Rebels Miss Opportunities, Fall To Wildcats 53-50
Jan. 19, 2005
By JOEDY McCREARY
OXFORD, Miss. - Kentucky fell into a deep hole, ignored a horrendous first half and escaped with an improbable road victory.
The No. 8 Wildcats pulled another remarkable comeback away from home, rallying from a 15-point deficit to beat Mississippi 53-50 on Wednesday night.
Freshman Rajon Rondo scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half of a victory strikingly similar to Kentucky's 60-58 win last month at Louisville in which the out-of-sync Wildcats trailed by 16.
"The only similarity I can draw is, we weren't focused early," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "It's a sign of a team with heart, when you can win like we did."
Ole Miss had the ball trailing 51-50 in the final moments, but Kendrick Fox missed a 3-pointer with 19 seconds to play and Kentucky's Patrick Sparks hit two free throws to extend the Wildcats' lead to three.
Londrick Nolen's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the back iron, giving the Wildcats their ninth victory in 10 games.
"I'll take Kendrick Fox with that shot any time," Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said. "We had a great look at the end. It just didn't go down."
Kelenna Azubuike had 11 points and Chuck Hayes added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats (13-2, 4-0 Southeastern Conference), who trailed most of the way and were held to their lowest point total of the season.
Smith noticed a carryover after the Wildcats were uninspired during their afternoon shootaround.
"I told them if we didn't match their intensity, it would be a long night, and it was," Smith said.
Kentucky took its first lead of the game when Rondo's three-point play made it 49-48 with 3:02 remaining. That came as part of an 11-2 run which pushed the Wildcats' lead to three.
Kentucky opened the second half with 10 straight points and pulled to within 31-29 with 14:02 remaining.
Tommie Eddie had 12 of his 14 points in the second half, and Nolen added 12 for the Rebels (11-7, 2-3), who in the first half successfully lulled the Wildcats into a grind-it-out game.
"They didn't want to play no defense, really," Eddie said. "We got them on their heels, and just stuck it back in the hole."
Kentucky went scoreless over the first six minutes, started just 1-of-11 from the floor and shot just 20 percent in tying their least productive first half of the season.
Ole Miss' largest lead was 29-14 on Todd Abernethy's three-point play with 15.4 seconds left in the half. The Rebels led 29-16 at halftime.
"If you had told me we'd have a 13-point lead at halftime and a chance to win it at the end, I'd take it," Barnes said.
The first-half statistics were identical to the Louisville game - Kentucky was held to 16 points and 5-for-24 shooting by both the Cardinals and Ole Miss, but rallied to win both games.
"We knew we were OK (that) we were capable of getting back in the game," guard Ravi Moss said. "It was just time to step up and play."
Kentucky improved its edge in the series with Ole Miss to a remarkable 92-10, and has won five straight against the Rebels.
The Wildcats played without freshman Joe Crawford, who didn't make the trip to Oxford. He returned to the team Monday after spending a week at home after a dispute over playing time.
The game also was something of a family reunion for Tubby Smith. His son, Brian, is a reserve guard for the Rebels who did not play against the Wildcats but the two met near midcourt before the game.
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