Andy Kennedy wasn’t sure if the moment was too big for his team against Kentucky on Thursday night. He hoped it wasn’t but added that it was possible. It was certain that Kentucky was too big however, as well as too fast as the Wildcats blew by the Rebels in a 99-76 win to start SEC play for both teams.
“I think pretty honestly in my opinion, their speed in the open floor,” Kennedy said of the biggest difference in the game. “They were just running by us in the open floor, and then we lost composure.”
Kentucky had 58 points in the paint and 20 on the fast break. Ole Miss knew the Wildcats wanted to play fast, and it tried to combat the pace, but eventually succumbed to the speed of their guards in transition.
“We were trying early to change our defenses on misses and makes,” Kennedy said. “We were trying to get into that 1-3-1 to build a wall so De’Aaron Fox couldn’t dribble unimpeded up the floor, and again, a couple of late rotations. We weren’t on top of our game to give ourselves a chance.”
Arguably the most dynamic backcourt in college basketball had its way with the Rebels. Malik Monk scored 34 points and Isaiah Briscoe posted a tiple-doiuble with a line of 10 pts, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
Couple that with with forward Kentrice Adebayo’s 25. Kentucky made it a point to get the ball down low to Adebayo in the half court offense.
“In practice, when we scrimmage we have segments where the ball has to touch Bam’s (Adebayo) hands first before anyone shoots it,” Briscoe said. “If he continues to play like this. He had a big game today and that’s big for us down the road to keep his confidence up.”
It was a recipe that doomed Ole Miss.
“Every team has a formula for success. Kentucky has one and we have one,” Kennedy said. “And we didn’t follow our formula very well. As a result, you dig an early hole and as a result you play desperate basketball. That is too good of a team to play desperate against for a long period of time.”
Kentucky jumped out to a 17-7 lead before the first media timeout, and the deficit never reached single digits again.
If Ole Miss was going to have a chance in this one, it was going to have to shoot the ball well. The Rebels struggled from the field in the opening half shooting 14-41. They shot 38% from the field for the game. Kentucky shot 63 percent from the field in the first half and finished 37-74. Ole Miss trailed 60-39 going into the halftime break, and while it played better in the second half, the lead never shrunk smaller than 15 points.
If there was a bright spot for Ole Miss, it beamed in the form of Sebastain Saiz’ 23 points and 13 rebounds. He struggled early on, and settled for perimeter jump shots, but found a rhythm and adjusted to Kentucky’s length.
“He missed some shots because of our size early that he’s made. I’ve all watched the tape on him,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of Saiz. “What Andy (Kennedy) is doing–and he’s one of the best coaches in our league– He knows he has to play through him to get easy baskets.”
It was a rocky start to SEC play for Ole Miss, and it will need to regroup before going on the road to face Florida on Jan 3.
“We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and get back to our formula,” Kennedy said. “We’ve all got a formula and we certainly didn’t follow it tonight for us to have a chance.”