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Men's Basketball

Kentucky vs Ole Miss: Postgame Recap

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© Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats looked to bounce back after a loss against Kansas as they traveled to Oxford, Mississippi to take on Ole Miss in another late-night Tuesday matchup. With ten games remaining on the schedule and still on the bubble, the Wildcats couldn’t afford to drop this game.

That task was made harder when prior to the game, it was announced that Cason Wallace was ruled out due to a knee contusion suffered during shootaround. However, Ole Miss was not without their own absences, as their two leading scorers would not be playing.

Plagued by slow starts for much of the season, Kentucky fell victim once again. Nor were they benefitted from a scorching hot start by the Rebels, led by Amaree Abram. By the first media timeout, Ole Miss had captured a 13-8 lead, only missing two of their first seven shots.

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Kentucky responded to take a 25-19 lead and had a chance to pull away. However, shortly after, Sahvir Wheeler went down with an ankle injury and the Wildcats limped into halftime in a tie game, 32-32.

Wheeler was the first player to return to the floor for the second half in a taller pair of shoes, but still not 100 percent. Yet, he battled through and had six of his nine assists in the second half, and was able to lead a much better offensive performance in the second half. With that said, the offense was pretty easy, get Antonio Reeves the ball as he finished with 27 points and helped Kentucky win 75-66.

While not the biggest margin of victory, a win is a win, especially on the road in the SEC. Let’s take a closer look.

Antonio Reeves

Scoring a season-high 27 points and tying a season-high in three-pointers (6), no player was as important in Kentucky’s win as Antonio Reeves. When Kentucky was reeling and was in need of a basket, Reeves seemed to always answer the call.

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After the game, Reeves talked about his performance and compared it to his role at Illinois State. “Coming off ball screens. Getting to pull-up game, floater game. It felt like Illinois State days. I just felt comfortable out there.”

Reeves’ performance was his best of the season, but it comes as no surprise given his recent play. Over the last eight games, Reeves is averaging 17.3 points on 42.9 percent shooting from three, and looks reminiscent of the guy that averaged 20.1 ppg last season at Illinois State.

Playing his best basketball of the season, Reeves looks to have fully adapted to the Power Five level of play and will play an important role if Kentucky wants to make a run.

Ball Screen Defense

Kentucky’s biggest weakness this season has undoubtedly been their pick-and-roll defense, which many opposing head coaches have made a point to attack. On Tuesday night, Kermit Davis and Ole Miss became the latest team to expose this.

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Countless times, the Rebels were able to get in the middle of the lane and either drive straight to the rim or pass it for an easy layup. At one point, Calipari even replaced Oscar Tshiebwe with Damion Collins, hoping length would help, which it did.

Fortunately, this improved as the game went on and they limited Ole Miss to their normal offensive output. However, Kentucky’s schedule only gets tougher and this area No. 1 they have to improve in.

Injuries

Outside of the win, the biggest story for Kentucky is the injuries of Cason Wallace And Sahvir Wheeler. Kentucky’s two point guards are not 100 percent and that is concerning as the team enters February, especially given how much injuries affected the team last season.

With that said, both injuries seem to be relatively minor, and they may not miss any more time.

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Wallace, who suffered a contusion against Kansas, sit out as a precaution Calipari confirmed after the game. As for Wheeler, his ankle was “busted up” but only missed the last three minutes of the first half before coming in and playing all 20 minutes in the second half. After the game, Wheeler said he “sprained it a little” but will begin treatment when they arrive back in Lexington.

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Men's Basketball

Tre Mitchell’s Stepfather Gives Injury Update, “Ridiculously Painful”

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Kentucky Wildcats forward Tre Mitchell injury is still "ridiculously painful"
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Tre Mitchell missed his third-straight game on Saturday, suffering a shoulder injury during the Ole Miss game, while also still trying to recover from a lingering back issue that kept him out two games prior.

His stepfather, Tony Bergeron, was on WPBK-FM on Friday, before Kentucky’s game against Alabama, where he gave an update on Mitchell. “I thought he came back a little too early (against Ole Miss), got hit, and sprained that shoulder like it was a football injury. The problem now is that it is ridiculously painful,” Bergeron said.

On a positive note, this may help Mitchell reach 100 percent. “He needs to just wait until his back is 100 percent,” Bergeron said. It’s clear that Mitchell hadn’t been himself while playing through the back pain, shooting just 35 percent (8-23) over the three games prior to his first DNP.

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With compounded injuries, it is best to just rest and recover fully until making a return. Kentucky will need Mitchell at his best for a post-season run.

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Men's Basketball

Kentucky vs. Mississippi State, Round 2: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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After a dominant win over Alabama, the Kentucky Wildcats will take on Mississippi State on the road.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

What a win on Saturday for the Kentucky Wildcats, who put up one of the best offensive performances in college basketball this season on Saturday in a 117-95 win over Alabama. Now they will go back on the road to take on a Mississippi State team in a quad-one opportunity.

With Kentucky coming out on top in the first matchup, back in January, Mississippi State will look to even the season series and defend their home court on Tuesday. The Bulldogs are playing some of their best basketball of the season, riding a five-game winning streak, including a twenty-point road victory over LSU, whom Kentucky just lost to.

Let’s look at the matchup.

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Interior Defense

Tolu Smith is arguably the best big man in the SEC. In the first matchup between these two teams, he certainly made his presence felt despite the loss, scoring a season-high 26 points on better than 70 percent shooting.

This time around will be a good test to see how an improved Kentucky defense handles a physical interior player. While improving and reportedly back at practice, Tre Mitchell is unlikely to play on Tuesday, so it will be up to the seven-footers.

Ugonna Onyenso is Kentucky’s most physical big, but Zvonimir Ivisic who just scored a season-high 18 points, gives Kentucky a higher offensive ceiling.

Rebounding Battle

Similar to the stereotypical SEC team, Mississippi State is a physical team that does well on the boards, ranking toward the top of the country in total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and rebound margin. In the first matchup, Kentucky outrebounded the Bulldogs 30-29, that effort will need to be there again Tuesday.

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Josh Hubbard

Mississippi State’s equivalent to Rob Dillingham is Josh Hubbard. The sub-six-foot electric guard is a similar microwave-type player who just won his fifth SEC Freshman of the Week honor this season after scoring 32 points against LSU.

Scoring just three points on 1-11 shooting against Kentucky back in January, Hubbard is motivated to have a better performance. The priority in defending Hubbard is chasing him off the three-point line or pushing him back as more than 64 percent of his shots have been taken from deep. Similar to what Kentucky did to Alabama, make him finish at the rim.

Opposing Players to Watch

F Tolu Smith 6-11, 245 lbs

  • 16.8 PPG (9th in SEC)
  • 8.1 RPG (3rd in SEC)
  • 59.7% FG (1st in SEC)

G Josh Hubbard 5-10, 185 lbs

  • 15.3 PPG (10th in SEC)
  • 76 3PM (1st in SEC)
  • 7.9 3PA per game

G Dashawn Davis 6-1, 190 lbs

  • 6.2 PPG
  • 3.0 APG (17th in SEC)

Kentucky Basketball vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Time: 7 PM ET on February 27th
  • TV Channel: ESPN
  • Announcers: To be announced.
  • Location: Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi.
  • Online Stream: WatchESPN and ESPN app
  • Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
  • Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
  • Rosters: UK | MISS ST
  • Stats to Know: UK | MISS ST
  • KenPom: UK | MISS ST
  • Team Sheets: UK | MISS ST
  • Odds: DraftKings has yet to release the odds for the game, but check back on Monday evening. Despite a convincing win over Alabama, the projections are not in Kentucky’s favor. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Cats just a 40.9% chance at victory, with Bart Torvik right in line at 41%. EvanMiya and KenPom give Kentucky a slightly higher chance at the win, at 46% and 45% respectively.
  • Predictions: The projections have the game coming down to the wire. Bart Torvik and KenPom have Mississippi State winning by two points, 80-78 and 79-77. Haslametrics and EvanMiya have the Cats winning by just one point, 77-76.

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Recap and Takeaways From Kentucky’s Dominating Win Over Alabama

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The Kentucky Wildcats dominated Alabama in a 117-95 win.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Rupp Arena was rocking on Saturday when Kentucky faced no. 13 Alabama, and the Wildcats matched that same energy in a fun one. The Cats absolutely demolished the Crimson Tide by a score of 117-95, one of the best offensive performances ever.

Justin Edwards had his breakout game, finishing with 28 points on a perfect 10-10 shooting, and 4-4 from deep. Antonio Reeves added 24 points, Zvonimir Ivisic had 18, and Rob Dillingham poured in 16 to lead Kentucky in scoring to go along with an impressive 63% from the field and 54% from three-point range.

Let’s take a look at how the domination happened.

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Justin Edwards Has His Breakout Game

Saturday’s game against Alabama will be known as the Justin Edwards Game. After having a rough season so far going through many mental battles, Edwards finally had his breakout game, and BBN and his teammates were so happy for him. Finishing with a career-high and team-high 28 points, he added 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.

Edwards went a perfect 10-10 from the field, and shot 4-4 from deep. That makes Edwards only one of three players in UK history with at least 10 field goal attempts with no miss.

Kentucky Shows Historic Offensive Performance

The offensive performance on Saturday was one for the ages. Kentucky’s 117 points were the most scored against an AP Top 25 opponent in UK history. Shooting 63% from the field, it was one of the more impressive performances, while also shooting 54% from three-point range.

Kentucky had 5 players in double figures. The assist-to-turnover ratio was top notch, with a 24:10 ratio. It was a performance that will be remembered for a long time

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Three-Point Defense Improves

Kentucky’s defense as a whole wasn’t the best, with allowing 95 points, but the Cats forced 16 turnovers and had 29 points off of them, while also having 7 blocks and 11 steals. The three-point defense was really impressive. Holding a team that attempts nearly 30 three-point attempts per game to just 17 attempts, it was certainly running Alabama off the three-point line. Alabama only made 6 threes on those 17 attempts, shooting 35%.

Making Alabama score in other ways besides three-pointers seemed to be an emphasis for Kentucky. They definitely succeeded at that on Saturday.

Kentucky had their best offensive performance of the season, and one that was against a top-15 opponent, and much needed in the final stretch of the season. Next, Kentucky will head to Mississippi State on Tuesday. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

Check out the box score and highlight’s from Saturday’s win.

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Box Score

Highlights

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