Murphy Holloway, one of the nation’s elite rebounders, will likely match up with Manny Arop, who leads the team in rebounds at 6.8 rpg and is second in points with 11.8. Holloway is 6’7 and Arop is 6’6, but both are very capable rebounders for their size. When it comes to getting turnovers, Holloway is as good as they come in the frontcourt, while Arop averages 3.0 tpg, a telling stat for what could be to come. Arop is talented and scrappy, but look for Holloway to dominate this matchup if he stays out of foul trouble.
There is no true shooter for the Sycamores, junior point guard Jake Odum is not only the team’s leader in assists at 4.3 apg, he also leads the team in points with 15.5 ppg. At 6’4, he has posed matchup problems for opposing point guards this season, something that the Rebels can match with 6’4 shooting guard Nick Williams and 6’3 point guard Jarvis Summers. Odum gets to the line a heck of a lot for a point guard and is a 77 percent shooter from the charity stripe. This could pose problems late in the halves when Ole Miss reaches the bonus as Summers has registered four fouls in each of the last two games.
Marshall Henderson has been lights out lately and has proven that he can rally his team back into any game. The most openly enthusiastic and emotional player on the team, Henderson has added spark to the team and given the Rebels a high motor. Pairing Henderson’s shooting and energy with Summers’ terrific control of the offense, Holloway’s consistent double-double play, and Reginald Buckner’s constant defense, could take the Rebels far this season if all of the pieces continue to fall in place.
Ole Miss will beat Indiana State on the glass and in the turnover battle, those two are hard to argue with. If the Rebels lose either of those, this game will sway in ISU’s favor. It depends on keeping the Sycamores off the free throw line and making their own free throws when they get there considering the very wide disparity between the two at the line. If Ole Miss can keep their advantages and keep from fouling as often as they have been, they will move to 9-1, if not, it Indiana State could be the ones attending the second round luau.