OLE MISS

AK: Rebels Need 'A' Game Against No. 2 Florida

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Last time out, Ole Miss rallied to get within six, down 76-70, with 1:49 left, but fell 84-70 to No. 18 Kentucky in Oxford Tuesday. It was the Rebels' third straight loss, having lost heartbreakers at Alabama and at Georgia the previous week.

Ole Miss looks to snap its current losing streak and notch a marquee win, as it hosts No. 2 Florida, which has won each of its first 13 SEC games and a school-record 18 straight games after a 71-66 home win over Auburn Wednesday.

"I know that we have the No. 2-ranked team in the country coming into our building in a couple of days, and my hope is that they will be excited about having that opportunity," said head coach Andy Kennedy of his team's mindset entering Saturday's game.

Florida, ranked No. 3 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com), is not only an opportunity for Ole Miss to boost its RPI, which has dropped to No. 75, but a win over the Gators would give the program its highest-ever win over a ranked opponent.

"They're a very good basketball team," Kennedy said. "The four seniors, they are better collectively than they are when you start breaking them down individually. That's not a slight on them individually, but they are truly a consummate team. It's Billy (Donovan)'s job since I have been a part of the league for eight years, and one of those was a national championship. 

"He's maximized this group, and they have developed guys that were 'role players' in the past into all-league-type players. I have been really, really impressed with them as a team. We're going to have to play an 'A' game to give ourselves a chance from an effort and efficiency standpoint. We have to make sure that we take the right approach to have a chance to beat a team of their caliber."

The Gators lead the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense (57.8 ppg) and scoring margin (+12.8). On the glass, where Ole Miss ranks last in rebounding margin (-4.1), Florida ranks third in rebounding margin (+5.8), second in defensive rebounding percentage (70.7%) and fourth in offensive rebounding percentage (37.3%).

"We have to do what we do," said Kennedy of Florida's defensive pressure. "We have to be efficient. We weren't very efficient against Kentucky, and they exposed us. We have to be efficient because I don't anticipate the game being as many possessions based on the way that they play. We have to be efficient offensively."

Four players average double figures for the Gators, led by two of the four seniors in Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin, who average 15.7 and 13.6 points per game, respectively. Prather also leads the league and ranks fourth in the nation with a 62.8 field goal percentage. Kennedy said he anticipates Wilbekin to guard Marshall Henderson, who leads the SEC and ranks third in the nation averaging 4.48 3-pointers per game. Henderson also ranks third in the league in scoring at 20.2 ppg.

"He's a terrific on-ball defender," Kennedy said. "Our anticipation would be that he is going to guard Marshall off the ball. He's very, very good at fighting through screens and reading defenses. He has improved his ability to make plays with the ball. In the past, he has always deferred, whether it be to Kenny Boynton or whether it be to Erik Murphy, whoever it may be. Now he's the guy. When the game is on the line, he's going to make plays off the bounce."

"Andy (Kennedy) puts him in a lot of really, really good situations for him," said Florida head coach Billy Donovan of Henderson. "Since I have been in this league, I don't recall a players as fast as he is coming off screens and getting shots off. He is incredible doing that. There are times that you play really, really good defense and it doesn't make a difference. That's probably a tribute to Henderson and his ability to shoot the ball. He is a unique, talented player. The thing that I admire most about him is what a great competitor he is and how much he loves playing. He's certainly a handful to get ready for, but they also have a lot of other good players besides who him are playing well."



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