Mississippi should be one of the true mismatches left on the schedule for the No. 12 University of Kentucky this basketball season.
Make that, should be a mismatch.
They meet Saturday at Rupp Arena.
The Rebels don’t look so hot with a 13-11 record (4-7 in SEC play), but they have caught fire over the last 10 days.
First they dispatched South Carolina, 84-70, leading by double digits for the final 17 minutes.
They then held Florida scoreless for the final four minutes of a 68-51 win. And in their latest triumph, the Rebels blitzed rival Mississippi State with separate 20-3 and 21-3 runs for an 83-58 win.
Thanks to the streak, Ole Miss has risen more than 30 spots in kenpom.com — the biggest jump of any major conference team over that stretch.
The Rebels are shooting 47.6% from the field and 43.8% from 3 during the three-game winning streak, holding opponents to 37.1% and 24.5% in the process.
Pushing this jump for Ole Miss is Breein Tyree. The dynamic senior who helped lead the Rebels to a surprise NCAA Tournament berth in Kermit Davis’s first season has scored 101 points over his last three games, making 11 combined 3s and getting to the foul line 26 times.
Ashton Hagans will probably draw the defensive assignment on the Ole Miss point guard after flirting with a triple-double performance in UK’s 78-64 win at Vanderbilt that was among his best of the season.
“Made easy plays. He wasn’t trying to do crazy things,” UK coach John Calipari said. “He was more disciplined, he also subbed himself, he played 31 minutes instead of trying to play 37 minutes which means in that extra five or six minutes that’s when the play comes way back both defensively and offensively.”
The Wildcats will play a Saturday game in Rupp Arena for the first time in more than a month. They have won three straight, including two straight road games at Tennessee last Saturday and at Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
UK trailed Vandy at halftime, but it got going in the second half by getting the ball to Nick Richards inside.
“Nick’s blocks helps us fly in transition,” Tyrese Maxey said. “But not just his blocks. When we came out at halftime Coach said, ‘Forget it, we’re going through Nick. Every play we’re going to throw it inside. They are either going to double him or he’s going to score.’ And that’s what ended up happening. They had to double him and this team, you can’t double the post because we will kick it out and we’ve got pretty good shooters and drivers to make plays.”
Richards has become more adept at knowing when to call for the ball.
“It’s not difficult,” Richards said. “I know when to pick my spots. I know when to be aggressive in the post. There are also times on the court where I’ll tell them, ‘Next three plays, let’s go to me,’ or EJ will come up to them and say, ‘Next three plays, let’s go to me,’ or Ashton will come up to us and tell us, ‘Next three plays, we’re going to go all pick-and-roll.’ We just do stuff like that.”