Too little, too late for Ole Miss.
After being down by as many as 17 with just over 10 minutes to go in the first half, No. 16 Ole Miss (17-3, 6-1 SEC) used a 16-0 run to get back in the game and cut the lead to one, but Kentucky (14-6, 5-2 SEC) used a 14-2 run of their own to end the game, as they handed the Rebels their first loss in SEC play, 87-74, Tuesday night.
The Rebels, who played in front of a record fourth consecutive sellout crowd of 9,232, took a one-point lead into halftime despite foul trouble from senior forwards Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway, but Kentucky jumped on Ole Miss in the second half building the lead Ole Miss could not overcome.
Kentucky’s freshman forward Nerlens Noel scored just two points but had the biggest impact on the game. Noel blocked 12 shots, including six in the final six minutes, while he had four fouls.
“He was the difference in the game. (He’s) an incredible defensive presence,” head coach Andy Kennedy said. “We finally got it to where we wanted it, with our two seniors (Buckner and Holloway) at the block, and Nerlens would not allow the ball to go in the basket.”
Sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer led the Wildcats on the offensive end, posting a career-high 26 points. Freshman guard Archie Goodwin, the Wildcats leading scorer, added 24 points.
Sophomore guard LaDarius White and junior guard Marshall Henderson paced the Rebels, scoring 22 and 21, respectively. Henderson knocked down nine free throws, but was just 2 of 11 from three-point range and never had a scoring spurt that he has grown accustomed to doing.
Holloway scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds and became the all-time leading rebounder in Ole Miss history, with 949.
Ole Miss shot just 32.9 percent from the field, and committed 27 fouls, while Kentucky shot 50 percent and committed 22 fouls.
The Rebels will play at Florida on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPNU starting at 6 p.m.
Injuries plague Rebels
Two Ole Miss players went down with an injury in the game, senior guard Nick Williams and sophomore forward Aaron Jones. It is still too early to determine the extent of the injuries, but Kennedy is not optimistic.
“Initial prognosis is not good. We’ll MRI in the morning,” Kennedy said. “Nick’s been suffering from plantar fasciitis, which is a connective tissue issue on the bottom of his foot. We think it snapped. … We’re pretty sure it did. That’s not as dire as it sounds. Sometimes, that can alleviate some of his symptoms. He could be back; we don’t know how quickly.
“(With) A.J., it’s a knee, and again the initial prognosis is not good, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions prior to doing an MRI.”
Ole Miss started the season with six bodies to play in the post, but with the dismissal of Jason Carter and an injury to junior forward Demarco Cox earlier this year, Jones’ injury could be costly.
“It changes everything,” Kennedy said. “It changes everything up front. The minutes are there, somebody’s got to take them. So we’ll give those young guys an opportunity.”
The Rebels will likely look to freshmen Terry Brutus and Anthony Perez to fill those minutes in the post. Brutus has played 47 minutes all season, and Perez 115. However, the majority of the six-foot-nine Perez’s minutes have been as a guard.
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