Kentucky had a rough reversal of fortune against Tennessee in Knoxville as the Vols got revenge for their defeat by the Wildcats earlier this season. Kentucky now must bounce back with a win in Oxford against Ole Miss.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Protect the basketball
There are some stats in this game that tell a story. One of those stats is in full view in this game.
Ole Miss is a team that tries to get after the ball when the opposition has it. Their steal numbers, therefore, are indicative of their overall success. The Rebels are 9-0 on the season when they are able to generate nine or more steals in a game. Alternatively, they are 10-10 on the season when they don’t hit that mark on nine takeaways.
Kentucky has been off and on offensively over the last few weeks. The last thing that the Wildcats want to do is to give the ball back to the Rebels without taking a shot. Controlling the steal numbers with disciplined ball movement and dribbling is a huge key here.
Don’t let Ole Miss hit 70 points
This is another stat that you look at and see in instant key to the game.
When the Wildcats hold teams to 69 points or fewer on the season then they are 19-0. When teams are able to cross that mark and get to 70 or more points, then the Wildcats are just 5-5. It doesn’t take a math genius to see that a 100-percent record is better than a 50-percent record here.
Thankful for Kentucky the defense, by and large, has been on all season long. This is still a team that will miss the presence of Reid Travis, but the Rebels don’t have the scoring power of Tennessee to make Kentucky pay for his absence.
Travis needs to be back for postseason play if the Wildcats are going to make a serious run. His health after the knee injury has been something of a secret kept within the confines of the team, but Kentucky should still have enough defense to win here.
Shoot the ball better
Shooting is where the Wildcats have occasionally found problems this season, especially against the Vols last time out.
Against Tennessee, Kentucky went 14-of-44 from the field and 5-of-19 from behind the three-point line. Basketball is a game of scoring and momentum. Without the scoring happening, the Vols had the momentum all game long as the Wildcats were never able to put a consistent run together or get that clutch basket that would have got them back into the game.
When you add in that the Wildcats missed 10 shots from the charity stripe, it is clear that this was an off day that Kentucky has to rebound from immediately when it comes to putting the basketball in the net.
Kentucky needs players like Keldon Johnson (seven points) and Tyler Herro (six points) to find their shooting touch again in Oxford.