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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

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