MADISON - It's safe to say the No. 12 seeded Ole Miss Rebels don't usually play slow basketball. Andy Kennedy's team led the SEC in possessions per game this season with 71.6 and also took the third most shots in the country this season.
That's quite a bit different than the Wisconsin Badgers, to say the least. Bo Ryan's team stuck to their winning formula- the Badgers slowed down the game, tried to get better shots and took their opponents out of their comfort zone.
The Badgers averaged 62.3 possessions per game and took 201 fewer shots than the Rebels. If the Badgers can force Ole Miss to play at their pace, it could be a big adjustment for Marshall Henderson and the rest of the Rebels, who have only played one game with fewer than 63 possessions this year.
In that game, a 63-61 win over Auburn, the Rebels shot 42.9 percent from the field and made 11 3-pointers. That's not far from their season average of 43.8 percent shooting from the floor, but Auburn's defense doesn't quite compare to Wisconsin's this season.
The Tigers allowed their opponents to shoot 43 percent this season, while the Badgers have held opponents to just 39.4 percent shooting from the floor. They also hold their opponents to just 29.2 percent shooting on 3-pointers, the 11th-best rate in the nation.
That could be a problem for the Rebels, whose star player gets the majority of his points from behind the arc. Henderson scores 57.6 percent of his points on 3-pointers and shoots them at a 35.7 percent clip, so Wisconsin's perimeter defense will be crucial to slowing down Ole Miss' offense and forcing them to play at their pace. The Badgers could throw the Rebels off if they can lock down the perimeter and force Ole Miss and Henderson to work inside for most of the game.
But at the same time the Badgers need to try and avoid falling into the shooting slumps that plagued them at times this season, like the one that bounced them from the Big Ten Tournament against Ohio State. The Rebels have also held their opponents to just 0.94 points per possession this season, and the Badgers are just 3-8 in games where they scored 0.94 points per possession or fewer. One of those losses was their most recent game against the Buckeyes, who held them to just 0.8 points per possession and kept them from making any field goals during the game's waning minutes.
The Badgers will have their hands full with the Rebels, who have won seven of their last eight games and beat Florida 66-63 to win the SEC tournament. But the Badgers know what they want to do to the Rebels- it'll be on Ole Miss' shoulders to force them into the kind of faster games that they've thrived in this season.
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