Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - The 18th-Kentucky Wildcats attempt to remain unbeaten at home this season, as they welcome the Ole Miss Rebels to Rupp Arena for an SEC showdown on Tuesday night.
Ole Miss has maintained a high level of success all season long, as it is not only 15-6 overall, but at 6-2 in the SEC, tied with Kentucky for second place in the league, two games behind unbeaten Florida. The Rebels most recently downed South Carolina at home on Saturday, 75-71, but they have yet to beat a nationally-ranked opponent.
Kentucky experienced a setback last Tuesday with a 87-82 road loss to LSU, but it got back on the winning track with a stellar 84-79 victory at Missouri on Saturday. The Wildcats are 16-5 this season and have claimed wins in all 13 of their games at Rupp Arena, giving them a 21-game home winning streak dating back to last season
The Wildcats have a stranglehold on the Rebels in the all-time series with 100 wins in 113 meetings, including three straight.
Although the Rebels trailed for the majority of their latest game, they got their act together late, finishing the contest on a 29-10 run as they surged ahead for the four-point victory. They were outshot from the field, 46.9 percent to 44.1 percent, but they were able to earn extra possessions by forcing 18 turnovers and committing only nine miscues themselves. Marshall Henderson led the way with 21 points, Jarvis Summers tallied 15 points and eight assists and LaDarius White and Aaron Jones netted 12 and 11 points, respectively.
On the season, Ole Miss has had simply modest shooting production, making less than 43 percent of its tries from the floor, but it still pours in 77.5 ppg thanks to its 8.0 3-pointers per game and stellar turnover margin (+3.1). The high-octane offense is strong enough to support a disappointing scoring defense (71.1 ppg). Henderson puts up 19.2 ppg, and while he's shooting a lowly 36.6 percent overall, 77 of his 102 field goals have come from beyond the arc. Summers (17.8 ppg), unlike Henderson, has been extremely efficient at guard, with great percentages from the floor (.519), 3-point range (.547) and the foul line (.774).
The Wildcats built a lead as large as 16 in the second half at Missouri over the weekend and held off a late run by the Tigers to cling to the five-point victory, shooting a lofty 53.6 percent from the field in the process, including 8-of-14 from 3-point range. Aaron Harrison paced the effort with 21 points while draining all eight of his free-throw attempts, while James Young poured in 20 points on 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Julius Randle tallied 18 points and nine rebounds and Andrew Harrison rounded out the balanced attack with 14 points.
Kentucky's well-rounded attack on both ends of the floor has been well documented this season, as it outshoots its opponents from the field, 47.4 percent to 39.9 percent, with outstanding margins both in terms of scoring (+12.8) and rebounding (+10.1). The team isn't without its weaknesses, however. It makes nearly 21 free throws per game, but at just a 67.6 percent clip, and it commits one more turnover per game than it forces. Randle's freshman season has been one to remember, as he boasts 16.1 ppg and 10.1 rpg while shooting just shy of 53 percent from the field. Fellow first-year players Young (14.9 ppg), Aaron Harrison (14.1 ppg) and Andrew Harrison (11.1 ppg) have complemented Randle nicely, while Willie Cauley-Stein (7.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is an elite defender with 3.1 bpg and 1.2 spg.