Kentucky will have history on its side when the No. 15 Wildcats host Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon in Lexington, Ky., in Southeastern Conference action.
Tied for the SEC lead with LSU and Auburn, the Wildcats (19-5, 9-2 SEC) look to keep pace in the contested race by defeating the Rebels (13-11, 4-7), over whom Kentucky holds a 107-13 all-time advantage in the series. The Wildcats have lost only twice in the 56 times the two teams have met in Lexington.
Their last loss to the Rebels in Rupp Arena was a 73-64 setback in 1998. The Wildcats have won 11 in a row in Rupp since then and have a 10-game winning streak in the series overall.
“Obviously tough, but we’ve got a great opportunity on Saturday at Kentucky,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said. “You keep having these great opportunities. We’re going to keep that mantra of winning February.”
The Rebels are hoping a late run will get them into the postseason picture despite some early stumbles. They have won their last three games — all at home — and got a huge performance from their all-conference candidate, Breein Tyree, in their 83-58 romp past Mississippi State on Tuesday night.
The senior scored a career-high 40 points, with 27 coming in the second half, as the Rebels fought back from a 13-point first-half deficit. He was 13 of 22 from the field (4 of 10 on 3-pointers) and 10 of 11 from the free throw line to go with five rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
“I’ve been coaching a long time, and that’s probably the best I’ve ever seen,” Davis said of Tyree’s performance.
Kentucky also had to rally from a double-digit first-half deficit for its 78-64 win at Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. The Wildcats trailed by 14 points in the first half and 36-27 at the break but outscored the Commodores 51-28 over the final 20 minutes.
Freshman Tyrese Maxey, with 25 points on a career-high 10 field goals, and Immanuel Quickley with 18 points were the big guns for the Wildcats. Nick Richards continued his strong play with 12 points, seven rebounds, and three blocked shots.
Ashton Hagans’ play at point guard was also an encouraging sign for the Wildcats. He recorded a near triple-double after scoring 11 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and handing out eight assists against a single turnover.
“Last game I had like six,” Hagans said. “After that one turnover, I just tried not to force anything and let the game come to me.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari said it was a matter of Hagans eliminating the “crazy stuff” and playing more disciplined. Hagans had been charged with 25 turnovers the previous six games.
“I’m proud of him,” Calipari said. “Shooting the ball better, scoring the ball better, making better decisions. It’s a good time of the year for us to do that.”
Hagans’ season average of 6.8 assists a game leads the SEC but his average of 3.4 turnovers per game is tied for second in the category.
–Field Level Media