Kentucky finds itself in the unfamiliar position of being in fifth place in the Southeastern Conference as January ends.
But the Wildcats (14-7, 5-3 SEC) still have 10 conference games to climb the standings, starting with a visit to Ole Miss on Tuesday night.
“This is a marathon,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after a 77-68 home loss against No. 9 Kansas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday. “We’ve got games and we’ve just got to keep getting better. We are not where we need to be, but we are not certainly where we were.”
The Wildcats have won their last four conference games, allowing fewer than 62 points per game.
“I think two or three weeks ago we were not really defending like we are now,” forward Oscar Tshiebwe said. “We are really playing good. We just have to stay locked in.”
The Wildcats made just 2 of 13 3-pointers against the Jayhawks. Kentucky is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country but did not have any offensive boards in the first half en route to trailing by seven points at halftime, and the Wildcats finished the game with zero second-chance points.
Ole Miss (9-12, 1-7) is in a four-way tie for last in the conference after losing nine of its last 10 games.
The Rebels played without leading scorer Matthew Murrell (knee) and fellow guard Daeshun Ruffin (coach’s decision) and lost at Oklahoma State 82-60 on Saturday.
“We missed our two guards that can kind of help control the game,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said.
But the backcourt wasn’t the only problem area for the Rebels, who shot just 36 percent from the floor.
“We got beat around the goal and couldn’t guard in the post one-on-one,” Davis said. “Our bigs are struggling scoring around the goal.”
Ole Miss, which never led in the game, fell behind by double figures in the first half and the deficit reached 21 just six minutes into the second half.
–Field Level Media