Tonight, Kentucky plays game #9 of the SEC season against the Mississippi Rebels in Rupp Arena. Tonight's game is relegated to ESPNU for some reason, a fact that will annoy some viewers who may not get one of the ESPN channels with a smaller footprint.
Kentucky is coming off an important road win against a quality Missouri Tigers team on Saturday. Tonight's game is at least as important even though it is in Rupp Arena, because Ole Miss is a team roughly similar to where LSU was in quality when Kentucky lost to them last Tuesday in Baton Rouge.
- Location: Oxford, Mississippi
- Conference: SEC
- Head Coach: Andy Kennedy (since 2006)
- NCAA Appearances: 7
- Most recent NCAA appearance: 2013
- Most recent NCAA win: 2013
- Founded: 1844
- Enrollment: 14,071
- Last season's record 27-9 overall, 12-6 in conference
Source: Basketball State
Season so far for Mississippi:
- Season record: 15-6 (6-2 SEC)
Ole Miss had a largely down pre-conference schedule, losing to virtually every "quality" opponent they faced. They have been without leading scorer Marshall Henderson at various times during the year due to disciplinary measures, including the Rebels' first two conference game, one of which was a loss to in-state rival Mississippi St. in Starkville.
Since entering conference play, the Rebels have a significant win against LSU in Oxford in overtime and a good win at Vanderbilt by a comfortable margin. The rest of their victories have come against the SEC cellar. Their second loss came on the road at Tennessee, which is certainly forgivable, even if the margin (16 points) really isn't.
Kentucky has a long history against the Ole Miss Rebels, although it is shorter than against teams like the Tennessee Volunteers and Vanderbilt Commodores. Kentucky has played Mississippi 113 times with the Wildcats prevailing in 100 contests.
There have been no sustained periods of success for the Rebels against the Wildcats, the closest thing being from 1997-2001, where Ole Miss won 3 of 8 meetings. Kentucky has won the last three games, and 13 of the last 15.
The biggest upset ever by the Rebels against the Wildcats was in Oxford in 1996, where Ole Miss took down then #3 Kentucky, who would go on to lose to Arizona in the 1997 NCAA Tournament finals.
|Rank and Records||MISS||UK|
|Strength of Schedule||#81||#7|
|RPI Top 50||0-3||3-2|
Courtesy of Statsheet.com
- Ole Miss has been improved offensively since Henderson's return to the lineup.
- In SEC play, the Rebels are the 3rd best defensive team in the conference, but only the 6th best offensive team.
- Mississippi is a good free-throw shooting team at 73%, 2nd in the conference.
- The Rebels have been a better shot-blocking team so far in conference than Kentucky.
- Ole Miss does not get to the line much at all — 34%, last in the SEC.
- Ole Miss struggles to shoot the ball from 2, managing only 45% in conference.
- The rebels take good care of the basketball, and force turnovers at a 21.5% rate, 2nd in the league.
- Mississippi is a so-so offensive rebounding club.
|34||Jones, Aaron||S*||F||6-9||220||Jr.||Gautier, MS||21||7.0||7.0||0.3|
|22||Henderson, Marshall||S**||G||6-2||177||Sr.||Hurst, TX||18||19.2||2.0||2.4|
|32||Summers, Jarvis||S*||G||6-3||186||Jr.||Jackson, MS||21||17.8||2.4||3.9|
|3||Millinghaus, Derrick||MR*||G||5-10||172||So.||Schenectady, NY||21||8.3||2.0||2.4|
|4||Cox, Demarco||MR*||C||6-8||276||Sr.||Yazoo City, MS||21||5.2||4.8||0.3|
|10||White, LaDarius||MR*||G||6-6||211||Jr.||McComb, MS||21||7.8||3.2||2.2|
|0||Martin, Jerron||R||G||6-1||165||Fr.||Prince George's County, MD||2||1.5||0.0||0.5|
|5||Peeper, Cade||R*||G||6-2||185||So.||Collierville, TN||3||0.0||0.3||0.0|
|23||Coleby, Dwight||R||C||6-9||236||Fr.||New Providence||17||1.5||1.1||0.1|
|1||Newby, Martavious||MR*-||G||6-3||210||So.||Memphis, TN||17||2.1||2.2||1.0|
|-||Injured, out this game|
Courtesy of Basketball State
You all know about Marshall Henderson. He can score from everywhere, and is a dynamic player. He must be Kentucky's #1 concern. He's not terribly efficient, but he is explosive. He shoots 36% from 3-point range.
Jarvis Summers is Ole Miss' most efficient scorer and point guard. He shoots 52% from the field and 77% from the line. He is also shooting 55% from the arc, although he doesn't take a ton of 3-piont shots.
Aaron Jones leads the team in rebounds, is their second-best offensive rebounder, and gets over 2 blocks per game. Freshman Sebastian Saiz is a close second in rebounds and the team's best offensive rebounder.
Reserve guard Derrick Millinghaus was a starter last season, and is the team's best passer.
- Reserve guard Martavious Newby is out indefinitely with a broken hand for Ole Miss.
- Jarvis Summers vs. Andrew Harrison — Harrison is bigger, but Summers is very quick off the bounce and can shoot lights-out. This will be a tough cover for Andrew on defense. On offense, Andrew's size gives him the edge.
- Marshall Henderson vs. Aaron Harrison — Henderson has been through the wars, and has the kind of skillset that gives Kentucky's bigger guards trouble. He's also the kind of brash, annoying player that can get under Harrison's skin. Henderson will have trouble guarding the bigger Harrison.
- Anthony Perez vs. James Young — Perez is taller, but Young is almost as long and much quicker. Perez is unlikely to be able to guard Young effectively even at 6'9".
- Sebastian Saiz vs. Julius Randle — Saiz is big and tough, and will mix it up with Randle. He's not likely to win the matchup, but he's tougher than you think and will have his moments.
- Aaron Jones vs. Dakari Johnson — Assuming Dakari starts, this is the kind of guy that can give him trouble. He's too small to keep Dakari from getting good looks, but he's long and athletic enough to block his shot. Jones is also a handful for Johnson on offense with his superior quickness and good size.
Ole Miss is deep, but their bench quality is significantly inferior to Kentucky. Ladarius White is a nice wing player off the bench, and a good slasher who likes to get out in transition
This is the kind of home game for Kentucky that sets up very well for the Wildcats. They are clearly the better overall team, they are in the comfortable confines of Rupp Arena, and they are coming off a big win that gives them an opportunity to get on a roll. The offensive execution has been getting better game by game, and right now, John Calipari is faced with one remaining hump to get the Wildcats over — transition defense, which we talked about at some length yesterday.
Speaking of transition, Ole Miss likes to get there and does very well when they do, which is why it is important for Kentucky to keep them out of transition when they can. Kentucky has a size advantage on the Rebels, but not a big one, and Ole Miss is just as athletic as Kentucky. They also have that player that can go nuts on any given day and go off for 40, so Kentucky must be very aware of Marshall Henderson and guard him well.
For Kentucky, the biggest thing they need to do is force the Rebels to put the ball on the floor. Mississippi likes to shoot the 3, and they shoot it well enough to give the Wildcats a lot of trouble if they are making a high percentage. The goal for Kentucky should be to force the Rebels to attack the rim, where Kentucky's size and depth is an advantage.
Offensively, the Wildcats need to do what they have done all year — drive the ball into the paint for layups and midrange shots, and get offensive rebounds. Ole Miss will have to double-team Randle in man-to-man or play zone, and that means that Kentucky's shooters will have to be ready to receive passes from the post when the double-team is successful. Randle has been doing a very good job of passing out of the post lately, and forcing the defense to move.
Speaking of the Ole Miss defense, you can expect a mix of zone and man, although I think Kennedy will go mostly zone to protect against Randle and Kentucky's slashers. That will give UK a lot of opportunities on the offensive glass, and they must make the most of them to score or get to the line if the initial shot is off the mark.
Against the Rebels, the last thing you want to do is jack up a bunch of threes, though Kentucky will get good looks from there. Ole Miss is not a great defensive team in the paint, and Kentucky's backcourt size will really help them if they continue to ignore the threes and drive into the lane. They must be ready to hit open shooters when the zone moves, but mainly just to disadvantage the zone with pump fakes and drives to the basket.
Patience is key on offense for Kentucky. When Kentucky gets 20 seconds or so into the shot clock, they almost always get a clean look close to the basket. When they shoot a bunch of threes, the Wildcats often struggle to get back to their bread and butter, and tend to give up transition baskets on long rebounds.
This is a game UK should win, but Ole Miss won't make it easy, and they have enough talent and size to win this game if Kentucky is slovenly and careless.