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Men’s hoops tips off season against MVSU

The Ole Miss men’s basketball team tips off its season tonight against Mississippi Valley State at 8 p.m. from Tad Smith Coliseum on its quest to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.
Phillip Waller/The Daily Mississippian

 
Coming off a win in its lone exhibition contest of the season on Monday, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team will begin the regular season tonight against Mississippi Valley State in Tad Smith Coliseum.
 
The Delta Devils of the Southwestern Athletic Conference qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season after posting a 17-1 record in conference play and won the SWAC Championship. 
 
However, Mississippi Valley State lost its top nine scorers from last season. The returning leading scorer, Blake Ralling, scored 25 points all of last season. Mississippi Valley State also replaced its head coach, as Sean Woods left for Morehead State. Former assistant for the Delta Devils Chico Potts will make his head coaching debut against the Rebels. 
 
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy is going into this game with little knowledge of the opponent.
 
“We’ll go into it a little bit blind, which is not bad,” Kennedy said. “It makes me a little uncomfortable, obviously, but I think it is good for guys to figure some things out.”
 
Ole Miss has a lot of new faces this season with six newcomers. Marshall Henderson, the National Junior College Player of the Year, led the Rebels in scoring with 19 points in their exhibition victory over Montevallo. Henderson also led the team with 15 shot attempts, which included 12 3-point attempts.
 
“(Kennedy) just says shoot,” Henderson said of shot selection. If you’re open, shoot it. That’s the reason he brought me here; that’s what he told me from day one. It’s green light all the way, until he tells me stop.” 
 
Ole Miss returns four starters from last year’s team in senior forwards Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway, senior guard Nick Williams and sophomore guard Jarvis Summers. Those four combined for 29 points and 23 rebounds in an 80-56 victory over Mississippi Valley State last season. In that game, Ole Miss held the Delta Devils to under 30 percent shooting from the field, forced 13 turnovers and blocked 12 shots. 
 
Ole Miss has won eight straight season openers and is 35-0 all time against current members of the SWAC. The Rebels are also 51-2 under Kennedy in nonconference matchups in Oxford. 
 
The Rebels were picked to finish seventh in the Southeastern Conference this season by the media. The team looks for a high finish and qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time under Kennedy.
 
Tipoff for the start of Kennedy’s seventh season is set for 5:30 p.m.
 
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss men’s basketball, follow @thedm_sports and @Tyler_RSR on Twitter.