Kentucky mens basketball in search of bounce back win in Oxford


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Cason Wallace (22) dribbles the ball up the court during the Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas mens basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kansas won 77-68. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Ali Cetinok, Assistant Sports Editor

Following a four-game winning streak Kentucky mens basketball fell to No. 9 Kansas inside Rupp Arena on Saturday.

Now, with much of their momentum stifled, the Cats return to action against a struggling Ole Miss team that currently stands 9-12 on the season and 1-7 in the SEC.

Saturday’s missed opportunity to show the nation that the Cats are capable of being a top team again is something that the Cats will be forced to dwell on a bit longer as the Rebels enter Tuesday’s game as the SEC’s second worst team. 

Unfortunately for the Cats, the only team below Ole Miss in the SEC right now is South Carolina, who’s win at Rupp continues to hurt Kentucky’s resume as the season goes on.

Something else to note is that the Gamecocks are currently the only team Ole Miss has beat in conference play thus far.

Despite Ole Miss having only one SEC win, the Rebels have played close with some of the elite teams in the conference, losing to Tennessee by just four points, to Auburn by nine and to Arkansas by eight.

Ole Miss currently ranks No. 100 in KenPom, a metric that tracks offensive and defensive efficiency, and No. 114 in the NET, a metric heavily reliant on scoring differential, which would make the matchup a quadrant-2 opportunity for the Cats.

Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) shoots the ball during the Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas mens basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kansas won 77-68. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

The Rebels average just 67.1 points per game with 42.8% shooting, while Kentucky averages 75.3 points per game and shoots 45.9% from the field. 

Regardless, the Rebels can create issues for teams on the defensive side of the ball with the Ole Miss defense currently averaging 67.4 points allowed per game and only allowing opponents to score 70 or more points five times thus far this season.

A major part of the Rebels’ defensive identity has been enforcing the paint, with Ole Miss ranking 29th in the country and fourth in the SEC in blocks per game (4.8).

Kermit Davis’s squad are led down low by senior transfers Theo Akwuba, who came from Louisiana and has 26 total blocks or 1.24 per game, and Jayveous McKinnis, who transferred in from Jackson State and has 25 total blocks or 1.25 per game.

With the disappointing feeling still in the minds of much of Big Blue Nation after the Kansas loss, Kentucky is tasked once again with attempting to secure a conference victory on the road after a home loss.

With the fans in Oxford planning to wear powder blue in the stands for the Cats coming into town, the importance of Tuesday’s night game can’t be understated for John Calipari’s squad, with a big win inside another rowdy SEC venue having immense value in regaining momentum and boosting Kentucky as it plans to claw its way back towards the AP Poll once again.

Tipoff for Tuesday’s game at the Pavilion at Ole Miss is set for 9 p.m. EST and can be watched live on ESPN.