Ole Miss has won only one of five SEC men's basketball games. But you couldn't tell it by the Rebels' shooting.
Ole Miss (13-7, 1-4) will enter Saturday's game against Tennessee (13-7, 3-2) in Oxford leading the conference in both free-throw shooting (74.7 percent) and field-goal shooting (47 percent).
"They play good defense," UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "But they're better on offense.
"They're a tough cover. They run a three-guard offense just like we do."
Most of their offense runs through point guard Chris Warren, who is having a career year.
Warren leads the SEC in free-throw shooting (94.8 percent), is second in scoring (18.3 points per game) and third in both assists (4.1 per game) and 3-pointers made (2.7 per game.)
Zach Graham, the Rebels' second-leading scorer (14.4 points per game) is a threat to shoot from 3-point range or drive to the basket. Like Warren, he's a deadeye free-throw shooter (86.1 percent).
Center Reginald Buckner also has a strong statistical presence. He has made 61.7 percent of his field-goal attempts to lead the SEC, and his 2.9 blocks per game ranks third.
UT point guard Melvin Goins doesn't need to see the stats to appreciate the challenge of the next match-up.
"They were real physical and real scrappy," he said of last year's SEC tournament game against the Rebels. "We will just have to match their intensity and play physical basketball."
Pearl is even more familiar with Ole Miss' style. His familiarity dates back to his coaching days at Southern Indiana when Bob Huggins was the coach at Cincinnati and current Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was an assistant on Huggins' staff.
"I went to Cincinnati to watch Bob Huggins coach," Pearl said. "He was such a tough coach and so good at teaching man to man - and such a wonderful clinician in that he would spend time with other coaches who came to visit him.
"I went there four or five years in a row to watch his first few practices and watch him teach defense."
Easier Road: The recent track record should bolster the Vols' confidence as they begin a three-game stretch against Ole Miss, Auburn and Alabama.
They have won four of their last five games against Alabama, and three of the last four against both Ole Miss and Auburn.
Interim Intensity: Goins has seen a change as associate head coach Tony Jones gains more experience as a head coach.
"He's more intense," Goins said. "I think he's enjoying the position he's in right now. And we're enjoying having him."
Saturday's game with Ole Miss will mark Jones' sixth appearance as a game-day coach since Pearl began serving an eight-game SEC suspension.
On The Deuce: Tennessee's game next Thursday night at Auburn will be televised by ESPN2. Tip-off time is 9 p.m.
That will be UT's first game at the new Auburn Arena.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.