Ole Miss basketball vs. Kentucky: Scouting report, score prediction

OXFORD — Underperforming and potentially undermanned, Ole Miss men's basketball welcomes Kentucky to the SJB Pavilion on Tuesday (8 p.m., ESPN) looking for its first home victory since Dec. 17 against Temple.

Relative to preseason expectations, John Calipari's Wildcats (14-7, 5-3 SEC) have been a disappointment, too. Picked by the media to win the SEC before the season, Kentucky sits 36th in the NET ratings as of Monday and is an NCAA Tournament bubble team instead of contending for a conference championship.

The Rebels (9-12, 1-7), riding a skid of nine losses in 10 games, could certainly use the jolt of energy that a win over a college basketball blue blood like Kentucky would provide. The Wildcats, meanwhile, will be out to avoid a damaging road defeat for their tournament resume.

Oscar Tshiebwe leads the way

Ole Miss just spent its Saturday evening in Stillwater getting dominated in the paint by Oklahoma State. The Cowboys got just about whatever they wanted around the goal.

Enter Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe, arguably college basketball's most imposing post player during the past two seasons.

Tshiebwe's numbers are slightly down from his AP Player of the Year Award-winning 2021-22 season, but he's still a force. The 6-foot-9 big man is averaging 16.6 points and 13.7 rebounds per game. His offensive rebounding percentage of 19% ranks second in the nation.

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All about extra chances

Kentucky leads the SEC with a 38.8% offensive rebounding rate in conference games.

The Wildcats are also the best team in the conference on the defensive glass, allowing offensive rebounds on just 22.9% of missed shots in SEC play.

Those extra possessions have been vital because this isn't a particularly efficient Kentucky team. The Wildcats rank 115th in the country in effective field-goal percentage. If the Rebels can keep them off the glass, they'll give themselves a chance. But that won't be easy.

Rebels could be shorthanded

Ole Miss has been without leading scorer Matthew Murrell for two games after he left a contest against Arkansas on Jan. 21 with a right knee injury. Murrell was reportedly a game-time decision for Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State.

The Rebels also missed dynamic point guard Daeshun Ruffin in that game due to what Kermit Davis described as a coach's decision. It's unclear if he will play on Tuesday. Freshman forward Malique Ewin was also unavailable.

It's unclear if Ole Miss will be getting any of those players back Tuesday.

Score prediction

Kentucky 69, Ole Miss 62. Ole Miss is capable of springing a trap on Kentucky here if Murrell is available. If not, it's difficult to see a path to victory. Even with Murrell, the talent advantage lies with the Wildcats, and the Rebels haven't shown any real indication of being able to play up to their competition. Home court advantage hasn't been very significant, either. The Rebels are winless at home in the SEC.

David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at deckert@gannett.com or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Ole Miss basketball vs. Kentucky: Scouting report, score prediction