The Kentucky Wildcats are back in Rupp Arena in this Saturday as they open SEC play when the Ole Miss Rebels come to town.
The Cats are coming off a hard-fought 75-73 win over in-state rival Louisville last week in a game that came right down to the wire. It was also the kind of bounce-back win UK needed to get back on track this season after it appeared the Cats were falling into obscurity.
That's what upset losses to UCLA and Ohio State will do, but you couldn't have asked for a better rebound as the Cats beat a top-15 Louisville team that should have a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cats still are very much in the running for a No. 1 seed come March, but only if they take care of business in SEC play and win most, if not every home game from now until the conference tournament. They'll get a good first test Saturday night when Andy Kennedy's upstart Rebels role into Lexington.
Heck, it was about this time last year that Kennedy's undermanned Ole Miss squad nearly pulled off a massive upset of No. 1 and undefeated Kentucky, who finished the season 38-1 while the Rebs went 21-13 and squeaked into the NCAA Tournament.
While Ole Miss fields a significantly different team this time around, the man who almost powered the Rebels to an upset is back as senior guard Stephon Moody gets another crack at Kentucky. Moody is once against the Reb's top scorer at 23.8 ppg and assist man at 4.3 apg. Last year in Rupp, Moody went off for 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting (5-of-7 three-point shooting).
Moody posted 23 points in the Rebels’ most recent win, an 83-80 overtime win over Troy. He now leads the in the SEC, and ranks eighth nationally, in scoring this season. It was his seventh-straight game with 20-plus points becoming the first Rebel since Joe Harvell in 1992 to post seven straight 20-point games. He has scored 20-plus points 10 times this season and eclipsed the 30-point mark twice against Towson and UMass. He is the second highest power-conference scorer in the nation this season and holds an 18.4 ppg career scoring average, which ranks 10th in school history.
The Reb's best big man who also helped spring that near-upset of UK is junior forward Sebastian Saiz. In that game Saiz chipped in six points, seven boards and three blocks against A UK front court that was easily the best in college basketball, so of course he could do some damage against this year's UK squad. This year, the 6-9. 240-pound Saiz is leading the Rebs with 10.2 boards per game which ranks third in the conference and 23rd nationally to go with 11.6 ppg. Saiz also ranks fifth in the SEC with four double-doubles this year.
Another Rebels big man to watch out for is senior forward Tomasz Gielo, who scored a career-high 23 points and pulled down six boards in OM’s win over Troy. Gielo is averaging 12.3 ppg over his last eight games after posting just 3.3 ppg in the first four. With UK struggling around the rim as of late, watch out for Gielo and Saiz to make an impact in the paint.
Here is everything you'll need to watch and follow Kentucky vs Ole Miss.
Ole Miss Rebels (10-2) at Kentucky Wildcats (10-2)
When: Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016
Location: Rupp Arena
Game Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Radio Network (Tom Leach, Mike Pratt)
Odds: Kentucky is an 11.5-point favorite favorite, per Odds Shark.
Series: Kentucky leads the all-time series against Ole Miss by a 103-13 margin.
Recent Streaks: UK has won six straight in the series dating back to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals in 2011.
Head Coaches vs School: John Calipari is 11-4 vs OM, while Andy Kennedy is 2-10 vs UK.
Projected OM Starters
#42 G - Stephan Moody, 5-10, 178 lbs
#1 G - Martavious Newby, 6-3, 218 lbs
#14 G - Rasheed Brooks, 6-5, 201 lbs
#12 F - Tomasz Gielo, 6-9, 228 lbs
#11 F - Sebastian Saiz, 6-9, 240 lbs
Projected UK Starters
#3 G - Tyler Ulis, 5-9, 160 lbs
#13 G - Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, 202 lbs
#23 G - Jamal Murray, 6-4, 207 lbs
#22 F - Alex Poythress, 6-8, 230 lbs
#00 F - Marcus Lee, 6-9, 224 lbs