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The Rebel Invasion of Lexington Begins: UK Hoops Hosts Ole Miss

The latest version of the Cardiac Cats survived their trip to Titletown Friday to beat Alabama 78-66 in a game that was down to the wire for 34 minutes. Up next: the 11-3 Ole Miss Rebels! Join us as we speculate on the game to come and cheer our Cats onto another SEC victory!

50% free throw shooting would make me mad too, Coach...
50% free throw shooting would make me mad too, Coach...
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Rebel invasion begins Sunday as the Ole Miss women travel to Memorial Coliseum to take on the #11 Wildcats!

Like all SEC games this one should be a knockdown drag-out battle, but the drama is cranked up a bit as the student strives to become the master. Matt Insell is now in his second year in Oxford, having spent the previous five on the Wildcat sideline where he was an outstanding assistant coach under Matthew Mitchell. I'd say let's give him a warm welcome, but since we want to win this one, let's settle for a hearty handshake and then let the battle begin.

Ole Miss is unranked overall and currently ranks 129th in their season to date RPI. This gives them a stronger strength of schedule than previous foe Alabama, but unlike the Tide they have no decent wins.  (The Cats RPI is now the 3rd best in the country, just in case you were wondering.)

Before you start thinking "CUPCAKE", let me remind you of which conference Ole Miss plays in...the SEC. And no win in this league is a gimme. There's a reason why the SEC has 6 teams ranked in the top 25, to include top-ranked South Carolina: the SEC is very, very good. Add to that the fact that Matt Insell is a very good coach, and get the idea.

Ole Miss has a height advantage - shocker - with 6 players over 6 feet. The Cats have 4. While the Cats season to date have beaten the Rebs in overall shooting (41% to 39%), three pointers (28% to 25%), free throw shooting (63% to 62%), rebounds (42.2 vs. 41.6), and average points per game (79.4 vs 73.3) the variance is tiny enough to tell me this won't be an easy win.

Ole Miss players to watch include 6'1" Tia Faleru, who is shooting 57% from the field and 64% from the charity stripe. (She's 100% from the 3 but as she's only attempted 1, we'll just ignore that fact.) After Tia, the shooting curve kind of collapses, with no other player on the squad averaging more than 9.7 points per game and a median performance of 5.3 points per game.

Bria Goss is still out with a broken thumb, but happily Jennifer O'Neil returned to the court Friday for 38 minutes, scoring 12 points and 1 assist.  Based on the size Ole Miss brings to the court, I suspect Matthew Mitchell may play his bigs early, starting Azia, Kyvin, Alexis, and Alyssa with Janee at point.  No matter what his strategy - he could go small - I'd be shocked if he doesn't start Alexis, who has been on an absolute rampage the last 2 games.

Keys to victory:

  • Watch the turnovers - we had 13 against Bama and I know Matthew wants those down to 10-12 per game
  • NO DDFH - the Cats weren't terrible against the Tide, shooting an overall 45.5% from the field but the 41.4% performance in the first half wasn't pretty.
  • FREE THROWS - Seriously, can someone please go check the water in Lexington to see if it's been spiked with some mysterious anti-free throw bacteria??? 50% against Alabama is just unacceptable

Happily, this game IS televised! (Wahoo!) You can catch all the fabulous SEC action Sunday at 2 PM EST on the SEC Network. So put on your blues and help banish away your lack of basketball blues - join us right here at ASoB!

Until gametime, Wildcat fans - GO BIG BLUE!!!