Ole Miss Basketball: NC State Preview

New University of Mississippi basketball coach Chris Beard, left, answers questions from media after a welcoming ceremony at the SJB Pavilion at Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., Tuesday, March 14, 2023.
New University of Mississippi basketball coach Chris Beard, left, answers questions from media after a welcoming ceremony at the SJB Pavilion at Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., Tuesday, March 14, 2023. /

Your 5-0 Ole Miss Rebels take on their toughest test of the season so far when they match up against the 4-1 NC State Wolfpack tonight in the ACC/SEC Challenge. You can catch your hardcourt Rebels on ESPN2 at 8 pm tonight.

Ole Miss is coming off a 77-76 win over the Temple Owls in Philadelphia last Wednesday. Despite what the scoreboard says, Ole Miss had their best offensive performance this season. The Rebels shot 50% from the field, while also well as 50% from 3. Their shots were falling while getting a ton of good looks last week, as they easily penetrated the Temple zone for most of the first half.

However, they couldn’t close the game out in the second half., leading to Temple hanging around with Chris Beard’s team. Ole Miss came back at the end thanks to Allen Flanigan, who hit the two game-winning free throws with 9 seconds left to give the Rebels their 5th win of the season.

Allen Flanigan led all scorers with another fantastic performance. He had 26-8-7, two steals and two blocks to cement himself as the Rebels best player in the game. Some other notable performances that stood out were TJ Caldwell’s 14 points off the bench and Matthew Murrell’s 12-point five-assist game.

The win over Temple on the road was their best win from the first five games. It can be tough playing away from home in college basketball, with this being the first good test for the Rebels.

However, the focus now shifts to 4-1 NC State, who are coming off their first loss of the season to BYU in the Las Vegas Showdown.

NC State is a NCAA Tournament Team from last season who lost in the second round to Creighton. NC State is led by senior guard Casey Morsell, who is averaging 15 ppg and senior center DJ Burns, who averages 14.6 ppg and 5.6 rebounds.

The Wolf Pack will be like no other team Ole Miss has faced this season. NC State loves to play at an extremely high tempo, and they are very dangerous on fast breaks. This NC State team forces a ton of turnovers, which is good for 26th nationally, and in addition, they rarely turn the ball over. They carry a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is 19th in the country. NC State is a dangerous team.

Outside of the fact that NC State will turn you over, they are getting better defensively each game. The Wolf Pack tend to run a full-court press most of the game.

Their guards, DJ Horne and Jayden Taylor are great in this type of defense. They have quick hands and they both average around two steals per game.

Ole Miss needs to handle the ball with extreme care and avoid the weak/lazy passes on their defensive end of the court. Ball security is a must for Chris Beard’s squad. If the Rebels turn the ball over, the game will get out of hand fast! NC State loves to run, and if Ole Miss is

Offensively, when NC State is not on the break, all of their half-court offense runs through their senior center, DJ Burns. In their half-court set, the Wolf Pack tend to run a lot of high ball screens with Burns, and they love to get him on the low block. With a single defender guarding Burns 1-on-1 in the block, he scored frequently, with most of NC States points coming from in the paint.

During the Las Vegas Showdown, the Wolf Packs opponents, Vanderbilt and BYU, double-teamed Burns in the low block every time he received the ball. As the defense collapsed around Burns, he could pass out to the open man as they knocked down a wide-open 3. Despite his size, Burns is a very skilled passer, potentially giving Ole Miss headaches all night.

On the positive side, Ole Miss has not played against many teams with a true center. In the second half of a handful of games, Ole Miss were forced to play a smaller lineup, with either Brakefield or Rashaud Marshall at the 5. Opposing teams were spreading out the Rebels defense, which led to Jamarion Sharp being played out of the perimeter to clear up open driving lanes to the basket. Ole Miss had switched to this smaller lineup in the 2nd half of most games.

Tonight’s game will not be that case, as DJ Burns will play most of the game for the Wolfpack. He will have a fascinating matchup with Jamarion Sharp.

Sharp should be able to keep Burns in check on the low block with his ability to block shots and guard the passing lanes. It will likely be a fantastic matchup to watch.

As stated above, this will be the Rebel’s toughest test in the first six games. I believe the Rebels can win this basketball game and extend their winning record to 6-0.

The three keys for Ole Miss to win this game are to limit the turnovers, play at a slow pace and force DJ Burns into foul trouble. The biggest key out of the three is playing at a slow pace.

Playing at a slow pace is something Ole Miss have done this year. If they can continue the slow play and keep possession of the ball, they will suck the life out of NC State’s quick attack. However, if the Rebels get into a track meet, NC State will run all over Ole Miss by causing turnovers and running on offense. Either way, it should be a great game tonight.

Be sure to catch the Rebel’s on ESPN2 at 8pm in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge. I will also be live tweeting my thoughts and opinions throughout the game, so be sure to follow me on X/Twitter @cole98young