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Three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s win over Ole Miss

Kentucky knew Ole Miss would play physical

Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel talks about the win over Ole Miss, which included a combined five technical fouls.
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Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel talks about the win over Ole Miss, which included a combined five technical fouls.

Three takeaways from Kentucky’s 96-78 win over Ole Miss on Wednesday:

1. Kentucky did not play all that well and still won by 18

The Cats didn’t play poorly, they just didn’t play with quite the same energy and execution as in the previous three games of what is now a four-game win streak at just the right time. Two months ago, a month ago, even two weeks ago, such a middling performance would have spelled trouble. Instead, UK won going away. Label it another step forward.

John Calipari’s club ended up shooting 50 percent from the floor. It was eight-of-18 from three-point range for 44.4 percent. It was 26-of-35 from the foul line. It outrebounded the feisty Rebels 43-35. It had 19 assists to just 12 turnovers.

Still, it had a difficult time shaking a team tied for last place in the league, one whose coach (Andy Kennedy) had already been fired. “We scored 50 points in the first half,” Calipari pointed out. “But we also gave up 42.”

In fact, Kentucky’s lead was a mere 67-64 with 10:16 left when the Cats scored on nine straight possessions to push the advantage out to 16 points at 85-69.

For the fourth straight game, five Cats scored in double figures. Kevin Knox led the way with 22 points. Quade Green added 18. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander chipped in 17. Wenyen Gabriel played well, scoring 15 points. And PJ Washington added 10.

But Jarred Vanderbilt was a good example of the night’s theme. Calipari said afterward he didn’t think the freshman played well. He said Vanderbilt didn’t show the same energy and tenacity he had shown in previous games. And yet Vanderbilt finished the night with 11 rebounds in 24 minutes.

2. Quade Green has been another X-factor

Kentucky is now averaging 87.75 points per game in this four-game win streak when the Cats have rolled over Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and now Ole Miss. That’s considerably more points per game than Calipari’s club was scoring previously.

Surely Quade Green is one reason for that. The freshman point guard has been playing not so much as a traditional point guard, but instead shifting out on the wing while Gilgeous-Alexander handles the majority of the ball-handling duties.

“I think Quade is better off the ball,” said Calipari, adding that size was a factor with the 6-foot guard and that Green sees the floor better from the wing.

The Philadelphia native has scored in double figures in all four of the wins during this streak. He scored 12 points each against Bama, Arkansas and Missouri before ramping it up to 18 points against the Rebels.

Green has made 21 of 36 shots during that stretch, including eight of 17 from three-point range. He’s also four-of-five from the foul line. And he’s had 15 assists compared to just four turnovers during the four-game win streak. Wednesday marked the third straight game the Cats have been credited with more assists than turnovers.

3. Now it’s on to the Sunshine State

When Green said that the Cats needed to get Florida back for the 66-64 loss to the Gators at Rupp Arena back on Jan. 20, the guard didn’t hesitate. “Oh yeah,” he said.

That won’t be easy. Florida has been riding that rollercoaster all season, but Mike White’s club is coming off a 73-52 smashing of Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night. Jalen Hudson poured in 27 points as Florida improved to 19-11 overall and 10-7 in the SEC.

And the Gators steamrolled Kentucky last year at the O’Dome, winning 88-66. It was after that game that Calipari said he wasn’t sure if his 2016-17 team had hit rock bottom. Kentucky proceeded to win 14 straight, a streak rudely stopped by Luke Maye’s buzzer-beater in the South Region final that sent UK home and North Carolina to the Final Four.

Since finally finding itself, this Kentucky team has already proved it can win on the road, beating Arkansas 87-72 last week. That is the Razorbacks’ only loss in their last seven games, including a 91-82 home win over conference-leader Auburn on Tuesday.

Still, Gainesville could be a different story. It will be Senior Day for the Gators. Though Florida is probably already in the NCAA field, a sweep of Kentucky would do nothing but bolster the Gators’ cause.

Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on Ole Miss’ physical play and why UK is shooting well from the perimeter.

This is time-lapse footage of 22,108 basketball fans filing in and out of the stands at Rupp Arena as Kentucky played Ole Miss.

Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel talks about the win over Ole Miss, which included a combined five technical fouls.

Kentucky coach John Calipari talks to the media after his team’s 96-78 win over Ole Miss.

Kevin Knox had 22 points and Quade Green added 18, including eight during a 15-5 second-half run that helped No. 23 Kentucky pull away from Mississippi for a 96-78 victory Wednesday night.

Kentucky plays Ole Miss Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena. The Wildcats close out the regular season at noon Saturday at Florida.

Kentucky men’s basketball 2017-18

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

Rec

SEC

11/10/17

Utah Valley

73

63

W

1-0

 

11/12/17

Vermont

73

69

W

2-0

 

11/14/17

vsKansas (chicago)

61

65

L

2-1

 

11/17/17

East Tennessee

78

61

W

3-1

 

11/20/17

Troy

70

62

W

4-1

 

11/22/17

Fort Wayne

86

67

W

5-1

 

11/26/17

UIC

107

73

W

6-1

 

12/2/17

Harvard

79

70

W

7-1

 

12/9/17

vsMonmouth (New York)

93

76

W

8-1

 

12/16/17

Virginia Tech

93

86

W

9-1

 

12/23/17

vsUCLA (New Orleans)

75

83

L

9-2

 

12/29/17

Louisville

90

61

W

10-2

 

12/31/17

Georgia

66

61

W

11-2

1-0

1/3/18

@LSU

74

71

W

12-2

2-0

1/6/18

@Tennessee

65

76

L

12-3

2-1

1/9/18

Texas A&M

74

73

W

13-3

3-1

1/13/18

@Vanderbilt

74

67

W

14-3

4-1

1/16/18

@South Carolina

68

76

L

14-4

4-2

1/20/18

Florida

64

66

L

14-5

4-3

1/23/18

Mississippi St

78

65

W

15-5

5-3

1/27/18

@West Virginia

83

76

W

16-5

 

1/30/18

Vanderbilt

83

81

W*

17-5

6-3

2/3/18

@Missouri

60

69

L

17-6

6-4

2/6/18

Tennessee

59

61

L

17-7

6-5

2/10/18

@Texas A&M

74

85

L

17-8

6-6

2/14/18

@Auburn

66

76

L

17-9

6-7

2/17/18

Alabama

81

71

W

18-9

7-7

2/20/18

@Arkansas

87

72

W

19-9

8-7

2/24/18

Missouri

87

66

W

20-9

9-7

2/28/18

Ole Miss

96

78

W

21-9

10-7

3/3/18

@Florida

     
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