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From the Tennis Court to Dr. Rangel

Five years ago, Gabby Rangel helped lead the Ole Miss women's tennis team to the NCAA Championships and a final national ranking of No. 18. She also graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in economics and international studies.


This past weekend, Rangel received her doctorate of philosophy in political science, from the University of Kentucky.

Rangel has been serving as a teaching assistant at Kentucky, while working on her doctorate in Comparative Politics with a focus on the Latin American region. She has taught several political science classes to undergraduate students at UK. Rangel earned her master's in political science from the University of Kentucky in 2015.

18319033_10208941409921833_7534276313369206926_o.jpgCongrats Gabby on all your success from your Ole Miss family! #HottyToddy 

Rebels to Open SEC Play ' in Grand Fashion'

Ole Miss looks to reverse history, as the Rebels (9-4) travel to No. 1 Kentucky tonight (6 p.m., SEC Network), the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Ole Miss is 0-15 all-time against the nation's top ranked team, last playing No. 1 Kentucky in 2012. Kentucky is 102-13 all-time against Ole Miss, including 48-2 in games played in Lexington. The Rebels have one win all-time at Rupp Arena, coming in 1998.

"Excited to get the SEC schedule under way, and we obviously do it in grand fashion in Rupp Arena tomorrow night," said head coach Andy Kennedy on the SEC teleconference Monday. "So I know our guys will be excited about the opportunity, playing in the most storied venue in all of college basketball, against arguably the best team in college basketball. So I know our guys will be looking forward to the opportunity."

The Wildcats are a perfect 13-0, as they pursue the first undefeated season in college basketball since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, a team that included Tom Abernathy, the father of Todd Abernethy, the coordinator of recruiting development and acting assistant coach.

By defeating Louisville by eight points, 58-50, Kentucky's school-record run of consecutive double-digits to begin the season ended at 12, a run that included double-digit wins over No. 5 Kansas, No. 25 Providence, No. 6 Texas and No. 18 North Carolina.

"Cal doesn't get the credit he deserves for the job he does," said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin on the SEC teleconference Monday. "I watched them the other day. They're magnificent. They're defending as well as any team in the country, and as well as any team I've seen in a long time."

Their defense, Kennedy said, is what gives gives them an opportunity an opportunity to undefeated this season. Kentucky leads the nation in scoring defense (47.8 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.297) and blocked shots (8.2/game). The Wildcats also lead the SEC and ranks seventh nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.267).

"They're a special defensive team," Kennedy said. I've certainly watched them casually when I could throughout the course of the season, and then as we gear up for them in preparation. That is what gives them an opportunity to do what I know is a topic of conversation not only in Kentucky but throughout the country: Can this team go through the regular season undefeated? 

"It'll be a monumental challenge, obviously, but defensively is the reason that I think it's a valid question, simply because they don't give you anything easy, and as a result teams have really struggled to score against them."

Because of their defense, along with their size and length, Kennedy has stressed the importance of making jump shots, and defensively, keeping them off the offensive glass. Kentucky leads the SEC and ranks ninth nationally in rebounding margin (+10.4/game), leading the league in both offensive rebounds (15.2/game) and offensive rebounding percentage (.460).

"We're going to have to make jump shots, which is not easy to do in any venue, much less Rupp," said Kennedy after the win over Austin Peay on Saturday. "Because of their length and ability to alter everything in the paint, you have to make jump shots. Defensively, you have to do an incredible job off the defensive glass. We've improved on our rebounding margin and guys are pursing the ball more consistently. If you allow them to live off the offensive glass, you have no chance."

Kentucky head coach John Calipari, looking at Ole Miss, stressed the importance of defending jump shots, particularly perimeter shots, noting that the Rebels' three leading scorers, all perimeter players -- junior Stefan Moody (13.9 ppg), senior Jarvis Summers (13.3 ppg) and LaDarius White (12.5 ppg) -- account for 52.6 percent of the team's scoring and 53.2 percent of the team's field goal attempts.

"Mississippi is going to shoot 25 threes in this game or maybe more," said Calipari in his media opportunity Monday. "If they make 20, then we lost our first game. They're shooting 25. Their three guards are their leading scorers and take more than 50 percent of their shots. 

"They offensive rebound 13 or 14 per game. They're going to play a zone where they're changing defenses. It could confuse us. If they're making shots, then we have to try to drive them off the 3-point line. When you're playing teams that are willing to shoot that many, you just don't know."

SEC Appears Stronger Entering Start of League Play

Looking at the SEC as a whole, all metrics point to a stronger league from top to bottom and perhaps more NCAA Tournament bids for a league that received just three bids last season. And it starts with Kentucky's dominance at the top.

"Kentucky has sort of separated themselves in the nonconference from the rest of the world, not only in our league, but from everybody else's league as well," said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings on the SEC teleconference Monday. "Our league is deep and I think the conference season will be an absolute grind because there are so many teams that are probably competitive and equal enough that a lot of teams can win on any given night."

The SEC is one of four conferences with five teams in the RPI top 50 and one of three leagues with 10 teams in the RPI top 100. The SEC also has five teams in the top 50 and 11 teams in the top 100, according to KenPom.com. Ole Miss is rated No. 93 and No. 67 in the two metrics, respectively.

ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi released his first full bracket of the season, and it included five SEC teams, and in his conference-by-conference forecast, he forecasts four teams from the SEC to receive an NCAA Tournament bid.

VIDEO: Andy Kennedy UK Postgame Presser

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Kentucky Highlights

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


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.

Rebel Review: 3 Takeaways From Kentucky Game

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.

Rebels Open With Grundy in SEC Tourney

No. 6 Ole Miss (36-20, 15-15 SEC) vs. No. 11 Kentucky (30-24, 11-19 SEC)

May 21 | 9:30 a.m. | Hoover, Ala. | Fox Sports Net/ESPN3

UM Jr. RHP Mike Mayers (4-5, 3.21 ERA) vs. UK Sr. LHP Jerad Grundy (6-5, 4.75 ERA)

Ole Miss NCAA Tournament resume:

Overall Record: 36-20

SEC Record/Finish: 15-15/6th

RPI (Warren Nolan): 18

Strength of Schedule: 9

Record vs Top 50 RPI: 12-16

Record vs. 51-100 RPI: 6-2

Record vs. 100+ RPI: 18-2

Ole Miss NCAA Tournament projection:

Mark Etheridge, SEBaseball.com (May 19): No. 2 seed in Louisville Regional

Kendall Rogers, Perfect Game (May 20): No. 2 seed in Clemson Regional

Mayers to make second-straight start on four days' rest: Head coach Mike Bianco announced Monday that junior right-hander Mike Mayers will get the start against Kentucky. It will be his second-straight start on four days' rest. He enters the contest with a 4-5 record to go along with a 3.21 ERA, .229 B/AVG, 1.20 WHIP and 66-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder threw 105 pitches in a 7-1 loss to LSU this past Thursday, giving up five runs on seven hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in six innings of work. He threw 94 pitches the in a 3-0 win against Mississippi State the previous Saturday, as he worked seven scoreless innings, giving up two hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

Mayers will be making his third career start against Kentucky, the second of the season. He won each of the two previous meetings, both matched against Kentucky starter Jerad Grundy, as he allowed a combined six runs -- four earned -- in 13.1 innings. Earlier this year, he allowed three runs -- one earned -- on one hit with three walks and eight strikeouts in six innings.

Wahl 'day-to-day in his workload': Mike Bianco said that the availability of junior right-hander Bobby Wahl is another thing they will talk about today. He said Wahl won't start Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, but may work out of the bullpen.

"We want to pitch him, we need to pitch him, but we have to be careful and make sure he's really feeling good when the regional rolls around," Bianco said of Wahl.

Bianco in SEC Tournament openers, elimination games: Mike Bianco has advanced to 11 SEC Tournaments in his 13-year tenure at Ole Miss. He is 6-4 all-time in SEC Tournament openers.

With the new tournament format this season, the first round is single elimination before double elimination will begin with the final eight teams, including the top four seeds. Bianco is 8-9 all-time in SEC Tournament elimination games, including a 2-0 win against Arkansas and 11-2 loss to LSU last season. 

Bianco also won the 2006 SEC Tournament without facing elimination, winning four straight, capped by a 9-3 win against Vanderbilt 9-3 in the final. He is 19-18 all-time in SEC Tournament games.

Mathis stays hot at the top: Senior outfielder Tanner Mathis has reached base in 18 straight games and has raised his average 51 points to. 272 during that span. He was 7-for-10 with four walks in three games against LSU this past weekend.

Mathis has started all but one game and leads the team with 32 walks and ranks second on the team with a .408 on-base percentage.

"All of them have swung the bat great," Bianco said of the top and middle of his lineup. "(Austin) Anderson, (Tanner) Mathis, (Stuart) Turner, (Andrew) Mistone, they just continue to get hotter and hotter as the postseason gets closer. You need a handful of guys in the middle or at the top of the lineup to produce runs."

Familiar foe in Kentucky: Ole Miss and Kentucky met in a three-game series in April in Oxford with the Rebels dropping the series 2-1 to the Wildcats. Kentucky rallied to win the series opener 3-2 on the ESPNU Thursday Night Game of the Week. Ole Miss evened the series with a 11-5 win in game two, but was unable to complete a ninth-rally in a 5-4 loss in the series finale.

Ole Miss and Kentucky also met in last year's SEC Tournament opener with the Wildcats winning 2-0. Matt Snyder went 4-for-4 at the plate, while Bobby Wahl allowed just two runs on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

Where Kentucky is now: Kentucky, picked third in the SEC Eastern Division in the preseason poll, began the season ranked as high as No. 8 in one poll. The Wildcats began the season 22-6, winning 14 of their first 16 games before the start of SEC play.

Kentucky started SEC play with three straight series wins against Florida, Mississippi State and Georgia before dropping three straight series to LSU, Tennessee and South Carolina prior to its series against Ole Miss. Since its series win at Ole Miss, Kentucky is 4-7, including series losses to Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Missouri. 

Including nonconference games, Kentucky is 8-18 (5-16 in SEC play) since its 22-6 start and has fallen out of the polls. The Wildcats enter the SEC Tournament with a No 38 RPI, No. 25 strength of schedule and a 13-17 record against the RPI Top 50. Kentucky head coach Gary Herderson said they need a significant run, if not win the SEC Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.

Grundy faces Ole Miss for the third time: Senior left-hander Jerad Grundy gets the nod on the mound for Kentucky, his third career start for Ole Miss. He took the loss in each of the two previous starts, as he allowed a combined 15 runs in 10.1 innings. Earlier this year, he allowed nine runs on 12 hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 5.2 innings, as Ole Miss won 11-5.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder enters Tuesday's contest with a 6-5 record to go along with a 4.75 ERA, .286 B/AVG, 1.36 WHIP and 60-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ole Miss is 9-13 against left-handed starters this season.

Grundy, a 26th-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in the 2012 MLB Draft, started the season in the weekend rotation and won five of his first six decisions, including wins against Florida and Mississippi State. 

He then suffered three straight losses to Georgia, LSU and Tennessee, followed by a no-decision against South Carolina and a loss to Ole Miss and was removed from the weekend rotation. In the two midweek starts since, against Wright State and Indiana, Grundy is 1-0 with a 1.64, allowing just two runs on nine hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in 11 innings. 

"He ran into a rough four-game stretch in the middle of the year," Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson said of Grundy. "We moved him out of the rotation, and he was able to relax and get back to being himself, which is what we saw for the last year and a half. He's pitched much, much better the last two or three times out than he had the previous four."

What's at stake for Kentucky: 

I think so. RT @kyletucker_cj: @aaronfitt UK, off losing 2 of 3 at Mizzou & with just 11 SEC wins, gotta win SEC tournament to get in NCAA?

-- Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) May 18, 2013

Follow me on twitter @austinkmiller


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Recent Comments

    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

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