1. The two workhorses for the Ole Miss Rebels in the backcourt are Breein Tyree and Terence Davis. The two shoulder the majority of the scoring for Ole Miss and if Kentucky wants to avoid an upset, containing these two is the key, especially with how poorly the Kentucky guards defended on the ball on Saturday. Tyree is a 6’2″ junior who is third in the SEC in scoring at 18.3 points per game, to go along with 3.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. His 40.3% from three-point land ranks eighth in the SEC, and he’s hitting 83.2% of his free throws, good for fifth in the conference. Tyree scored 13 points and dished out 7 assists last year against Kentucky. Davis is the senior leader on the Ole Miss squad, scoring 15.5 points per game, good for seventh in the conference, and leading the team in both rebounds with 5.7 and assists with 3.4 per game. Measuring at 6’4″, Davis is all over the court and is one of the best rebounding guards in the conference. He can hit from deep, knocking down 56 threes on the year at a 37.8% clip. Last year, he tore Kentucky apart on his way to 26 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.
2. Outside of the two players listed above, the rest of the scoring for the Rebels is done by committee. However, the big thing with stopping this Ole Miss team is stopping them from getting open looks from deep. They have multiple guards who are skilled at driving and kicking to open shooters on the perimeter. The Rebels have five different players that are viable threats from the perimeter, with each having made at least 22 threes on the year and all shooting over 30% from beyond the arc. I mentioned Tyree above, and he leads the team at 40.3% from three and 64 made threes. Next is Davis’ 37.8% and 56 made threes, and the third starting guard, 6’2″ sophomore Devontae Shuler who has hit 42 treys on the year at 38.9%. Freshman Blake Hinson starts at the forward position for Ole Miss at 6’7″ and has hit 41 threes at 35.3%, while forward Bruce Stevens typically comes off the bench and hits 31% of his deep balls with 22 made on the season. The Rebels make 8.2 threes per game, which ranks fifth in the SEC, but is just 0.2 threes away from being second in the conference. They can get a little content with outside play, and tend to not force a ton of fouls on the opposing team, ranking 12th out of 14 teams in the SEC in free throw attempts per game.
3. With all of these guards and perimeter playing forwards, Coach Kermit Davis’ squad can struggle on the glass on both ends of the floor. As previously stated, Terence Davis at 6’4″ leads the team in rebounding at 5.7 per game. For reference, Kentucky has three players in the starting lineup all averaging more rebounds per game than Davis. Similar to their scoring situation, the Rebels rebound by committee, with two players averaging 4.4, one at 4.1, and two more at 3.1 per game. Ole Miss is grabbing 34.7 rebounds per game, ranking 12th in the SEC and 217th in the country. Their 10.1 offensive rebounds per game are also 12th in the conference, as well as 160th in the country. You could point to the height on the roster as to the reason for their rebounding struggles. Starting center Dominik Olejniczak is the largest player on the roster by far at 7’0″ and 255 pounds, but there’s a drop off after the Poland native. Blake Hinson is 6’7″ and starts at the four for Ole Miss, while their two forwards off the bench, 6’7″ freshman KJ Buffen plays 20.7 minutes per game and 6’8″ Bruce Stevens plays 19.6 minutes per game. Not one player on the active roster stands over 6’8″ outside of Olejniczak. If Kentucky could establish PJ Washington in the post early, he could be eating up buckets and rebounds throughout the game to get out of this little funk he’s in. However, PJ’s struggles in the past two games have had more to do with the guards inability to get an offense going and get him the ball than him playing poorly.
4. Kermit Davis had the Ole Miss Rebels playing as well as most ranked teams in the country through the first two and half months of the season, and now they’re just trying to hold on until Selection Sunday rolls around. To start the year, the Rebels jumped out to a 13-2 record that included wins over Auburn and Mississippi State, both ranked at the time. The two losses were at Butler and on a neutral court against Cincinnati. The second half of January and into February proved to be messy for the Rebels, as after the 13-2 start, Ole Miss dropped five of their next six games, including three double-digit losses. Continuing in waves, the Rebels won their next four SEC games to bring their overall record to 18-7 on the year, but then lost three of their next four to bring us up to date and bring them to a 19-10 overall record going into tonight’s game. Ole Miss is certainly better at home in the SEC at 5-3 than on the road at 4-4, a road record that includes losses to Arkansas and South Carolina. But even their losses at home have been close for the most part. Just last Wednesday, they gave Tennessee all the Vols could handle. The Rebels were up 5 at the half, and before a Grant Williams lay in with 4 seconds left, Ole Miss looked like they may pull of the upset. Kentucky will need to show up ready to play to avoid letting both the players and the crowd believe they can beat the Cats.
5. There aren’t many teams in the Southeastern Conference that Kentucky has historically dominated the way they have the Ole Miss Rebels. Kentucky is 106-13 all time against the Rebels, winning 20 of the last 22 meetings, and the Cats are 10-1 against Ole Miss since John Calipari took over in Lexington. The lone loss for Coach Cal came back almost eight years ago today in Oxford, as the Rebels were powered by Chris Warren’s 22 points, including hitting a three with around 3 seconds remaining to give Ole Miss the two-point victory. After the brutal play on Saturday in Knoxville, the Cats will try to claw back into the swing of things with a win on the road against a Quadrant 1 team. As of early this morning, Kentucky was a 5-point favorite, but if the effort from Saturday is repeated, then smart money would be on Ole Miss.
Go Cats. Beat Rebels.