Preview: Kentucky at Mississippi
After fading down the stretch against then-No. 4 Florida last time out, 16th-ranked Kentucky will look to regroup in a visit to Mississippi on Tuesday. The Wildcats held a seven-point lead Saturday before a 31-14 finish by SEC leader Florida left them beaten and bewildered, with a four-game winning streak gone by the wayside. "We're not ready to win that kind of game," Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters, "and I told (the players) that."
Ole Miss has lost two in a row and three of its last four, including an 80-64 decision at Kentucky two weeks ago that snapped a run of five wins in six games for the Rebels. Despite its last two setbacks coming by a combined four points, Ole Miss remains in fourth place in the SEC standings, just two games behind the Wildcats for second place. Calipari was impressed by the Rebels after their last meeting and has his team prepared for the dangers of Ole Miss' top scoring threat, telling the Clarion Ledger, "(Marshall) Henderson at any time can make five straight shots. Can you keep your head about you if he does?"
ABOUT KENTUCKY (19-6, 9-3 SEC): The Wildcats will get another crack at Florida in the regular-season finale on March 8 but will have to avoid a letdown in a five-game stretch before then with Georgia nipping at their heels for second place in the conference, just a game behind. Calipari consistently played up the learning experience angle after Saturday's loss, hoping his players will use it as a stepping stone down the stretch. "Florida deserved to win the game," he said. "They were just too experienced for us."
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI (16-9, 7-5 SEC): Henderson, whose 19.5 points per game ranks fourth in the SEC, led the Rebels with 16 points in the loss to Kentucky earlier this month and has averaged more than 22 points in his last three games. Even so, coach Andy Kennedy elected not to start the senior at Georgia on Saturday, citing slow starts of late as his primary reason. "I was just trying to change his mojo," Kennedy told reporters. "He's shooting less than 25 percent in the first half on the road. (I'm) just trying to find the winning formula."
1. Kentucky averages 78 points, good for second in the SEC behind Arkansas (81.2), and leads the conference in field goal percentage (46.8).
2. Henderson's average of 4.4 3-pointers per game leads the SEC and ranks third in the nation.
3. The Rebels struggle on the boards, ranking last in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage at 63 percent - an area Kentucky can exploit with F Julius Randle pulling down an average of 10 rebounds.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 80, Mississippi 70