Fordham (4-10) at Ole Miss (10-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, January 4, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061) -- Oxford, Mississippi. Television: CSS. Home Record: Fordham 2-1, Ole Miss 7-0. Away Record: Fordham 0-7, Ole Miss 2-1. Neutral Record: Fordham 2-2, Ole Miss 1-1. Conference Record: Fordham 0-0, Ole Miss 0-0. Series Record: Ole Miss leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Ole Miss Rebels attempt to stay perfect at Tad Smith Coliseum on Friday night when they host a non-conference bout against the Fordham Rams.
As bad as Fordham may appear by its lackluster record, it has actually played much better of late, winning three of its last five games. After suffering a 73-48 beat down at Georgia Tech on Dec. 29, the Rams bounced back to defeat Monmouth at home on Monday, 82-71.
At 10-2, Ole Miss has been one of the nation's most pleasant surprises this season. The Rebels competed in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii over Christmas, and after losing their first game to Indiana State, 87-85, in overtime, they salvaged the trip by beating San Francisco (85-78) and the host squad Hawaii (81-66) in the consolation rounds. They now return home for the first time since Dec. 14, and they'll try for their eighth win without a loss this season.
These two teams have met just once before, with Ole Miss winning back in December of 1982.
Fordham was actually trailing Monmouth by seven points early in the second quarter, but thanks to an impressive showing from the field after intermission (.548), the Rams were able to pull away down the stretch for the double-digit victory. Leading four players in double figures was Chris Gaston, who tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Bryan Smith logged 18 points and five assists, while Mandell Thomas and Branden Frazier chipped in with 12 and 11 points, respectively. On the season, Fordham's offensive output has been modest at best, as it shoots 41.1 percent from the field for 64.6 ppg, but it has been noticeably better since the return of Gaston (15.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg), who missed six games in late November and early December due to injury. Pairing Gaston with Frazier (16.4 ppg, 5.1 apg) gives Fordham a formidable inside-outside duo. Turnovers have been a problem for the squad, as it coughs the ball up more than 16 times per game for a minus-4.0 margin.
Offense production has been the strength of this year's Ole Miss club, as it ranks seventh in the nation in scoring with 82.1 ppg. While its .445 field goal percentage may seem rather modest, the team has been able to get to that figure thanks in large part to a strong effort on the glass (plus-4.1 rebounding margin) and a relentless attack at the defensive end (plus-6.0 turnover margin). The Rebels' latest win over Hawaii was a microcosm of many of the things they have done well this year, as they shot 44.3 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the foul line while winning the turnover battle, 15-8. Murphy Holloway was fantastic in the win, tallying 18 points and nine rebounds, while Nick Williams and Marshall Henderson netted 16 points apiece. Marshall has been one of the best guards in the SEC, scoring 17.9 ppg, and his 49 3-pointers are tied for eighth-most in the country. Holloway (15.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg) has been rock solid in the frontcourt, while Williams (11.0 ppg) and Reginald Buckner (10.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg) round out the Rebels' balanced scoring attack.
Fordham has been much-improved since it welcomed Gaston back to the lineup and, at full strength, it can certainly give the Rebels a run for their money. But Ole Miss has played too well on its home floor this season to slip up against a team as inconsistent as the Rams.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ole Miss 80, Fordham 70
01/04 10:32:05 ET