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Ole Miss drops ugly 99-76 loss to Kentucky in first SEC game of the season

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That was painful.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Mississippi Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Led by Isaiah Briscoe’s triple-double, Kentucky cruised to a 99-76 beatdown on Ole Miss in Oxford on Thursday. Malik Monk led all scorers with 34 points, and Sebastian Saiz tore off his fifth-straight double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Things got out of hand quickly for Andy Kennedy’s hoopmen, who surely are smarting after getting played out of the building.

AK couldn’t even make it to the first half’s under-16 break before calling a timeout to slow things down. Kentucky started the first four minutes on 7-of-9 shooting, and the Wildcats forced a handful of turnovers from Ole Miss’ transition play for easy buckets in the early going. No surprise, then, that Kentucky held a 32-18 advantage 10 minutes into the night’s proceedings. It was 60-39 at halftime.

After some Andy Kennedy coaching-up, the Rebs made a better showing in the second half, but really this one was over at halftime. Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s blowout in Oxford.

The Rebs couldn’t contain Bam Adebayo on the alley-oop.

And really, the reason for that was Isaiah Briscoe on the front end offering up the lobs. It helps that if the ball’s anywhere in the neighborhood of the basket Adebayo is gonna grab it, and Kentucky made the Rebs’ interior defense look foolish all night. Adebayo, for his part, finished with 25 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

That Kentucky went so frequently to the alley-oop play further prevented Ole Miss from settling into its defensive sets, let alone play any defense whatsoever. The Rebs’ porous perimeter D was thus a non-factor against a Wildcats team that averages a shot every 13 seconds.

Malik Monk did what we all knew he was gonna do.

Monk was averaging 21.4 points per game coming into Thursday’s game. He had 21 in the first half, capped off by none other than an alley-oop from Briscoe. He also just decided to run the damn floor on a behind-the-back-into-Euro-step bucket.

Coupled with Briscoe’s 19-10-11 line, Monk’s dominating presence was too much for Ole Miss to bear, and this game showcased yet again why he’s one of the country’s premier scorers.

A learning experience this early in the season can be a good thing.

Let’s face it: Kentucky is probably bound for the Elite Eight, if not beyond. Andy Kennedy’s hodgepodge of transfers still have a lot of basketball in front of them, and an embarrassing output on their home floor can go a long way toward bringing the team together and working out the manifold kinks this squad still has.

The Rebs have played the class of the SEC and seen what top-tier, tournament basketball demands. Rasheed Brooks played an encouraging game with 15 points, Saiz of course did his thing, and Deandre Burnett came to in the second half for 19 points of his own. Still, for Ole Miss to keep playing and find something resembling a rhythm down the stretch is a positive and teachable moment for this club, who’ve taken one on the chin to open conference play.

From here, Ole Miss takes jets for a two-game road trip at Florida and Auburn. Lesser opponents than Kentucky, to be sure, but no less difficult foes.