Conference play for the Ole Miss Rebels is set to begin tonight at the Pavilion, and the first SEC team to come to town is the 8th ranked Kentucky Wildcats. The Rebels faced one ranked opponent in the early part of the season, an 86-77 loss to #12 Creighton in the Paradise Jam. Andy Kennedy’s team begins SEC play with an overall record of 9-3 and must overcome mistakes from the early part of the season if they hope to take down the Wildcats.
The Rebels come into tonight’s game having won their last three games, but the level of competition will be kicked up a notch in tonight’s game. In the Rebels last game against South Alabama, the Rebels were able to eclipse 90 points for the third time this season. Doing his part was senior Sebastion Siaz, who scored a team-high 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in his seventh double-double of the season. Deandre Burnett scored 21 points and comes in as the Rebels leading scorer, averaging 19.2 PPG. Terrance Davis continues to benefit from being placed in the starting lineup, turning in two double-doubles in his last four games. Cullen Neal turned in 11 points and nine assists with no turnovers in the win.
For the Rebels, the key to success is the ability to play with pace, but not play out of control. Giving a team like Kentucky extra possessions is a quick way to fall behind, and the Rebels are averaging 15 turnovers a game so far this season. If they don’t cut that number down, they could be in trouble. The Rebels finished with 23 assists against South Alabama, nine more than their season average. Moving the ball and making an extra pass can be the difference between a quality shot and a wasted possession. An emphasis on quality shots will work to improve the Rebels FG percentage, which currently sits at 43 percent for the year.
Kentucky is led by head coach John Calipari, and it’s no secret that the Wildcats are top of the class in the SEC (on the court). The Wildcats are 10-2, with losses against #10 Louisville and #11 UCLA. Averaging 93 PPG, the Wildcats are 4th in the country in scoring, so the Rebels have their work cut out for them if they hope to pull the upset. As usual, freshmen lead the way for the Wildcats, and Malik Monk leads the team averaging 21.2 PPG. Four of the five starters for the Wildcats are freshmen, with the exception of sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe. The Wildcats have had eight days off since their loss to their in-state rival Louisville and have no intention of losing their SEC opener; so, the Rebels better be ready to face Kentucky at their best. The Wildcats are 11-point favorites on the road.
Tip-off for the Rebels SEC opener at the Pavilion is at 7 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN2. The Ole Miss Radio Network will broadcast the game as well with David Kellum on the call. Kentucky has won the last seven meetings against the Rebels and leads the all-time series 104-13.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.