By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
Ole Miss is facing a tremendous challenge Tuesday night in its SEC basketball opener at No. 1 Kentucky.
The Wildcats (13-0) are the clear-cut pick to win the SEC this season, and national championship. There is even talk about them going undefeated throughout the regular season, and then on through the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky boasts the nation’s top scoring defense (47.8 points per game) and easily the most depth of any team in the country.
Of course even with the Wildcats aren’t as devastating as they appear this season, Rupp Arena is no cake walk for visiting teams. Kennedy talked about the challenge facing the Rebels during the first SEC men’s basketball teleconference Monday morning.
“We obviously start the SEC season off in grand fashion in Rupp Arena, and I know our guys will be excited about the opportunity of playing in the most storied venue in all of college basketball,” Kennedy said.
The Wildcats also lead the nation in blocked shots, field-goal percentage defense and ranked seventh in the nation in rebounds per game (41.92).
“Kentucky is a special defensive team. I casually watched them through the season when I could and then as we geared up for them in preparation for the opener,” Kennedy said. “Defense is what gives them the opportunity to go through the season undefeated. It will be a monumental challenge obviously but because they are so good on defense is what it’s a valid question. They don’t give you anything easy and as a result, teams have really struggled to score against them.”
Kentucky is no slouch when it comes to scoring, averaging 75.3 points per game, a figure that ranks third best in the SEC behind Arkansas and LSU.
If the Rebels are going to stay close, or even have a chance to pull up a mammoth upset, they are going to have to hit shots, Kennedy said.
“We are in the ultimate make or miss business and we just haven’t shot well and there have been some games where we haven’t played well,” Kennedy said. “We know we’re going to have to go in and make open shots (Tuesday) night in order to give ourselves any hope.”
Tipoff in Rupp Arena is set 6 p.m. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.