Kentucky and Ole Miss began playing basketball against each other in 1925. In the 95 years since that first game at Alumni Gymnasium, the Rebels have defeated the Wildcats only 13 times. The last time they took down Kentucky in Lexington it was 1998.
Tubby Smith’s first season as the Wildcats’ head coach, the Valentine’s Day matchup with Ole Miss featured two top 25 teams. In his sixth season in Oxford, Rob Evans helped the Rebels climb out of the SEC West cellar all the way to No. 18 in the country.
Led by 6’9″ power forward Ansu Sesay, he scored at least 16 points in four of his five games against UK. Sesay saved his best for last, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to steady the ship for Ole Miss. Michael White added 16 points and Keith Carter led all scorers, knocking down a trio of three-pointers to finish with 21 and propel the Rebels to a 73-64 victory over the seventh-ranked Wildcats.
Compared by one person to UK’s abysmal outing against Georgetown in the 1983 Final Four, the Ole Miss press rattled UK in the second half. One turnover led to another, and then another before the mistakes piled up too high for the Comeback Cats to overcome. Carter provided the dagger just after the final TV timeout, fouled on a three-pointer to convert a four-point play and give Ole Miss a seven-point lead. It was the first time in a decade Kentucky had lost three home games in one season.
Ole Miss’ momentum continued for the rest of the regular season, winning out to claim the SEC West title. Earning a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament, that momentum came to a screeching halt when Bryce Drew made March magic.
Tubby Smith got the last laugh six weeks later when he cut down the nets in San Antonio.
Since that win 22 years ago, the Rebels have just three wins against UK in 27 attempts. There have been close calls — like Stefan Moody’s overtime scare at Rupp Arena in 2015 — but John Calipari’s Wildcats have only fallen once. Brandon Knight missed a game-winning shot attempt at the buzzer to lose 71-69 in 2011.
History says Kentucky will win Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena, but Breein Tyree and the rest of Kermit Davis’ Rebels have other plans.