UK-Ole Miss notes: Cats won't concede, but SEC title 'not the goal' anyway

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 17, 2014 

With a three-game lead in the Southeastern Conference standings and only six games remaining, Florida:

a) Has all but clinched the regular-season championship.

b) Has to be mindful that Kentucky remains in hopeful pursuit.

c) Has itself in position to win an insignificant bauble.

UK Coach John Calipari dismissed the league's regular-season title as nothing noteworthy.

"Not the goal," he said on the SEC coaches' teleconference. "The goal is to be at our best in March."

Wing Aaron Harrison refused to concede the title to Florida.

"I think it's really realistic for us," he said. "We just have to stay focused and fix the few things we broke down on."

But assistant coach John Robic all but waved a white flag.

"Florida would really have to stumble ... ," he said. "It's be pretty tough to catch them. But you never know."

Small window?

Florida's core of seniors had four years to hone its ability to execute under pressure. The Gators' loss at Kentucky last season featured an inability to make plays down the stretch.

Harrison acknowledged the plausibility that any number of players on UK's roster only have this season to master this grace under pressure.

"But we all knew that coming to Kentucky," he said. "It's not like basketball is supposed to be fair or anything like that. I think we've just got a few more things to get together and I think we'll do just fine."

Jarrod Polson took a similarly practical view when asked about the size of UK's window of opportunity.

"It can't be too small," he said. "That's what we're working with. We can say we're younger and stuff like that. At the end of the day, we're a college basketball team just like (Florida)."

Prather's rebound

With Florida ahead 57-55, the Gators missed a jump shot. But Casey Prather rose above a crowd of UK players in the lane to grab the rebound. The extra possession resulted in a three-pointer by Michael Frazier.

"They just outhustled us, honestly," Polson said. "That's what you'd expect from a team like that. A bunch of seniors. They've been there before. They know what it takes.

"I think that really gave us a wake-up call (to) just look at the little things at the end of a game."

Green light

When asked if he'd seen any player have a green light to shoot like Marshall Henderson, Robic quipped, "Yeah, me. But that was at the D-3 level."

Apparently, Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy tried to dim the green light by bringing Henderson off the bench at Georgia last weekend. "I was just trying to change his mojo," Kennedy said after the game.

It worked. Henderson, who had made only 32.2 percent of his shots on the SEC road (28-for-87), made six of 13 at Georgia. That included 5-for-11 shooting from three-point range.

X factor

Robic agreed with the idea that Henderson is an X factor, a player so unusual that he can dramatically alter a game.

"Absolutely," he said. "There's no question."

Robic likened Henderson to Missouri guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson, and Auburn's Chris Denson and KT Harrell.

Noting Henderson's scoring average of 20.4 points in SEC games, Robic said, "20 is a big number. They need him to score."

And UK needs to continue to contain Henderson. In two games against the Cats, he's made only 11 of 37 shots (6-for-23 from three-point range).

"We definitely have to have more than one guy chasing him," Polson said. "and everybody kind of looking at him."

Aaron

In UK's last two games, Aaron Harrison has made three of 15 shots. In the last three, he's 7-for-30.

"He took shots we wanted him to shoot," Robic said. "We really want him to work on the one-dribble pull-up shots. ...

"Sometimes when he's not making shots, he's being a little bit lazy and not really elevating. And that starts with how hard you're dribbling it and getting by the defender."

Robic noted Harrison's great workout on Sunday. "He had a great attitude about it," the UK assistant said.

Etc.

Only two teams have winning road records in SEC play: Florida (6-0) and UK (4-2). ... Robic noted how three guards — Jarvis Summers, LaDarius "Snoop" White and Henderson — lead Ole Miss in scoring. ... The Rebels shoot better overall (.453 at home /.379 on road) and from three-point range (.419 at home /.313 on road) at home. They also rebound better (-7.3 margin on the road and an even margin at home). ... Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes and Shannon Spake will call the game for ESPN.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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