OXFORD It’s been a week since Ole Miss played basketball, and the gap between games has been fine with Kermit Davis.

The Rebels’ second-year men’s coach turns 60 today and marks the occasion by facing his old team, Middle Tennessee State, where he went 322-188 over 16 seasons before taking the Ole Miss job.

Tipoff at The Pavilion is 2 p.m.

It’s the second time Davis will face the Blue Raiders, as Ole Miss defeated Middle Tennessee 74-56 in Nashville last season.

Ole Miss (6-3) is coming off an 83-67 win over Cal State-Bakersfield last Saturday, a game Davis felt was a lot closer than the final score.

The Rebels were minus-9 on the glass. They were outscored 34-28 in the paint and 12-4 in second-chance points against the team led by former Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes.

“Bakersfield just beat us to the punch. They’re a good rebounding team. They just outclassed us. They pursued the ball better than we did,” Davis said.

Ole Miss goes into today’s game 12th in the SEC in rebound margin, 11th in scoring offense and eighth in scoring defense, all areas the Rebels have addressed through the week in what David described as solid, physical practices.

Middle Tennessee is 4-6 having lost five of its last six games after starting with wins over Maryville, Lipscomb and Mars Hill.

The Blue Raiders are coming off an 85-42 loss at Murray State last Saturday.

Dreaming of improvement

Ole Miss rebounding could turn a corner if junior college transfer center Khadim Sy can avoid foul trouble.

Sy had 10 points and seven rebounds against Bakersfield but played only 17 minutes.

“We need Dream on the floor playing. He’s getting a foul every 5.4 minutes played, and that’s a lot. We’re really trying to emphasize that and show him every foul he’s committed, emphasize it in practice,” Davis said.

Sy, who played his freshman season at Virginia Tech, is averaging 7.6 points and 4.8 rebounds.

He says he’s getting a better understanding of Davis’ expectations.

“He’s very demanding. If you are not skilled you can’t play for him. You better be skilled and physical,” Sy said. “I see that I’m getting better with that every day, I’m getting more comfortable. I’m starting to learn my teammates more and how we can help each other get better.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com

Twitter: @parrishalford

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