This is the official Open Game Thread for Ole Miss at Kentucky.
There are no unimportant games for Kentucky this year, especially after how the Cats started the season. This one is no exception -- it is absolutely critical to our budding but still somewhat unlikely bid to completely turn our season around and make the NCAA tournament field.
I say "somewhat unlikely" advisedly -- if we are successful at home the rest of the way out and drop only our road games, I think we will be dangerously close to missing the Dance. If the Cats lose here, it will require a dynamic win to cement our invitation -- otherwise, we are going to be sweating a lot come selection Sunday.
The Wildcats are beginning to really grasp the concept of "defending their house." Considering what we went through early in the year, that is really wonderful to see. Ole Miss brings plenty of ability into Rupp Arena tonight, and Kentucky will have to play them as hard as they can in order to win. But at home this SEC season, that has simply not been a problem. Kentucky has been focused, intense, and has found a way to win these games, even when they were looking bad.
Gillispie is beginning to instill a true determination to defend the home floor into this team, and they are responding exactly how any UK fan would want them to. Their passion, determination, and defensive execution has given SEC coaches nightmares about playing in our hallowed hall, and that is how it should be.
Mississippi State has a lot of motivation to win this game. They need to turn their season around, and a win over the resurgent Cats in Rupp would be a great start. Kentucky needs a raucous crowd and serious intensity to win this game. They have had it for the past 10 games (if you ignore the Vandy debacle), and I expect to see it again tonight.
Keys to the game:
Ballhandling -- Critical against Ole Miss, who wants to go up tempo.
Good start -- Good starts seem critical to Kentucky's success this year. No change tonight.
Deny the post entry -- We must stop Ole Miss from getting the ball to Curtis in scoring position.
Keep Ole Miss out of the lane -- Arkansas is a good shot-blocking team, but like UK, they are foul prone. The Cats need to get to the line.
Rebounding -- This is the best rebounding team in the league. If the Cats can't hold them down, they will get every offensive rebound.
Can we stay on this roll? I have no idea, but the Cats have to be feeling more confident in themselves than they have all year.
Leave your comments below if you have them.