The Ole Miss men’s basketball team lost for the first time in two weeks on Saturday, falling to No. 12 Kentucky 67-62.
The Rebels battled down the stretch but could not keep up with the high-powered Wildcats. The game was deadlocked from the outset as both defenses appeared up for the task.
After the Rebels led for most of the game, the Wildcats clawed their way back to tie the game in the second half with a dunk from Nick Richards before a free throw from Immanuel Quickley put Kentucky back on top. Ole Miss responded with seven straight including a four-point play by Blake Hinson, who converted on the free throw after getting fouled on a three by Keion Brooks Jr.
The Wildcats again fought their way back into the game, tying the score at 47-47 on a pair of free throws from Quickley.
Kentucky retook the lead with almost five minutes remaining, the first of seven lead changes in the final five minutes of the game.
The two teams traded buckets over and over down the stretch, exchanging the elusive one-point lead with every swoosh of the nylon.
A pair of Tyree’s free throws gave Ole Miss the advantage with less than two minutes left in the contest. On the following possession, Khadim Sy fouled out, sending Richards to the line for two.
He converted the attempts to give Kentucky the lead with just over a minute remaining before Ashton Hagans sent Tyree to the line for a one-and-one. The usually steady-handed senior missed the front end, and the Wildcats retook possession with less than a minute remaining. Kentucky coach John Calipari took a timeout with 39 seconds on the clock to calm his squad, but Shuler stripped Tyrese Maxey on the ensuing possession.
Shuler inexplicably airballed a three-point attempt with nine seconds left, forcing the Rebels to send Quickley to the line in hopes of extending the game.
Kentucky’s leading scorer knocked down both attempts from the charity stripe to extend their lead to three. Calipari smartly instructed his team to foul before Ole Miss could get off a three and Tyree missed the front end of another one-and-one with seconds left. Two more Kentucky free throws sealed the game for the Wildcats, who came away with the five-point victory.
The Rebels saw their three-game winning streak end at the hands of the streaking Wildcats — now winners in eight of their last nine contests. Calipari’s squad is now 10-2 in conference play and at the top of the SEC standings.
Quickley led the home side with 17 points on an inefficient 4-15 FG. He was 1-8 from deep but went 8-10 from the charity stripe, coming up with clutch free throws throughout the second half. Richards finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in a solid all-around performance. Tyree recorded a game-high 19 points on 6-16 shooting including 3-6 from beyond the arc.
Hinson had an efficient night scoring 13 points on 5-9 from the field to go along with six rebounds, two assists and a block. Buffen also finished with 13 points, stuffing the stat sheet with four rebounds, two steals, two blocks and an assist.
Ole Miss falls to 13-12 on the season, a crushing loss for a team with dwindling tournament aspirations. The Rebs will likely need to win out in order to position themselves for a respectable run in the conference tournament and a possible NCAA Tournament berth.
Their next contest is on the road against Missouri on Tuesday, the first in a home-and-home series with the Tigers.