No. 1 Challenge

Terrance Henry did as he had done so many times before Thursday night.


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Even after a blowout loss, he made his way to the press room in the bowels of Tad Smith Coliseum. As hard as it was, he fielded questions from media and answered as best he could.

But there was little to say of Ole Miss' 102-76 loss to Vanderbilt. Henry was ready to move on, anyway. Ole Miss is in Lexington for a meeting with No. 1 Kentucky today at 3 p.m., easily the Rebels' greatest challenge yet.

"It's not going to get any easier going into Rupp Arena, playing the No. 1 team in the country," Henry said.

Indeed.

Ole Miss is 15-10 overall and 5-6 in Southeastern Conference games. Kentucky is 25-1 and 11-0 in its league schedule. The Widcats are the nation's No. 1 ranked team in both polls for the fourth straight week.

"They're probably going to come in here ready to go to war," Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who is 89-13 overall in his career in Lexington, said. "They're playing in Rupp Arena; you know they're going to play well.

"They're the best offensive rebounding team in our league. As I watched the tape, if they have their way on the backboard, they'll beat us. If we can control that, the game swings a little bit in our direction. If they do what they've been doing, it's going to be a really hard game for us."


Anthony Davis
Associated Press

Thing is, Ole Miss isn't the same rebounding team it was just a few weeks ago, and Kentucky leads the SEC in rebounding offense, rebounding defense and rebounding margin.

Ole Miss, by comparison, is second in the SEC in rebounds per game and rebounding margin.

However, the Rebels won the rebounding battle in just one of their last four games, against Vanderbilt, a game that was all but over at halftime with the Commodores out-rebounding Ole Miss by two.

Ole Miss fell short on the boards in losses at Alabama and Mississippi State and managed only to tie Auburn in a 61-54 win at home. Ole Miss is 2-4 in its last six games.

"They're scary good," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said of Kentucky. "When you look for holes that maybe you can have an opportunity to exploit, they don't have many. Tremendous defensively. I think they play as a cohesive unit, which is really a tribute to Cal when you're mixing in freshmen along with a couple of upperclassmen."

In total, Kentucky ranks first in the SEC in 10 different categories. Freshman Anthony Davis leads the team with 14.0 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game, while he tops the nation with 4.9 blocks per game.

The Wildcats hold a 98-13 lead in the series, but two of the Rebels' 13 wins have come since 2009, including a thrilling buzzer-beating win in Oxford last season. Kentucky is a perfect 15-0 at Rupp Arena this season, and winners of its last 17 games.

"From a preparation standpoint, you could probably give me a month at least heading into Rupp and I'm not sure how much help that would be," Kennedy said. "My hope is that our guys will come out and meet the challenge."

Ole Miss' opportunities to pad its postseason resume are fading quickly. Five games remain in the regular season before Ole Miss packs its bags for the conference tournament in New Orleans, La., in March.

And Ole Miss, tied for sixth place in the SEC, is stepping into Rupp Arena off a quick turn from Thursday's ugly loss to Vanderbilt. Ole Miss last faced the nation's No. 1 team in 2007, at top-ranked Florida. Ole Miss is 0-14 all-time against the top-ranked team in the country.

"We're getting better, which is all we want. I'm happy but I'm not satisfied," Calipari said. "I know we haven't lost in a while, but it's not about that. It's about getting better. We're just trying to keep this ship going in the right direction."


Jelan Kendrick
USPresswire


Kendrick issues statement:


Ole Miss guard Jelan Kendrick issued a statement Friday, a day after he got into a postgame altercation with teammate Reginald Buckner following the team's loss to Vanderbilt Thursday night.

Kendrick and Buckner had to be separated outside of the Ole Miss locker room by assistant coach Bill Armstrong and others.

Kennedy even attempted to step in but Kendrick resisted, instead opting to continue with a profanity-laced tirade in front of media, cheerleaders and others.

"I want to apologize for my behavior after the game last night," Kendrick said in the statement, released by Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations. "It was a frustrating night, and I let my emotions get the best of me. My language was unacceptable. As a team, we have put this behind us and are ready to finish the season strong."

Ole Miss hasn't announced any sort of disciplinary action. Whether or not any such punishment is eventually handed down remains unclear.


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