Ole Miss vs Kentucky basketball TV channel, time tonight: SEC basketball 2016

Published 5:28 pm Thursday, December 29, 2016

It is becoming as common an occurrence as presents under the tree on Christmas Day. Ole Miss opens conference play tonight when they host No. 8 Kentucky.

It is the third straight season the Rebels have had to break the seal on their Southeastern Conference slate against the Wildcats.

Ole Miss vs. Kentucky start time tonight: 7 p.m. central

TV channel: ESPN2.

Odds: Kentucky -11.

To live stream the game tonight, visit Watch ESPN. You will need a cable subscription or access to one.

“I don’t get too caught up in things I can’t control,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said of starting SEC play against Kentucky. “I know my Christmas afternoon would have been more pleasant if I wasn’t staring at (Kentucky) in 72 hours. I started studying them as soon as the last present was open, and we get a big present (tonight).”

The Rebels (9-3) are currently riding a seven-game losing skid to Kentucky. The last time Ole Miss defeated the Wildcats was in February 2011 when Chris Warren hit a game-winning 3-pointer with seconds left for a 71-69 victory in the old C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum.

Ole Miss wrapped up the main portion of its non-conference slate on Dec. 22 with a win over South Alabama. It was an up and down start to the season with losses to Virginia Tech, Creighton and a home loss to Middle Tennessee State with wins against Memphis, St. Joseph’s and UMass mixed in. It has given Ole Miss an RPI of 35 and a strength of schedule ranking of 25 heading into SEC play.

“I think we’re starting to get a better understanding of who we are and the way that we have to play in order to be successful,” Kennedy said. “We’ve shored up some things defensively, which have helped us, and some of our rotations. Personnel-wise we’re still trying to find the right combination. … At 9-3 heading into SEC play, I feel like we’re probably where we deserve to be.”

The first big test will come from Kentucky (10-2) as the usual attributes of size and speed come along with the 2016 version of the Wildcats, whose only losses on the year are to UCLA and Louisville by a combined eight points. Freshman Malik Monk leads the way offensively as the 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard averages 21.4 points per game and leads a group of four Wildcats who are scoring more than 10 points per game.

As usual with a John Calipari team, another freshman is leading in a statistical category with 6-10 forward Edrice Adebayo averaging eight rebounds per game.

“Another outstanding team,” Kennedy said of Kentucky. “The thing that jumps off the page when you see Kentucky and you see them in live action is their team speed. This is my 11th year and I’ve seen a lot of great Kentucky teams and a lot of great Kentucky players, but I don’t know if I’ve seen one as fast as this team. It really starts with Malik Monk.”

Blending in
Kennedy brought in six new players to this year’s team at the start of the season and was optimistic it would be a smooth process of mixing the new players such as transfers Deandre Burnett and Cullen Neal. Burnett is averaging a team-best 19.2 points per game while Neal is fourth-best with 12.3 points.

Through 12 games of non-conference play, Kennedy now has a better viewpoint of how the first month and a half of the season went in terms of creating team chemistry.

“I was probably a little over-optimistic initially thinking the transition of blending the old with the new would come about more easily than it has,” Kennedy said. “Deandre Burnett and Cullen Neal probably most specifically. Guys who are veterans in my eyes, having been around the college game for a number of years. However, they’re new to Ole Miss and this set of circumstances, and with that is going to come a bit of a transition. … Those things take a little more time than I was probably expecting.”