UK vs. Ole Miss – 3 things to watch



1. Home cooking — With a win, UK can move closer to wrapping up an SEC regular-season championship (it has a three-game lead with five to play) and would reach 50 straight home wins.

That’s right. A half-hundred wins on its home court (the number does include the 2009 NIT game at Memorial Coliseum), the longest streak in the nation.

That makes UK senior guard Darius Miller the only player on this roster who has experienced a home loss.

Expect the streak to continue against a 15-9, 5-5 SEC team coming off a Thursday game against Vanderbilt.

“I think they’re scary good. When you look for holes that you may have an opportunity to exploit, they don’t have many,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said in this week’s SEC teleconference. “As impressive as they are as individuals, I think they’re even better as a team.”

2. Size versus size — The one area the Rebels can challenge UK is in the frontcourt, which has size and strength. In the two times UK head coach John Calipari has talked about Saturday’s opponent this week, he immediately mentioned Ole Miss’ physicality.

“We expect it to be a tough battle,” Calipari said.

The Cats’ frontcourt will be tested. Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC in rebounding margin (plus-4.4 per game) and is especially adept at getting second opportunities by grabbing 36.3 percent of all available offensive rebounds.

Of course, that strength should be countered by UK’s own strength at rebounding. The Cats rank first in the SEC in rebounding margin (plus-7.3 per game).

3. Stifling defense — This could be, for UK, a total defensive shutdown. Ole Miss is a terrible shooting team — it makes 29.6 percent of its 3-pointers and 59.2 percent of its free throws. The Rebels are decent from inside the arc — but nobody gets much of anything inside against UK.

The Cats already lead the nation in field-goal percentage defense (35.8 percent). They could improve on that if their defense plays to its usual level.