Late Drought Costs Ole Miss Against Kentucky

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OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- For the second straight game, Ole Miss failed to maintain a halftime lead, as Kentucky finished strong to defeat the Rebels 68-58 on Saturday in both team's Southeastern Conference opener. The game drew a season-best crowd of 8,754 to Tad Smith Coliseum.

The Wildcats, with a seven-game winning streak in jeopardy, delivered defensively when they needed it most.

"That was our best defensive effort of the year," said Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith as Kentucky limited the Rebels to a pair of field goals in the final 12 minutes. "That's what won it for us."

The Wildcats (12-3, 1-0), trailing 53-51, limited Ole Miss (11-4, 0-1) to 2-of-13 from the field and was efficient offensively to take the game.

"We really defended the perimeter," Smith said. "Any time you can come to Oxford and pull out a win, it's a positive."

Joe Crawford led the Wildcats with 23 points, 15 in the second half, including 5-of-5 from the field. Kentucky, coming off a season-low shooting performance in a win over Houston Wednesday, finished 25-of-45 from the field.

Randolph Morris had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Ramel Bradley added 13 points and five assists. Bradley was particularly effective in the stretch run by the Wildcats, scoring eight consecutive points in the 17-5 finish.

"Joe Crawford had a great game and Bradley was great at the end," said Morris, who carried the Wildcats offensively until the final 12 minutes. "We've got others that can score when I don't and then it's up to me to play defense."

Todd Abernethy, who led Ole Miss with 17 points and accounted for both baskets in the final 12 minutes, admitted, "That late surge, they just took the wind out of our sails and crushed us."

Dwayne Curtis had 13 points and 10 rebounds, battling Morris to a draw on both counts. Clarence Sanders had 12 points and Bam Doyne had 10 points for the Rebels, who managed only 22-of-57 from the field.

"You can't beat Kentucky shooting 33 percent in the second half," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "Kentucky stepped up and made the big plays."

Both clubs were tied or swapped leads 19 times in the opening 28 minutes, with neither club leading by more than six points.

The Rebels, who led 37-35 at halftime, appeared to gain control with an 8-0 run that gave them a 53-51 lead with 12:02 left. Instead, it was Kentucky's defense that found a higher gear.

Bradley and Crawford, who finished 4-of-5 from three-point range, established the offensive edge on the perimeter, taking the pressure off Morris in the decisive late surge.

Jodie Meeks hit a three-point shot, his only basket of the night,  off an assist from Bradley to give Kentucky a 56-53 lead with 8:56 left. Kentucky never trailed again.

Ole Miss returns to action Wednesday at Mississippi State. The in-state matchup tips off at 7 p.m. CT at Humphrey Coliseum.

POSTGAME QUOTES

Ole Miss Head Coach Andy Kennedy

 

"I thought that we were very fortunate to be up two points at the half. We didn't come through on our looks in the second half."

 

"Coach Smith's teams always do a good job. They stepped up and made the big plays."

 

"You can't beat Kentucky shooting 33 percent in the second half."

 

"We must come out with a more aggressive mind-set to start games. Our culture has to change. We must continue to develop a winning mindset."

 

 

Kentucky Head Coach Tubby Smith

 

"Any time you can come to Oxford and pull out a win, it's a positive."

 

"Our defensive effort won the game for us down the stretch. It helped that Joe Crawford made shots for us tonight."

 

"I have been impressed when watching film of Ole Miss. Coach Kennedy has done a good job."

 

"We were able to challenge shots in the second half. Their (Ole Miss) shots were a little short."

 

 


 

 

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