Primer: Ole Miss - Kentucky

Ole Miss (15-6, 6-2 SEC) travels to face No. 18 Kentucky (16-5, 6-2) tonight at 6 p.m. CT. What to watch for? We take a look.


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Game: Ole Miss - Kentucky
Date: Feb. 4, 6 p.m.
Location: Lexington, Ky.
TV/Radio: ESPNU/Ole Miss Radio Network


The Lede:

Yes, National Signing Day is only a day away. But the future of Ole Miss football can wait for now.

Ole Miss basketball takes center stage today, as the Rebels, who are 15-6 overall and 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference, travel to face No. 18 Kentucky tonight at 6 p.m. CT.

Ole Miss is fresh of an inspired comeback against South Carolina on Saturday, a game that saw the Rebels erase a 15-point deficit to defeat the Gamecocks 75-71. Kentucky split a pair of games last week. The Wildcats fell on the road at LSU last Tuesday before rebounding to pick up a road win at Missouri.

"They're a real good team. They're ranked," Ole Miss forward Aaron Jones said of Kentucky. "We need to bring energy, focus and our toughness if we want to have a chance against them. We got to do what we got to do to get this win so we can head into March looking good."

Now the fun begins.


Andy Kennedy
Associated Press

At long last, Ole Miss, second place in the Southeastern Conference, has reached the toughest stretch of its conference schedule. The first resume-building opportunity: the No. 18 Wildcats inside Rupp Arena, where they're 13-0 this season. A home date with Missouri follows Saturday.

Ole Miss is No. 57 in the latest RPI rankings of WarrenNolan.com. The Rebels are ranked No. 56 by ESPN. But the Rebels are lacking in quality wins. They're 4-5 against the RPI top-100, with wins over LSU, Middle Tennessee State, Penn State and Vanderbilt.

"Two very big challenges, obviously (Tuesday) night in Lexington against one of the better teams in the country, who have had an unbelievable amount of success in Rupp, and then turning around and hosting Missouri, who is playing very good basketball and presents a number of challenges with quite arguably the best back court in college basketball," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said.

"So another week of SEC play going to certainly present challenges."

WarrenNolan.com has Kentucky with the nation's 16th-best RPI ranking. The Wildcats are 16-5 on the year and 6-2 in the SEC.

"Andy has them playing so well," Kentucky coach John Calipari said of Ole Miss. "They're running their stuff, they're executing, they're playing through the people they need to play through. Players are playing their roles well. They're doing great stuff."

Ole Miss will have to contend with dynamic Kentucky freshman Julius Randle, who leads Kentucky averaging 16.1 points per game. His 10.1 rebounds per game are best in the conference.

"His overall game is what sticks out to me," Kennedy said. "He's obviously very, very physically strong and just attacks the ball. Great players are always around the ball, and he always seems to be around the ball. He's facing up and making more shots on the perimeter. Most everybody will do what we'll try to do (and that) is put some bodies between him and the basket, and hopefully we can get him off of his straight path, because if you allow him to get to that left hand and have a straight path to the basket, there's very little you're going to be able to do."


Scouting Kentucky:
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)

Kentucky fell 87-82 on the road at LSU last Tuesday before rebounding to pick up an 84-79 road win at Missouri. The Wildcats are 13-0 at Rupp Arena this season, but just 3-5 away from home. UK is 80-2 at Rupp Arena under John Calipari. The Wildcats top four scorers are all freshmen and average in double figures. Kentucky leads the league in field goal percentage, rebounding and ranks second in scoring, but ranks 11th turnover margin.


Julius Randle
USA TODAY images

Tuesday's game will be the 114th meeting between the two schools. The Wildcats hold a 100-13 lead in the series, but two of the Rebels' 13 all-time wins have come in the last seven meetings. Kentucky is 47-2 against the Rebels at Rupp Arena. Ole Miss' two wins there were on Feb. 14, 1998 (UK won the national title later that season) and Feb. 11, 1927. Ole Miss IMG Network analyst Keith Carter scored a game-high 21 points, including three 3-pointers, as the Rebels upset the 7th-ranked Wildcats in 1998. Ole Miss trailed UK by nine points at halftime, but outscored the Wildcats 50-30 in the second half.


Leftovers:
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)

* Ole Miss is 26-9 (.735 winning percentage) over its last 35 games versus SEC opponents dating back to 2012, which is the best mark in school history. It is also tied with Florida for best mark in the SEC over the last 35 games.

* Ole Miss has blocked 142 shots this season, and ranks second in the SEC fourth in the nation averaging 6.8 blocked shots per game.

* Senior G Marshall Henderson leads the SEC and ranks second in the nation averaging 4.28 3-pointers per game. Henderson has hit a 3-pointer in a school record 54-straight games and became just the fourth player in school history to join the 1,000-point club in two seasons.

* Junior G Ladarius White scored a season-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting including 3-of-3 from behind the arc against Kentucky last year. White also grabbed three rebounds and swiped a pair of steals in 31 minutes versus the Wildcats.

* Ole Miss ranks second the SEC hitting 73.3 percent of its free throw attempts in conference play. The Rebels have hit 109-of-144 free throws (.757) over their last seven games.


Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy meets the media following the Rebels' comeback win over South Carolina.


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