By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Apparently, one man’s ice is another man’s winter hazard.
With dangerous traveling conditions leaving Arkansas unable to reach Oxford for its regularly scheduled game on Saturday, the Sunday night solution – one in which the Rebels dropped an 80-73 decision in their second SEC home loss – leaves Ole Miss with a quick turnaround to face the SEC’s juggernaut.
And to face them on the road.
Ole Miss dropped to No. 25 in the AP media poll after the loss to Arkansas. Kentucky dropped to No. 4, the Wildcats having suffering their first loss 68-62 at South Carolina last week when the Wildcats were ranked No. 1.
Before the loss, Kentucky – with three freshmen in the starting lineup – reeled off 19 straight wins. Afterward they bounced back nicely, dealing No. 21 Vanderbilt its first loss, 85-72, in Lexington.
Tipoff at Rupp Arena is 6 p.m., and the game will be televised by ESPN.
“We have one of two choices,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “We can feel sorry for ourselves and go up there and Kentucky can name a score, or we can learn a lesson, man up, make a commitment to change and go up there with the right approach.”
Further complicating things for Ole Miss (16-5, 4-3 SEC) is the anticipated absence of freshman forward Reginald Buckner, the team’s best low-post defender, because of a sprained ankle. Kennedy says Buckner will miss tonight’s game, his second straight.
The team’s leading shot-blocker was on crutches Sunday night, watching from the bench as Arkansas big men Mike Washington and Marshawn Powell wore out his teammates with a combined 41 points.
The Rebels face perhaps the league’s best frontcourt tandem tonight in Kentucky’s (20-1, 5-1 SEC) 6-foot-9 Patrick Peterson and 6-11 freshman DeMarcus Cousins.
Between them they average 31.4 points and 17.4 rebounds.
“The big part is not having Reggie, our shot-blocker, then me being under-sized,” sophomore center Murphy Holloway said. “Arkansas killed us on the inside, and Reggie’s not back. We have to try and do something. We have to come up with some type of defensive scheme for Kentucky.”
Holloway has been inconsistent this season, but the switch was “on” against the Razorbacks. He finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds, but the Razorbacks had an increased sense of awareness about him in the second half, and he didn’t get to the offensive glass as much down the stretch.
The plan must first include defending without fouling or at least fouling less. Arkansas attempted 23 free throws, making 27. Powell and Washington were a combined 15-for-18 at the line.
Foul trouble was a problem for Ole Miss and had Kennedy going small frequently with Eniel Polynice, Zach Graham and Terrico White, all 6-6 or shorter.
Minutes were limited for Terrance Henry because of foul issues, and DeAundre Cranston (6-10, 260), the team’s biggest player, fouled out in 13 minutes.
In SEC games opponents have shot 181 free throws to 121 for Ole Miss.
“It hurts us a lot, especially with foul trouble, Terrance having four, Cran having five. We don’t have another post player really to come in and help too much. I can’t put a finger on anything to stay out of foul trouble. In practice we’re physical, but you get more fouls (called) in the game. They aren’t fouls, but they really are fouls,” Holloway said.
Ole Miss at Kentucky
– TV: ESPN
– Radio: Ole Miss Network.
– Series: Kentucky leads 96-12.
– Last year: Ole Miss 85-80 in Oxford; Kentucky 71-58 in SEC tournament.
– Coaches: Ole Miss – Andy Kennedy (98-57, fifth year; 77-43, fourth year at Ole Miss); Kentucky – John Calipari (465-141, 18th year College/NBA; 20-1 first season at Kentucky)
n Notes: The Rebels’ win against Kentucky in Oxford last season snapped a streak of nine losses to the Wildcats. … For Kentucky, John Wall’s 6.6 assists per game ranks second in the nation. … Forward DeMarcus Cousins has set the school’s freshman record for double-doubles with 12. … Cousins had 21 points and 10 rebounds against Vanderbilt. … Ole Miss gave up a combined 41 points to Arkansas’ top two post players Sunday night.
Ole Miss (16-5, 4-3 SEC)
F – Terrance Henry 6-9 So. 5.1 ppg
G – Chris Warren 5-10 Jr. 16.7 ppg
G – Eniel Polynice 6-5 Jr. 10.6 ppg
G – Terrico White 6-5 So. 15.0 ppg
F – Murphy Holloway 6-7 So. 10.0 ppg
Top reserves: G Zach Graham, G Trevor Gaskins, F DeAundre Cranston
Kentucky (20-1, 5-1 SEC)
G – Eric Bledsoe 6-1 Fr. 11.0 ppg
G – Darius Miller 6-7 So. 7.1 ppg
G – John Wall 6-4 Fr. 16.9 ppg
F – DeMarcus Cousins 6-11 Fr. 16.2 ppg
F – Patrick Patterson 6-9 Jr. 15.2 ppg
G Darnell Dodson
G DeAndre Liggins
G Daniel Orton