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Rebel Comeback Falls Short

Five takeaways Ole Miss' 84-70 loss to No. 18 Kentucky on Tuesday night:

1. Rebel Comeback Falls Short

Kentucky built a 42-25 halftime lead, as the Wildcats shot 58.6 percent (17-of-29) from the field and 46.2 percent (6-of-13) from 3-point range. In the second half, Kentucky led by as many as 22 midway through the second half before Ole Miss made a run to get within six, down 76-70, with 1:49 left after a three-pointer from Anthony Perez.

On the next possession, Julius Randle put Kentucky up 78-70 with a layup late in the shot clock. Ole Miss had three looks to cut back into the lead, but Kentucky grabbed the rebound and put the game away with six straight points from the free throw line for the 84-70 win in Oxford For the game, the Wildcats were 27-of-30 from the free throw line, including 25-of-28 in the second half.

"The way we played in the first half, even with all the turnovers, we wanted to play faster," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "We didn't want to get into a slugfest because they can score in spurts. You need to get easy baskets, and we did. I was really proud of them in the first half. I said at halftime, 'They're going to make a run. You do know that, right? Now, let's see how we respond to it, and let's make our own run. 

"We're making strides. I was really proud of Julius, and we made our free throws. We showed courage down the stretch. They made shots, and they make shots."

2. Kentucky Controls The Paint

Like the second half in their earlier meeting at Rupp Arena, Kentucky won the battle in the paint with a decisive advantage in points in the paint (36-26), second-chance points (11-2) and rebounding (39-23). Julius Randle led the way for Kentucky with 25 points and 13 rebounds. He was also 13-of-14 from the free throw line.

"They turned it over 19 times because we couldn't stop them," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "When we did get them to miss, it was the same thing we saw in Rupp. They go and get it. My guys are saying this and that. We're just not tough enough physically to put our nose in there and battle. As a coach, when you're saying that at the end of February, it's pretty sobering. It's pretty disappointing. My fault."

For Ole Miss, Anthony Perez, who plays some in the frontcourt, finished with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Aaron Jones, Dwight Coleby, Demarco Cox and Sebastian Saiz combined for seven points on 2-of-9 shooting.

"We were taking pretty good looks," Kennedy said. "We just can't get anything at the basket. We're 26 games into this, and it has not changed. Our field goal percentage is around 40 percent in league play. It's sobering."

3. Newby Helps Spark Rally In Return

Martavious Newby returned to action, having missed the previous six games after suffering a hand injury against Mississippi State on Jan. 25. Newby did not score and grabbed just one rebound in nine minutes played, but he gave Ole Miss energy off the bench.

He checked in at the 9:08 mark in the second half when the Rebels trailed 62-40, its largest deficit of the game, and they went on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 64-50 with 7:13 left. Ole Miss would later get to within six points before Kentucky closed out the game.

"He gave us great energy," Kennedy said. "He's a guy who was supposed to be out four to five weeks, and he was out about three. He practiced for the first time yesterday. I had zero intention of putting him in the game. I'm just looking for life. I'm just looking for some fight, and he gave us some fight."

4. Summers Bounces Back

After being held to nine points at Alabama and then 11 points at Georgia, Jarvis Summers bounced back with a team-high 22 points, his eighth 20-point game of the season. He was also 9-of-17 from the floor.

"He's just aggressive," Kennedy said. "He cares. He's a competitor. That kid is a warrior. He tweaked his ankle a little bit. It's grind for him because I'm playing him heavy minutes. I had to take him out for that. He's a competitor. You can never question Jarvis Summers in any regard."

5. The Next Opportunity Awaits

Ole Miss turns around and hosts No. 2 Florida, which has won each of their first 12 SEC games and 17 straight games overall since a 65-54 loss at Connecticut on Dec. 2. The Gators look to extend their winning streak to 18 games, as they host Auburn on Wednesday.

Like Kentucky, Florida is another opportunity for Ole Miss to enhance its resume with the Gators rated No. 4 in the Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com) entering Tuesday.

"You have to try to move forward as quickly as possible and hope that you learn some lessons tonight," Kennedy said. "That's what you hope. When you see the ball go in the basket early, it will do amazing things to you."

Opportunity For Rebels This Week

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After road losses at Alabama and Georgia last week, Ole Miss returns to the friendly confines of the Tad Smith Coliseum, where it is 10-3 this season, including 5-0 in conference play.

The Rebels fell 15 spots to No. 66 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com) from last week, but they have two opportunities to enhance their resume this week, as they host No. 18 Kentucky on Tuesday and then No. 2 Florida on Saturday.

It is the first time since the 1998-99 season that Ole Miss has hosted two top-20 teams at home in the same week. Both opponents are also rated in the top 15 of the RPI with Kentucky rated No. 12 and Florida rated No. 4.

"Well, it's out there anyway for sure," said head coach Andy Kennedy of the team's NCAA Tournament bubble status entering the week. "We lost two heartbreakers last week. Really our focus is on winning a game, and Kentucky presents the next opportunity to do that on Tuesday night. We know it's going to be a difficult challenge because we've seen that firsthand a couple weeks ago in Rupp. 

"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 just on winning a game."

In their first meeting, Kentucky stretched a 35-34 halftime lead to 50-41 with 15:06 left and went on to win 80-64 at Rupp Arena in Lexington on Feb. 4. The Wildcats shot the ball much better in the second half (60 percent, 15-of-25) after shooting 42.3 percent (11-of-26) in the first half.

Kentucky also controlled the paint with a decisive advantage in points in the paint (28-6), second-chance points (14-7), defensive rebounds (12-3) and total rebounds (19-9).

"We stayed around for a while," Kennedy said. "I believe it was a two- or three-possession game maybe until the 10-minute, 12-minute mark of the second half. We couldn't get a rebound, which has really been kind of a broken record for us. But we just could not get a rebound in the second half. We had some dead-ball rebounds, but the first one that an Ole Miss Rebel had I believe was under two minutes to go in the second half."

Marshall Henderson led the Rebels with 16 points on 6-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-12 from 3-point range in their first meeting. Henderson, the SEC's fourth-leading scorer (19.5 ppg), is coming off his team-leading eighth 20-point game of the season, as he scored a game-high 24 points off the bench in a 61-60 loss at Georgia.

"Henderson at any time can make five straight shots," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "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."

"He's taking 12 3s a game," added Kentucky assistant coach John Robic. "But he is shooting a decent percentage with those shots. One of those is going to be from 35 (feet), the other is going to be an inch behind the line. When he makes them, he's really, really good and their team is really, really good. We just can't give him any open looks because he works extremely hard. He never stops moving to get a shot off."

SEC MBB Teleconference 2.17

Highlights of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Florida head coach Billy Donovan. Ole Miss hosts two top-20 teams at home in the same week for the first time since 1999. The Rebels play No. 18 Kentucky on Tuesday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN) and then No. 2 Florida on Saturday (11 a.m., CBS).


Opening statement:

We're hosting the two best teams in our league, starting with Kentucky on Tuesday night and then Florida on Saturday. They are two tremendous challenges for our group, but also tremendous opportunities.

On the up-and-down play of his frontcourt:

For us, we have a pretty inexperienced front line, and 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. They're more comfortable at home. They play more confidently, more assertively, and 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 have to take the right approach. We have done that when we have been at home and we just have not been able to carry with us on the road. You're well aware of the number differential from a productivity standpoint home and away, and as a result we're not having as much success on the road.

On the first Kentucky game earlier this season in Lexington:

We stayed around for a while. I believe it was a two- or three-possession game maybe until the 10-minute, 12-minute mark of the second half. We couldn't get a rebound, which has really been kind of a broken record for us. But we just could not get a rebound in the second half. We had some dead-ball rebounds, but the first one that an Ole Miss Rebel had I believe was under two minutes to go in the second half. We zoned them quite a bit, and they did not make a 3-point shot in the second half, but even the ones that they missed they got every rebound. Willie Cauley-Stein probably played his best game in a Kentucky uniform and just dominated on both ends. They certainly got some run-outs, but they got control of the game at about the 30-minute mark, and then we were just trying to hold on for dear life.

On bringing Marshall Henderson off the bench on Saturday at Georgia and how it worked: 

It worked out pretty good. He's just really been struggling with his shooting percentages in road games, non-league and SEC. Going into Georgia, he was shooting close to 30 percent from the floor and less than 25 percent in the first half. I was just doing something to try to change the way that he approached the game, allow him to see it for a few minutes on the bench and, I don't know if that directly affected his performance but he came out and made shots. I think he had 14 (points) in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting, something like that. As a result, we were leading at the half. Second half, he struggled a little bit and as a result we came up a possession short. But that was the thinking: just trying to find a winning combination.

On NCAA Tournament bubble status entering the week:

Well, it's out there anyway for sure. We lost two heartbreakers last week. Really our focus is on winning a game, and Kentucky presents the next opportunity to do that on Tuesday night. We know it's going to be a difficult challenge because we've seen that firsthand a couple weeks ago in Rupp. 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 just on winning a game.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari

Opening statement:

We're playing two teams that have given us problems. Mississippi at home was anybody's ballgame with six minutes to go in the game. LSU had us down double digits most of the game and almost got it 20, so they'll be two tough games for us.

On Ole Miss this year without Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner:

Those younger guys are pretty good players now too. And they're different. They're more athletic. They may be, you know, more slender. But those two, anyone would be more slender compared to those two. They're athletic, they're long, and they give them a little different dimension. Those other two were veteran, big-bodied guys, hard to go against. But I'm liking Mississippi's team.

On what his team did to have success against Ole Miss earlier this season in Lexington:

With six minutes to go, it was anybody's ballgame. And then we got a couple breakouts and made a shot and all of a sudden it was 12, and then we got going a little bit. But that was late, late in the game. You're at the mercy of them making jumpers. And again, their point guard (Jarvis Summers) makes them go. They have other players on that team that can score baskets, and then (Marshall) Henderson at any time can make five straight shots. 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.

On whether being out of the conference championship race changes the psychology of the rest of the regular season:

I've never been big on conference championships or conference tournaments. Every game we play is to prepare us for March, and that's how we approach it. The history of my teams have done well in conference play and conference tournaments because they're not the goal. The goal is to be at our best in March. And so, with the last game we played, (for) 30 minutes that's as good as we've played all year. What happened down the stretch was that mental discipline that I talked about before the game. But it showed me that we can beat anybody in the country. We've got to shore up how we finish games off. It showed me our goals do not need to change -- at all. And I told the team this: It's about chemistry, energy and a will to win for your team. There were three rebounds you would have figured our best rebounder would have got balls, and he was right there with another guy, and they got all those balls. (Dorian Finney-)Smith got one, (Casey) Prather got one down the middle, they got another one, and they tipped back one for a 3. There was all that will to get that ball that they had more than we had. But, again, our goals haven't changed. I'm happy with my team. What that game showed me: We're as good as anybody in the country; we can play with anybody. Now let's shore this up, let's get this chemistry together and this energy together, let's create a little more will to win down the stretch and execute. They got to the line by driving it. We took bailout 3s. Can't do that. Can't do that late in the game. But again, we're still learning.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan

On Marshall Henderson as an X-Factor:

Andy (Kennedy) puts him in a lot of really, really good situations for him. Since I have been in this league, I don't recall a players as fast as he is coming off screens and getting shots off. He is incredible doing that. There are times that you play really, really good defense and it doesn't make a difference. That's probably a tribute to Henderson and his ability to shoot the ball. He is a unique, talented player. The thing that I admire most about him is what a great competitor he is and how much he loves playing. He's certainly a handful to get ready for, but they also have a lot of other good players besides who him are playing well.

On what impresses him the most about Kentucky's Julius Randle:

Besides what people can see with his talent and his skills, the way he puts it on the floor and his size. And again, John can probably comment better about this than I can because I had him for a short period of time. The thing I was impressed with him is, when I had him he was the same guy every single day. He was the same guy. We went double sessions because there was a lot to get prepared for because we only had about a week of practice before we competed so we had to do double sessions. As a young kid, being in high school and maybe not going through college practices before and playing against other good players, he was always there early, he was getting shots up, he was always ready to go, he had a smile on his face, he enjoyed playing, he enjoyed working and competing and trying to get better, and I thought he was an everyday guy. Now obviously that was only for a couple weeks and a college basketball season is a lot longer. I'm sure like most guys there are going to be ups and downs, but I always appreciated his disposition in practice each day.

Three takeaways from Ole Miss' 80-64 loss at No. 18 Kentucky on Tuesday night:

1. Missed Opportunity, But More Opportunities Await Rebels

With the 80-64 loss at No. 18 Kentucky, Ole Miss moves to 15-6 overall and 6-3 in Southeastern Conference play. The Rebels are now 4-6 against top-100 RPI teams, including 0-4 against top-50 RPI teams. 

Ole Miss turns around and hosts Missouri on Saturday, which is just outside the top 50 at No. 51 in the latest RPI (ESPN.com). The Rebels still have two more big opportunities at home against Kentucky and Florida, which are rated No. 13 and No. 5, respectively, in the RPI. Ole Miss also travels to Arkansas (No. 85) and hosts Vanderbilt (No. 69).

2. Kentucky Sets Tone Early In Second Half

After going into halftime with a 35-34 lead, Kentucky opened the second half on a 15-7 run to stretch the lead to 50-41 with 15:06 left after a Julius Randle dunk. Ole Miss got to within seven at 50-43 and 58-51, but the Rebels were not able to cut too far into the lead after that initial flurry by the Wildcats.

Kentucky also shot the ball much better in the second half, shooting 60 percent (15-of-25) in the second half after shooting 42.3 percent (11-of-26) in the first half.

3. Wildcats Win Battle In The Paint

Head coach Andy Kennedy talked about Kentucky's size with all five starters listed at 6-foot-6 or taller. Willie Cauley-Stein (7-foot-0) and Alex Poythress (6-foot-8) also combined for 49 minutes off the bench for the Wildcats.

Ole Miss did well against Kentucky's size in the first half, holding an advantage in points in the paint (18-16) and second-chance points, while being even in offensive rebounding (8-8) and being outrebounded by just five at 22-17. 

In the second half, however, Kentucky held a decisive edge in points in the paint (28-6), second-chance points (14-7), defensive rebounds (12-3) and total rebounds (19-9). The Wildcats' leading scorer on the season, Julius Randle, also had 11 of his 12 points in the second half.

Opportunity Awaits Rebels At Rupp

With Saturday's 75-71, comeback win over South Carolina, Ole Miss is 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference and tied for second in the league standings with Kentucky entering Tuesday's showdown with the Wildcats. The Rebels have also played themselves into the NCAA Tournament conversation as one of the first five teams out, according to the latest USA Today bracket released Monday.

Ole Miss enters Tuesday's game rated No. 56 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com), while the Wildcats are rated No. 13, the highest rated opponent to date and the second-highest opponent on the schedule. The Rebels are 4-5 against top-100 RPI teams this season with wins over LSU, Vanderbilt, Penn State and Middle Tennessee.

"We have opportunities on the horizon, and we don't pay a lot of attention to the projections in the first week in February," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "There is so much basketball left to be played, and we certainly lived that last year. We were dead numerous times, and our guys continued to grind and fight. Anytime you're in a league such as the SEC, you're going to have quality opportunities. We have two this week, and my focus is just on getting our kids ready for the challenges."

Ole Miss had a similar opportunity last Wednesday at Tennessee, but they fell behind 13-4 by the first media timeout in an 86-70 loss. Tennessee held a decisive edge in rebounding (45-27), points in the paint (36-24) and second-chance points (19-4), and Kentucky presents similar problems with all five projected starters listed at 6-foot-6 or taller.

"I hope we can take the (right) approach that we have go in there with so we don't get the same result where we get behind 13-4 and then have to battle the five future pros, the hall of fame coach and the 23,000," said Kennedy of comparing Kentucky to Tennessee. "I hope we don't get behind early. It's a different team. Tennessee is veteran-laden, more physical, below the rim. These guys are high-flyers."

Kentucky is 80-2 at Rupp Arena under John Calipari, including 13-0 this season. The Wildcats hold a 100-13 lead in the all-time series, including a 26-1 mark at Rupp Arena, with the Rebels' lone win there coming Feb. 14, 1998.

The Wildcats lead the league in field goal percentage (47.4 percent), rebounding (41.8 rpg) and rank second in scoring (80.0 ppg). They also lead the league in rebounding margin (+10.1 rpg) and offensive rebounding percentage (42.8 percent). Freshman forward Julius Randle leads the team, averaging a double-double with 16.1 points per game and a league-leading 10.1 rebounds per game.

"They're extremely long and athletic," Kennedy said. "We better make a bunch of shots because it's going to be hard to get rebounds. That's what they do. They are young, but they have been very good at Rupp, and that's where we have to go Tuesday."

Related Links:

Ole Miss seeking quality wins, starting with Kentucky, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Marshall-mania hits Rupp Arena for Kentucky game, writes Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herlad-Leader

A three-spot from UK's Ole Miss preview, writes John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader

Ole Miss senior Marshall Henderson is all grown up, writes Andy Katz of ESPN.com

SEC MBB Teleconference 2.3

Full transcript of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Missouri head coach Frank Haith. The Rebels travel to Lexington, Ky., to play the Wildcats on Tuesday (6 p.m., ESPNU) and then return home to play the Tigers on Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports Net).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

Opening statement:

We have two very big challenges. We have tomorrow night in Lexington against one of the better teams in the country. We have not had an unbelievable amount of success in Rupp and then turning around and hosting Missouri, which is playing very good basketball and presents a number of challenges with quite arguably the best backcourt in college basketball. It's another week of SEC play with those challenges.

On Missouri guards Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross:

They're very good players. Clarkson has had a Player-of-the-Year-type start to SEC play, and Jabari Brown has taken his game to another level, coming off I believe it was a career-high in their outing against Kentucky, as I was preparing for Kentucky and Missouri this week. I saw the game. He's playing with a lot of confidence. He has always been a very good shooter and now his game his game has expanded when he can do more things off the bounce. And then Earnest Ross was at Auburn prior to going to Missouri and has developed into a deadly perimeter shooter and a guy who physically you have to match his intensity.

On Kentucky's perimeter play:

The biggest concern for us is their size. We're not overly big in the backcourt, and they have a lot of size. They play (Jarrod) Polson a little bit, and he's probably the only guy on their roster under 6-foot-5 who gets in the game. They present a number of issues with their size and versatility. The (Aaron and Andrew) Harrison twins are really starting to play much more confidently like with all freshmen, as the season gets longer and they get more comfortable in their roles. James Young is as prolific a scorer as Calipari has had from day one who has scored as efficiently as he has. They present a number of challenges with their size, athleticism and ability to make shots.

On Kentucky's Julius Randle:

His overall game is what sticks out to me. He's very physically strong and attacks the ball. Great players are always around the ball, and he always seems to be around the ball. He faces up and makes shots from the perimeter. Most everybody will do what we will try to do, which is put some bodies between him and the basket, and hopefully we can get him off his straight path. If you let allow him to get to his left hand and have a straight path to the basket, there's going to be very little you are going to be able to do.

On NCAA Tournament projections:

We have opportunities on the horizon, and we don't pay a lot of attention to the projections in the first week in February. There is so much basketball left to be played, and we certainly lived that last year. We were dead numerous times, and our guys continued to grind and fight. Anytime you're in a league such as the SEC, you're going to have quality opportunities. We have two this week, and my focus is just on getting our kids ready for the challenges.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari

Opening statement:

You're talking about two teams that have two teams that have players who can break you down and score when they need to. Mississippi State was up four on us when they played us here, and we kind of wore them down with a little bit of our depth, but I'm not sure we will be able to do that down there. Mississippi, Andy has them playing so well. They're running their stuff and executing and playing through the people they need to play through. They're playing zone and scrambling it up a little bit. They're putting out a 1-3-1 zone and putting out a little bit of a half-court trap. They're doing great stuff. Both teams are well coached. Both teams are in position to win games because of how they're being coached, and players are playing their roles well.

On the Missouri win on Saturday:

The whole mantra and message for the week was passion, outward emotion and enthusiasm for each other and showing it. We practiced all week on recognizing each other's good plays and verbally doing it. We have such a young team. We have the youngest team I have ever coached and one of the youngest teams in college basketball history. Their emotions are all tied to how they're playing offensively. Our strength of schedule is top-five. That's why when everybody gets caught up with us having to win every game, we don't. We just have to take care of business. Our strength is top-five, and it's not going to change a whole lot to finish out the year. 

Our efficiency on offense, we're holding onto the ball too much, and it's top-10 or top-five. The issue becomes the enthusiasm, passion and spirit we play with on defense. We should be a better defensive team than we are last year. A lot of it is transition defense. How about we sprint back? Last game, they were driving right. Make them drive left, and they just kept driving right. There are some things that we can do to make us better. It's not a skill set. It's not that we don't have good guys or we're a good team. All of the things that people say are our weaknesses are things we can change. We have size, athleticism and depth. The things you have no control over, we have. We have things we can change, and we're going to try to.

On Missouri's Jabari Brown:

He was outstanding. He flew up and down the court and put himself in position to get out ahead of our defense. If you leave him alone, he makes shots. The last five or six games, he was making 60-70 percent of his threes. Whoever is playing Missouri, and I'm happy we're not playing them again, you have to prepared to say when he gets going, what are you going to do? We went a little zone and trapped some pick-and-rolls. We did some stuff to try to slow him down, and he and (Jordan) Clarkson ended up with 70 points between them. 

We have had now two games where teams have shot 50 percent against my team. I bet if you look over my 20 years of coaching for back-to-back 50 percent shooting nights, I can't imagine that it's happened against my team, but it did, and LSU and Missouri are both tremendous basketball teams.

Missouri head coach Frank Haith

Opening statement:

We're coming off a tough loss here on Saturday against a very good Kentucky team. Our guys played extremely hard and competed. Kentucky played great, particularly the Harrison twins. Going back to look at it, their performance was outstanding. We have two difficult challenges ahead of this week playing two road games, starting tomorrow night against one of the best teams in the country, Florida, and then at Ole Miss, probably one of the hottest teams in our league. It's going to be a great challenge for us this week.

On standing in NCAA Tournament projections:

I have not paid attention to it. I know we have some opportunities in our conference to continue to improve our resume. We have to take care of business and do what we need to do to give ourselves a chance to have our name called out on that Sunday.

On freshman guard Wes Clark:

He's getting more and more comfortable as all freshmen do, as they get more court time and get more used to the speed of the game. We're seeing Wes be more confident and get a better feel for what he can and can't do in a game of this level. Because of that, it makes us better with his improving.

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