BLOG — Jarvis Summers scored 22 points, Anthony Perez had 21 points and Marshall Henderson added 18, but Ole Miss had no answer for Kentucky’s inside presence in an 84-70 loss at C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum Tuesday night, missing out on a golden opportunity to enhance its resume for the NCAA Tournament.
The 18th-ranked Wildcats (20-6, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) shot 52.1 percent, a figure that was enhanced by their dominance inside. Kentucky outrebounded Ole Miss (16-10, 7-6) 39-23 and got multiple opportunities on several possessions to score, finishing with 36 points in the paint and 11 second-chance points.
It only added to the persistent rebounding woes for Ole Miss, which entered the game last in the SEC in rebounding margin (-3.6) and has now lost the battle of the boards in three straight games. Nobody other than forward Aaron Jones (6) had more than four rebounds.
“The rebounding woes, I’m really at a loss,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “You’d be amazed at the e-mails I get or people asking, ‘Do you guys do block-out drills?’ I realize what the problem is. My problem is I can’t do much about it right now. I’m going to work on that.”
Freshman forward Julius Randle did most of the damage on the interior for the Wildcats, finishing with 25 points and 13 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season.Aaron Harrison added 17 points for Kentucky while James Young had 16 points, six boards and five assists.
Still, Ole Miss made things interesting late.
Trailing by as many as 22 points in the second half, the Rebels put together a 30-14 run to close the gap to six at 76-70 with 1:49 remaining, the closest Ole Miss had been since a 17-11 deficit with 11:21 left in the first half. Perez came to life during that stretch, scoring 15 of his 17 second-half points, including his final 3-pointer to get it within six.
But Ole Miss didn’t score again as the Wildcats ended the game on an 8-0 run, dropping the Rebels’ record to 4-8 against teams in the top 100 of ESPN’s RPI rankings. Just one of those wins is over a team in the top 50, and Ole Miss’ only other chance at a top-50 victory in the regular season comes Saturday against No. 2 Florida.
“Our approach out of the gate was not as good as it needs to be against a team that played as well as Kentucky,” Kennedy said. “They’re certainly very, very talented. Tonight, I thought they were in control of the game from the start.”
Kentucky imposed its will on the interior early, grabbing 15 of the game’s first 19 rebounds. The Wildcats used second and third looks to fuel a 15-0 run to go up 25-11 midway through the first half. The Rebels struggled to defend the rim as two of those baskets came on alley oops, and after Perez’s jumper ended the spurt, Young slammed home another one.
With Henderson relegated to the bench for most of the half with two fouls, Ole Miss struggled to score, shooting 31 percent in the first 20 minutes. Kentucky shot 59 percent and continued to cruise, going up 42-25 at the half.
See Wednesday’s edition of the EAGLE for complete coverage from Tuesday’s game.
(February 19, 2014)