Three straight wins for the Kentucky Wildcats, and all three have been in convincing fashion. With some distraction coming in the form of the Yahoo! Sports story, on top of the idea that Michael Porter Jr would make his SEC debut against Kentucky, the Cats were unfazed and took care of business via a blowout win.
The battle for the double-bye in the Southeastern Conference Tournament is still ongoing, so Kentucky needs to continue their winning ways to keep one of the top four spots in the standings. The Wildcats control their own destiny, and if they win out, will have earned the coveted double-bye in St. Louis. Step one is beating Ole Miss at home tonight.
Ole Miss has had a struggle of a season this year, and Head Coach Andy Kennedy has now stepped down mid-season, after reports surfaced that he would not be retained at season end. Tony Madlock has taken over as Acting Head Coach, after nearly four seasons as an assistant under Kennedy. Let’s take a look at the starting lineup that Madlock has been throwing out there, keeping in mind that Ole Miss’ best player comes off the bench. Deandre Burnett, a 6’2″ senior guard, is the leading scorer and assist man for the Rebels, but has not been starting lately.
#3 Terence Davis, Junior Guard, 6’4″
Terence Davis returns for Ole Miss this season in his second year as a starter. Davis averaged nearly 15 points per game last season, and has continued as one of the leaders of the team this year as well. In last season’s game against Kentucky, Davis finished with 7 points, 4 rebounds, and an assist.
With Burnett coming off the bench for the most part, Davis is the leading scorer among the starters, as well as being the leading rebounder on the team, despite playing a guard position. Davis is averaging 13.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and a team leading 0.9 blocks per game. He shoots 32.7% from three and 72.5% from the free throw line.
The Rebels don’t play a lot of size in their lineup, especially among the starters. Their three-guard lineup is spearheaded by Davis and Burnett for most of games. Davis will match up with either Hamidou Diallo or Kevin Knox in tonight’s game. Diallo may have gotten over the hump with his performance against Missouri on Saturday, so keep those fingers crossed he doesn’t revert tonight.
#4 Breein Tyree, Sophomore Guard, 6’2″
Breein Tyree started 23 games last season as a freshman and tonight will mark his 21st start of his sophomore campaign. Tyree was a 3-star recruit coming out of St. Joseph High School. Ole Miss’ website claims he was a top-100 player and a top 5 player in New Jersey, but a quick google search shows no recruiting services matching those claims.
The sophomore guard is seeing his stats jump up with the extra playing time he has earned this season. He’s currently averaging 10.5 points, 2.6 assists, and 2.2 rebounds. He’s the best outside shooter amongst the starters, hitting 35.3% of his threes on the year, as well as 71.8% of his attempted free throws. Last year against the Cats, he had 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.
The smallest of the three starting guards, Tyree stands at just 6’2″ and 192 pounds. He’ll start out matched up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but I think he’ll see a lot of Quade Green as the game moves forward. Green’s defense has been so much improved lately, that I look forward to watching his progress tonight against Ole Miss.
#12 Bruce Stevens, Junior Forward, 6’8″
Bruce Stevens is in his first season at Ole Miss, as he spent his first two years of collegiate eligibility at Jones County Junior College. Stevens was ranked as the number 6 junior college prospect this past offseason. He was named to the NJCAA First Team All-America list after his second year at Jones.
The junior forward has been the largest starter for the Rebels for most of the season, and he’s fit in nicely in his first season out of junior college. He’s contributing 10.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per contest. Stevens has the ability to knock down a jump shot, but his three point shooting needs improvement, as he’s hit just 9 of 41 attempted threes this season.
Ole Miss sorely needs a force in the paint, and unfortunately, Stevens just isn’t tall enough to handle it all on his own, despite being 252 pounds. Stevens will start the game matched up with Kentucky’s Nick Richards at the center position. This should be a game where Kentucky’s bigs eat in the paint on both ends, as well as dominate on the glass.
#5 Markel Crawford, Senior Guard, 6’4″
Markel Crawford is the most experienced player on this Ole Miss roster, as tonight will be his 101st start over four years of collegiate play. However, Crawford spent his first three seasons at Memphis, before utilizing the graduate transfer rule to switch to Ole Miss this season. Crawford is leading the team in minutes played, and is the only player playing over 30 minutes per game.
The senior was a Memphis, Tennessee native, so leaving the team must’ve been a tough decision for him, especially now that Ole Miss has been struggling so much during his one season there. Crawford’s stats have gone down in his final season of eligibility, in comparison to his final season for the Tigers. He’s averaging 9.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and a team-leading 1.2 steals per game this year. He’s hitting just 28.7% of his 101 attempted threes on the year.
Another 6’4″ guard, Crawford is the third and final starting guard for the Rebels. Kentucky will most likely throw Kevin Knox at him defensively. The chore for Ole Miss tonight will be trying to defend Kevin Knox, as they are extremely undersized to go up against a 6’9″ small forward. Similar to the second half against Missouri, look for Kentucky to run their offense through Kevin Knox to get easy mid-range jump shots.
#2 Marcanvis Hymon, Senior Forward, 6’7″
Marcanvis Hymon started a total of 34 games over the past two seasons for Ole Miss, and is starting his 21st game of the season tonight against Kentucky. The lack of size on the Ole Miss roster has forced Hymon into playing bigger than he truly is. He finished with 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 4 fouls in 12 minutes against the Cats last season.
The senior has never been a player who has had monster numbers jumping off the page at you, but his consistent play has impressed the Ole Miss coaching staff enough to keep a starting job for multiple seasons. He’s averaging 4.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game. Hymon hasn’t developed the perimeter game Andy Kennedy hoped he would, as he’s yet to attempt a three this season, and shoots just 47.6% from the charity stripe on the year.
Measuring in at 6’7″ and 220 pounds, Hymon will match up at the power forward position with Kentucky’s PJ Washington. Washington has showed signs of continued improvement, to go along with the hustle play and shooting of Wenyen Gabriel, as well as the ever-improving Jarred Vanderbilt. The forward positions are starting to show what all the summer hype was about with this Kentucky team.
Go Cats. Beat Rebels.