Kentucky Defeats Mississippi Again
Advances to Play Alabama

Game Preview:

On February 22, barely two weeks ago, the Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Mississippi Rebels by 40 points, 80-40. However, make no mistake, the Mississippi team that the Cats face today in the opening round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville is not the same team that collapsed under the pressure in Rupp Arena in the last meeting. For starters, Mississippi showed up for that meeting without their number one scorer and rebounder, Dwayne Curtis, who missed the game to attend his brother's funeral. If that is not sufficient to understand that the Mississippi team that will appear today is different, also consider that since February 22, Mississippi 's coach, Rod Barnes, has resigned, and this will add an emotional boost to the Rebel team to perform well for their beloved coach.

On the other side of this ledger, Kentucky is playing a rare first round SEC Tournament game in the aftermath of a disappointing season [19-11] and an equally rare 3 rd place finish in the SEC East [9-7]. The 15-point defeat at the hands of the Florida Gators at Rupp Arena on Sunday was the second straight 15-point loss to Florida , the fourth SEC home loss of this season, and the fifth home loss of the season for Kentucky . Finally, turmoil has swirled around this Kentucky team most of the year, but now the winds of change are rising to gale levels, and those winds could increase more today with another lackadaisical performance by the Wildcats.

On the season, Kentucky has been significantly more effective offensively this season than Mississippi [0.890 ppp v. 0.827 ppp]. Kentucky has also posted slightly stronger defensive numbers for the season [0.843 v. 0.866 ppp]. UK has averaged 79.6 possessions per game, while holding its opponents to only 78.4 possessions per game due to a +1 average offensive rebounding margin per game. Mississippi averages 79.0 possessions per game this season, but allows their opponents 78.0 possessions per game. These teams should play this game in the upper 70s pace.

Mississippi currently has a Net Game Efficiency for the year of -0.040 ppp while UK 's current NGE stands at 0.048 ppp. Kentucky has played a stronger schedule than Mississippi this season [0.5875 v 0.5367]. 

The Pros in Vegas say Kentucky will defeat Mississippi today to advance to the SEC quarterfinals tomorrow against Alabama by 10 points, 70-60. This season, UK is 12-14 against the spread. The Net Game Efficiency analysis, adjusted for schedule strength and venue suggests a Kentucky win over the Rebels, 73-62. The pre-game Magic Number is 68 points.

The First Half:

This game begins with Mississippi taking the ball inside on nearly every trip to Curtiss. The aggressive offensive tactics, coupled with early foul troubles for Crawford and an early foul on Morris forcing Tubby to sit him for awile, has allowed Mississipi to move out to an early lead. Kentucky did take a brief 1 point lead, 9-8, but at the end of each of the first two game segments, Mississippi held the lead, by 2 at the first break and 6 points at the second break. Kentucky is looking sluggish and lethargic in the early going, and but for two long range shots by Perry at about the 5 minute mark, UK would have liettle to be pleased about, and at the end of the third mini-game, UK trails Mississippi by 9 points, 24-15, having been outscored by 2 or more points in each of the first three segments of the half. At the under 4 timeout of the first half, UK had trimmed the 9 point lead to 7 points. UK has committed 9 turnovers in this very weak first half effort. Morris obtained his second foul with 2:41 to play in the half. UK scored the last 6 points of the half to close the gap to 3 points, 29-26.

UK scored its 26 points on only 36 possessions [0.722 ppp] and Mississippi scored its 29 points on 38 possessions, 0.763 points per possession for the half.

Of UK's 36 first half possessions, 6 came by virtue of its offensive rebounding that produced 7 second chance points. Mississippi earned 9 bonus possessions created by its offensive rebounding that produced 5-second chance points. UK had an pitiful offensive efficiency on its first chance possessions, of 0.633 ppp on its 31 first chance possessions and an impressive, perhaps game saving, 1.667 ppp for its 6-second chance possessions. Mississippi had a 0.828 ppp on its 29 first chance possessions but Mississippi did not take full advantage of it 9-second chances by scoring only 5 points, 0.556 ppp.

Mississippi made only 1 of its 4 free throw attempts [25.0%] while UK converted 2 of its 2 attempts from the line [100.0%]. Mississippi out rebounded Kentucky in the first half, 18-16, and Mississippi earned that advantage by winning the battle of the offensive rebounds 9-5 during the first half. Mississippi shot 50.0% [11-22] from inside the arc, and a weak 2-9 from beyond the arc [22.2%]. Kentucky was only 6-15 [40.0%] inside the arc and a fair 4-11 [36.4%] from outside the arc. The game pace is equivalent to 72 possessions for UK and 76 possessions for Mississippi .


The pregame analysis indicated a magic number of 68 points. However, based on the pace and effectiveness of the teams in the first half today, the magic number is modified to 57 points. The first team to score its 57 th point will win this game. UK needs to score 31 more points in the second half to reach this level before Mississippi can score 28 points in this race to 68 points. Kentucky scored its 57 th point of the game on put back basket by Morris with just under 4 minutes to play to take the lead to 57-48. Kentucky played out the last 4 minutes of the clock to secure the victory, 71-57.

The Second Half:

Mississippi opens the second half with a score on the first possession and immediately goes right back to the well that treated them so well in the first half, inside to Curtiss. His two free throws extend the lead back to 5 points, 31-26. However, the UK offense appears to be more aggressive, as Rondo takes the ball to the rim and draws a foul. While he missed both attempts, UK got the offensive board. Sparks then takes the ball aggressively to the hole for a bucket. That is a good sign for the second half, and marks a change in the energy level of the UK team in this game. Pressure trapping defense on the next Mississippi possession forces the Rebels to take an unscheduled time out to avoid another turn over.with 18:15 to play, still clinging to a 1 point lead, 31-30. Out of the timeout, UK forced a turnover, converted on the other end for the lead, 32-31, matching their largest first half lead of the game. Ole Miss moves back on top and UK ties the score at 33-33 at the under 16 TV time out. At the close of the second mini-game of the second half, Curtis is called for his 4 th personal foul, and UK will have the ball working on a 3 point lead, 40-37. As the game resumes for the third segment, UK moves up by 7, 44-37, but the Rebels trim the lead to 4 points at the 8:50 mark. UK lead at the under 8 break 46-42. UK is 1 point ahead of the race to 57 points while Mississippi is 2 points off the pace.

Mississippi catches up at 46 with 6 ½ to go, and UK responds by going inside to Morris for the old fashioned three point play. UK then moved out on a 13-2 run to secure the game with the final score, 71-57.

The Outcome:

Mississippi won the battle of the boards for the game, 32-31 and Mississippi won the battle of the offensive boards 15-11. Mississippi grabbed an impressive 42.9% of its misses as offensive rebounds while UK grabbed a strong 39.3% of its misses. UK scored 71 points on its 75 possessions [0.947 ppp] while Mississippi scored its 57 points using 76 possessions [0.750 ppp]. Kentucky committed 15 turnovers to Mississippi 's 14 for the game.

Kentucky had 64 first chance possessions in which they scored 60 points, 0.938 ppp while they scored 11 points on their 11-second chance possessions, 1.000 ppp. Mississippi had 62 first chance possessions on which they scored 49 points, 790 ppp while they scored 8 second chance points on their 15 second chance possessions, 0.533 ppp.

Tonight UK shot the ball at slightly better than their season average from the field for the game. From the field, UK shot 57.7% [15-26] inside the arc, and a strong 9-24 from beyond the arc [37.5%] for a combined shooting percentage of 48.0%. The Free throw shooting was below average for the Cats today, 14-20 [70.0%]. Mississippi shot the ball below their season average from the field today. From inside the arc, the Rebels hit 51.4% [19-37] and from long range, Mississippi hit a poor 21/1% [4-19]. Mississippi 's free throw shooting was poor, 7-13 [53.8%]. Kentucky committed one turnover for every 5.0 possessions while forcing a turnover in every 5.4 possessions. Last year, in comparison, these turnover rates were 6.2 and 4.6 respectively for the season.

I predicted a Kentucky win over Mississippi today, 73-62. The predicted v. actual offensive efficiencies were 0.924 and 0.934 ppp respectively for a B- effort on offense. The predicted v. actual defensive efficiencies were 0.782 and 0.740 ppp respectively for an B- on defense.

The Cats advance to the SEC Quarterfinals on Friday afternoon against Alabama ..


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Copyright 2006 Richard Cheeks
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