Primer: Ole Miss - Kentucky

OXFORD, Miss. - The road wasn't kind to Ole Miss basketball.


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After what was then considered an all-important win over Missouri over a week ago, the Rebels suffered consecutive last-shot losses to middle-to-bottom Southeastern Conference teams Alabama and Georgia.

Now, they face the unenviable task of righting the ship against league elite Kentucky and Florida. Fortunately, Ole Miss (16-9, 7-5 SEC) hosts both teams inside Tad Smith Coliseum, where the Rebels are 5-0 in conference play.

"We had two heartbreakers last week," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said of Ole Miss, now ranked No. 68 in the latest RPI, according to ESPN.com. "Really our focus is on winning a game and Kentucky presents the next opportunity to do that on Tuesday night."

Kennedy isn't thinking ahead right now - not with his team staring down a four-game losing streak unless they take care of business on their home turf.

Up first is the No. 18 Wildcats, who are 19-6 on the season and 9-3 in the SEC. Kentucky most recently lost to Florida, No. 3 in the country, Saturday night in Rupp Arena. Ole Miss and Kentucky have already met once this season, in Lexington, an 80-64 Wildcat win.

Ole Miss trailed by only one point at halftime in the early-February loss. However, the Wildcats shot 60 percent and scored 45 points in the second half to run away with an easy victory.


Andy Kennedy
File Photo

"We know it's going to be a difficult challenge because we've seen that firsthand a couple weeks ago in Rupp," Kennedy said. "But for us, right now, we've lost two in a row and we're sitting at 16-9 through 25 (games), but those 16 seem like a faint memory simply because we haven't won one in a week. So for us the focus is on winning a game."

"I think their point guard (Jarvis Summers) makes them go," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said of the Rebels. "They've got other players on that team that can score baskets, and then (Marshall) Henderson at any time can make five straight baskets. Can you keep your head about you if he does? And he seems to do it at home more than he does on the road."

Henderson, who came off the bench at Georgia and scored a team-leading 24 points, isn't the only Rebel who prefers the comforts of home.

As a team, Ole Miss is shooting better from the field (.453 at home/.379 on the road) and from 3 (.419/.313). The Rebels rebound better, too. They're -7.3 away from Oxford and even at home.

Possibly the chief culprit in the Rebels' ills in road games, where they're 2-5 in conference play, is along the front line. Aaron Jones and Sebastian Saiz are averaging a combined 17.8 points per game and 16.6 rebounds in home SEC games compared to just 7.3 points and 9.6 rebounds away.

"For us, we've got a pretty inexperienced front line, and I think really as it occurs across the league and across the country, kids that are a little more inexperienced, whether it be because they're freshmen or sophomores or because they've never really played the roles that they're currently holding, they typically play better at home," Kennedy said.

"They're more comfortable at home. They play more confidently, more assertively, and I think that's been the case with our guys. We go on the road and we're not nearly as assertive as we need to be, and as a result we're not nearly as productive. We've got to take the right approach. We've done that when we've been at home and we just haven't been able to carry it with us on the road."

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m., in a game to be televised nationally on ESPN.


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