Kentucky Wildcats at Ole Miss Rebels
Game Time: 9 pm EST on March 5th, 2019
Location: The Pavilion in Oxford, Mississippi
TV Channel: ESPN
Announcers: Karl Ravech, Jimmy Dykes and Laura Rutledge will be on the call.
Live Online Stream: WatchESPN, the WatchESPN app and fuboTV.
Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington or online at UKAthletics.com.
Replay: Check local listings on the SEC Network.
Odds: Kentucky opened as a 5.5-point favorite. KenPom projected the Wildcats to be a 3.5-point favorite. They have failed to cover the spread in four of their last six games.
Prediction: ESPN gives Kentucky a 75% chance of beating Ole Miss. KenPom gives the Cats a 66% chance of winning and projects a final score of 72-68.
While we wait for the game, check out Tom Leach’s interview with Wildcats legend Jack ‘Goose’ Givens:
The Wildcats will play their final road game tonight when they travel to Oxford and face Ole Miss.
Not many people were surprised that Kentucky lost to No. 7 Tennessee on the road Saturday afternoon, but what was surprising is the terrible effort that was put forth for such a big game with a national television audience. UK’s 19 point blowout loss really raised some questions about both the backcourt and the frontcourt heading into the last two regular season games of the season.
The Rebels have been very streaky during conference play this season. Ole Miss started off SEC play 4-1, then lost 4 straight games, followed by winning 4 in a row. Now, Kermit Davis’ team finds themselves losers of 3 out of the last 4 and looking for a big win against a top ten Kentucky team. The Rebels have lost their last two games playing in their home arena, The Pavilion.
The last time UK traveled to play Ole Miss, in December of 2016, Malik Monk torched the Rebels for 34 points and the Cats rolled to a 23 point win.
SEC road games are always a challenge, but Kentucky should be able to take care of business in Oxford if they come with more intensity than they showed in Knoxville. From the opening tip-off, it was the Vols acting as the aggressor and forcing the issue with their ferocious defense.
Calipari didn’t give many specifics when asked about the progression of Reid Travis’s knee injury during the postgame press conference following the loss to Tennessee. But I would say it is a safe bet to say that we won’t see Travis until Kentucky’s final home game and senior day against Florida on March 9th.
The Cats will have to quickly forget about what happened in Knoxville and find a way to will themselves to a victory in what is sure to be a hostile road environment.
3 Keys to the Game
Sense of Urgency
Losing in Knoxville was no big-time shock, but absolutely being manhandled was. Kentucky was beaten to 50/50 balls time after time and never really looked poised to make a serious run at Tennessee.
Obviously, poor shooting was the biggest factor in UK’s inability to give themselves a chance at winning, and I wouldn’t expect them to miss that many shots on Tuesday night. Hopefully, fans never have to endure such a miserable offensive performance again. It was brutal.
For the first time in a long time, Kentucky was out-toughed and pushed all over the court. The absence of Reid Travis and PJ Washington having early foul trouble really exposed vulnerability in the paint down in Knoxville.
But maybe more importantly, it was evident that the Cats rely on Travis and Washington to provide the necessary leadership to prevent a meltdown like we saw against Tennessee.
I would expect after some reflection and film watching that there will be a greatly increased sense of urgency when the ball is tipped up at 9:00 pm Tuesday night.
It’s now officially March, and there is no time to digress.
Overcome shooting funk
This notion seems quite obvious in a basketball game, but if you watched Saturday’s game, you know what a challenge it was for Kentucky to muster anything on the offensive end of the floor.
The Cats shot an abysmal 14/44 from the field and just 5/19 from behind the arc in the 19 point loss to the Vols. UK even missed 10 free throws, which is not typical of a team who is shooting over 74% on the year. It was just ugly all around, and the players need to have a short memory moving forward.
Tyler Herro followed up his hero-like 29 point performance against Arkansas with a disappointing 6 points on 2/11 shooting. Herro just never looked comfortable as he was blocked several times and even missed a shot off the side of the backboard. If there is one thing that Tyler Herro has shown this season, it is that he will continue to attack and look for his shot.
The freshman shooting guard had his nine-game streak of scoring in double figures snapped in Knoxville, but he still has reached 10+ points in 23 games this season. and to his credit, he shot 9/10 against Arkansas while his teammates combined to shoot 12/32 that night. Everyone not named Herro shot a combined 24/65 last week.
Keldon Johnson also had a game to forget against Tennessee with just 7 points on 2/9 shooting. His mediocre play is becoming more of a trend, and it will be a good idea to try and get him going in Oxford on Tuesday night.
Bring back the old Ashton Hagans
Kentucky needs Ashton Hagans play-making on both ends of the court, and it just has not been there as of late. This trend is starting to create some cause for concern heading into the final two regular season games.
After terrorizing opponents for most of the season, Hagans has only tallied two steals once in the last seven games. There just has not been the same intensity and confidence that has been displayed previously.
Hagans has shown major improvement on his outside shot. He has now made six three-pointers over the last four games after only making five total threes in all of the previous games.
This Kentucky needs Ashton Hagans to be the aggressor on defense and creating offense when he has the ball in his hands. The Tennessee game proved that it is going to be hard for the Cats to generate much offense when Hagans is a non-factor.
Ole Miss has an excellent scoring guard in Breein Tyree, who scores over 18 points per game. It will be another chance for Hagans to prove he is one of the best defenders in the country and regain some confidence.
Players to Watch
Breein Tyree - 18.1 points per game, 40% three point shooter
Tyree is the third leading scorer in the entire SEC and will be a tough matchup for Ashton Hagans and the Kentucky backcourt. He shoots it really well from long range with 64 makes from behind the arc on the season. His 40.3% from deep is good for seventh in the conference. Tyree has scored 31 or more points twice this season, and he’s capable of a monster game.
Terence Davis - 15.5 points, 5.7 Rebounds per game
The Rebels have another terrific scoring option in Terrence Davis, who gets over 15 points per game. He will get some shots up on Tuesday night. Davis has attempted five or more threes in five straight games. His best game of the season was a 27-point, 12-rebound game in a home win over Auburn.
When Davis played in Rupp last season, he erupted for 26 points on 10/23 shooting to go with four boards and three assists. John Calipari will have a game plan to ensure he doesn’t burn the Cats again.
Devontae Shuler - 9.8 points per game
Shuler will be coming off a 12 point game against Arkansas on Saturday afternoon. He recently had a 17-point outing in a big road win at Auburn. He’s also attempted an average of 5.7 threes per game over his last six contests and is hitting 38.9% of them this season.
Shuler is also the Rebels’ best free throw shooter at over 85% on the season. While Davis and Tyreee will probably score in double figures, not allowing Shuler to join them will keep the Rebels at bay.