UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notes: Calipari expects Mississippi to 'shoot 25 threes, maybe more'

Perhaps unwittingly, John Calipari suggested that it will take something historic for Mississippi to beat Kentucky Tuesday night.

Hyping the Rebels' three-point shooting prowess, Calipari said, "Ole Miss is going to shoot 25 threes, maybe more. If they make 20, we've lost our first game."

No opponent has made 20 three-pointers against Kentucky. The rule was adopted going into the 1986-87 season.

Only four times has an SEC team made 20 or more three-pointers in a game, most recently by Arkansas, which made a league record 21 against Troy State in the 1996-97 season.

Kentucky has made 20 or more three-point shots twice: 21 against North Carolina in 1989-90 (the famed Pitino Bombinos) and 20 at LSU in 1994-95.

The most made by a UK opponent? Sam Houston State made 18 (of 38) on Nov. 19, 2009.

By comparison, Mississippi would seem to be shooting pop guns. The Rebels are averaging 6.1 three-point baskets, which ranks No. 190 among Division I teams.

Kentucky has limited this season's opponents to an average of 4.9 three-point baskets. The Cats rank No. 6 nationally in three-point field goal defense (opponents making only 26.7 percent of attempts from beyond the arc).

Still, Calipari was wary.

"We've got to try to drive them off the three-point line," he said. "When you're playing a team willing to shoot that many, you just don't know."

Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy noted that his team must make perimeter shots because Kentucky's defense around the basket makes scoring in the paint difficult.

"We're going to have to make jump shots, which is not easy to do in any venue, much less Rupp," he said last weekend. "Because of their length and ability to alter everything in the paint, you have to make jump shots."

Kennedy re-emphasized the point during his turn on the SEC coaches' teleconference Monday.

"We know we have to go in and make some shots to give ourselves any hope," he said.

Player of the Year?

When asked about Willie Cauley-Stein's play this season, Kennedy said, "If you ask me my vote right now, I'd vote him Player of the Year in the league. I think he's been the X factor among many X factors" on UK's team.

Kennedy noted Cauley-Stein's "sense of urgency," which he said "has been contagious on their team."

Poythress update

Calipari said Alex Poythress is scheduled to have surgery Tuesday to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Rebounding

Kennedy cited rebounding as Kentucky's "best strength" on offense. He likened UK to Bob Huggins' teams at Cincinnati early in the last decade.

"The best offense was a missed shot," the Mississippi coach said. "That's what they do."

The Rebels rank No. 94 nationally in rebound margin (plus 3.9).

Ole (don't) Miss

If the game is close and comes down to free-throw shooting, Mississippi will have the edge. The Rebels lead the nation in accuracy from the foul line: 78.4 percent.

Five Ole Miss players have shot free throws with 75-percent or better accuracy. Stefan Moody ranks 11th nationally at 92.2 percent (47 of 51).

Ulis-Booker

Devin Booker noted the impact of coming to UK with a friend, Tyler Ulis.

"It made it a lot easier," he said. "Just someone that you've been friends with. You could relate. It brought our brotherhood even closer than it was."

Calipari saluted Booker and Ulis as "two competitive young people who want to get better."

The UK coach noted the benefit of an aggressive on-ball defender.

"Nice when you start on the ball ... ," he said. "It kind of feeds everybody else."

What clutter?

When asked about how Andrew Harrison handled the "clutter" created by six turnovers at Louisville in UK's last game, Calipari said, "I don't think he listened to it. I know I haven't."

SEC race/SECond place

Mississippi State Coach Rick Ray came oh-so-close to saying the league race this season will be for second place.

"Kentucky is not only ahead of everybody else in the SEC, but ahead of everybody else in the country," he said. "You got three or four teams that could be vying for second place."

Then, he added, there's a "jumble" of teams that could finish anywhere from sixth to 14th.

Good for SEC?

LSU Coach Johnny Jones suggested that Kentucky's chance to go 40-0 this season was good for the SEC.

"I'm hopeful if they should have a setback, that shouldn't say a bad thing for our league," he said. "But it should say a lot about our league that somebody had the ability to give them a setback."

Etc.

Kennedy on the game: "A chance to play the No. 1 ranked team in the country is the reason you do this. I think our guys will be excited about the opportunity." ... Dave Neal, Darrin Horn and sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung will call the game for the SEC Network.

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