No. 7 Kentucky affixed on big picture; Ole Miss up next
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Kentucky lost Saturday for the second time in its past four games.
The No. 7-ranked Wildcats (23-6, 12-4 SEC) could be the No. 4 seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament depending on how the dominoes fall in the coming days.
But they're looking at the big picture during the final week of the regular season, beginning with their home finale against Ole Miss (13-16, 4-12) on Tuesday night.
"We're playing for something bigger than just a seed and the league championship," Kentucky coach John Calipari said after a 75-73 loss at then-No. 18 Arkansas on Saturday.
The loss dropped the Wildcats into a second-place tie with Arkansas and Tennessee, one game behind Auburn. Kentucky has lost to all three teams, though it also has a win against Tennessee.
The Wildcats welcomed back guards Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington after a two-game absence due to injuries, though neither started against the Razorbacks.
"I feel TyTy and I had some of that rust when we first got into the game, especially in the first half," Wheeler said. "But after that, our play and our energy picked up in the second half.
"Obviously, a disappointing outcome. Wish we could have won. On the good side, we're both getting healthy and we're both preparing for March."
Kentucky scored the first two points against the Razorbacks, then watched Arkansas score the next 15.
Calipari attributed the slow start to "unaggressiveness."
It marked the fourth consecutive game that the Wildcats have trailed by at least 10 points in the first half.
"When the other guy hits first, it really affects your psyche," Calipari said. "You start swinging right away, you're the tough guy. The other guy does (the swinging), you're not the tough guy."
Ole Miss has lost six of seven games since freshman point guard Daeshun Ruffin suffered a season-ending knee injury, including a 76-66 home loss to Texas A&M on Saturday.
"I take full responsibility; that was embarrassing," Rebels coach Kermit Davis said. "I didn't come to Ole Miss to put that kind of product on the floor."
Matthew Murrell led the Rebels with 20 points and Tye Fagan added 10 points and a career-high eight assists, but Ole Miss couldn't keep up.
"We had some guys that weren't ready to play," Davis said. "That's my responsibility to get them ready to play. They were more prepared than us."
Only two other losses since Ruffin's injury were by double figures and two others came in overtime.
But the Aggies scored the first 14 points of the game and led by 23 at halftime, the biggest halftime deficit faced by Ole Miss this season, though the Rebels did outscore Texas A&M by 13 points in the second half.
"We've fought some different things, but we have enough to be competitive, and we weren't today," Davis said. "I commend the guys in the last 15 minutes. We fought and made it more respectable.
"(The Aggies') style of play is a juggernaut for us. It just hits us in every area. We'll have to regroup and play a great Kentucky team."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2022