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UK Hoops at Ole Miss: Preview & Gamethread

The clock is starting to wind down on Kentucky's regular season and the opportunities to max out our post-season bracket position are likewise slipping away. What can a win in Oxford tonight mean for the Cats?

In Matthew and Makayla we trust.
In Matthew and Makayla we trust.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Cats' goal of being among the top 4 teams in the conference and earning that critical Thursday bye now seems firmly out of reach. Due to losses last week at Tennessee and at home against Texas A&M, Kentucky is now ranked 6th, behind Texas A&M and LSU. A win tonight would bump the Cats to tied for 5th with LSU.

With Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison regrettably out for the season with a torn ACL, there could still be movement in the top rankings prior to tipoff in Little Rock on March 4th. If the Cats wish to strengthen their position they will need to sweep their final three games, to include Thursday's game at Arkansas and Sunday's finale hosting South Carolina in Lexington.

But in the meantime, we get to deal with the return of Fouleroo! (HatTip: CatInTheLou)

Tia Faleru, Ole Miss's impressive senior forward, continues to lead the Rebels in their quest to make noise in the SEC. Faleru leads the squad in scoring, averaging 14.8 PPG. She is a lethal 49% from the field, but can get tripped up at the charity stripe where she's a surprisingly underwhelming 66%. In addition to Fouleroo (sorry, old habits die hard!) expect to get frustrated with Murray State transfer Erica Sisk: at 8.7 PPG she doesn't look too impressive on offense, but she leads the Rebs in steals and is very good at turning those turnovers into points.

As for the Cats and how we're going to get this W? I'm going to lather, rinse, repeat my keys to victory:

  • Effective ball handling, to include shot selection: Let's put aside the 15 turnovers we had against TAMU. Did we just give up on shooting 3's? After shooting 25% in the first quarter, we went a goose-egg 0/4 in the second quarter. At 38% from the field, our total offense was pretty meh. Ole Miss has a slight height advantage but this performance should not be repeated.
  • Aggressive Defense: Rebounding, like our offense, was AWOL against TAMU. Alyssa Rice played 10 minutes with exactly zero rebounds. Kyvin played 8 minutes with the same results. Our bigs really need to get going here. As much as I adore Linnae Harper and Makayla Epps, should 2 guards 5'10" or less really be leading the rebound story?
  • Keep making free throws. We hit 75% last go round, so let's just continue to meet or exceed on this metric.
  • Watch it with the silly and at this point predictable fouls. Our bigs for some reason are exceedingly good at drawing fouls of late. Rebounding? Not so much. Reversing these two is going to be critical, especially going into the post-season.

I cannot stress enough how much the Cats need a win here. I doubt it gets us a first round bye, but at this point we should be thinking overall seeding for the NCAA tournament, and road wins are essential to maximizing our position. (But no pressure!)

Tipoff is at 7 PM EST on the SEC Network. Until gametime - Go Big Blue!!!