Cats seeking turnaround on defense, end to rare losing streak

Published 3:27 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Kentucky will attempt to end a rare home losing streak and overall slump when the Wildcats take on Mississippi Tuesday night.For the first time in school history, Kentucky (16-7, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) has lost three straight games at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats have lost four of their past six games, and the team’s defense has been a consistent issue.

“We are working on it,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “You’re talking about young players and you’re talking about kind of going off script a little bit of times. But they’ll get it. We’ve got a good team.”

Kentucky freshman Justin Edwards added that getting better on the defensive end is a mental issue and involves more than just technique.

Email newsletter signup

“Team pride — that’s really it,” Edwards said. “We’ve got to take pride in guarding our man.”

Adou Thiero added that the Wildcats are active behind the scenes in practice, but need to take care of business when it counts, especially when it comes to being physical on both ends of the court.

“We do it in practice every day. We just have to bring it to the game and transfer it to the game,” Thiero said. “We just got to find a way to, you know, when the lights turn on, be able to flip that switch again and be physical.”

Rebounding also has been a concern for the Wildcats, who gave up 18 offensive rebounds in the loss to Gonzaga,

“We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds (against Gonzaga),” Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua said Monday. “Six of them were long, team rebounds that went to no one. We have to be able to get those 50-50 balls. And that falls on everyone, not just the big guys.

“The defensive possession ends when you get the rebound. So everybody has to be back to help us rebound. It’s everybody’s assignment.”

During the past week, Kentucky has been without Tre Mitchell, who has missed the previous two games because of a back injury.

“Tre is a warrior,” Antigua said. “Tre’s been a warrior for us throughout the season and for a good majority of that time, when he was playing, he was playing hurt.”

Antigua said the absence of Mitchell has shown in the past two games the senior forward has missed.

“He was trying to impact the team with his will,” Antigua said. “And you could see his experience, his veteran-ship, and he’s one of our best rebounders out there, aside from being able to steady and calm everybody on the offensive end as well. He’s a big piece that’s been missing.”

Ole Miss (18-5, 5-5) opened the season with 14 straight victories under first-year Rebels coach Chris Beard, but have broken even in their first 10 league encounters. Ole Miss has lost its last two games, including a 68-65 decision at No. 11 South Carolina.