Free throws help Cats hang on

Kentucky saw a 22-point lead shrivel to six inside of the final two minutes Tuesday at Ole Miss, and relied upon an unusual ally to hang on for the win: free throws.

Kentucky saw a 22-point lead shrivel to six inside of the final two minutes Tuesday at Ole Miss, and relied upon an unusual ally to hang on for the win:

Free throws.

The Wildcats made 27 of 30 at the line, including 19 straight to close the game, on their way to an 84-70 victory over the Rebels.

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No. 18 Kentucky (20-6, 10-3 SEC) entered the game shooting 67 percent at the line as a team and had missed 24 out of 63 free throw attempts last week in games against Auburn and Florida.

John Calipari said he liked how his squad bounced back from Saturday's 69-59 home loss to the SEC-leading Gators.

"We talked about bounce back," the UK coach said. "My teams, in the last three years at Memphis and five years here, if we lose a game, we come back and usually win by an average of 17.

"We're growing into the kind of team that I want to coach. When you lose, you get angry and do what you're supposed to do. You come together as a team. You don't point fingers. You come together and you play better."

Freshman forward Julius Randle led the Cats with his third consecutive double-double and team-leading 14th of the season by scoring 25 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He was 6-of-7 from the floor and made 13 of his 14 free throw attempts, including all 10 down the stretch as UK suffered through a drought which saw it go 8:55 without a basket.

Randle also ended that stretch with a power move in the lane that put the Cats up by eight with 1:15 to go, effectively ending Ole Miss's comeback hopes.

"I was going to call timeout there," Calipari said, "but I saw Julius with the ball, and I knew he'd get fouled or make that."

Kentucky also got 17 and 16 points, respectively, from freshman wings Aaron Harrison and James Young. Freshman point guard Andrew Harrison followed with 10, while sophomore center Willie Cauely-Stein added eight points, six rebounds and three blocked shots off the bench.

The Cats shot 52 percent and had a commanding 39-23 rebounding advantage to help compensate for a 19-turnover night. The Rebels cashed those miscues in for 24 points to help offset their 39-percent shooting from the field.

"We did a lot of good things," Calipari said. "We played a terrific game outside of a four-minute stretch where they made a little run and we hung our heads a bit after a couple of plays.

"But we defended better, we rebounded better, we had good ball movement, we created good shots for each other... and that team hadn't lost in this building in the league."

Ole Miss (16-10, 7-6 SEC) got 22 points from Jarvis Summers, 21 points from Anthony Perez and 18 points from Marshall Henderson, but it wasn't enough to carry the Rebels back from a 17-point halftime deficit and a 22-point hole with just over nine minutes remaining.

NOTES:

• Kentucky recorded its 58th 20-win season in program history and fifth consecutive under John Calipari.

• The Wildcats lead the all-time series with Ole Miss 102-13, including a 27-10 mark in Oxford.

• UK shot 59 percent in the first half, picking up 12 assists on 17 made baskets, including seven dunks.

• The Cats have lost back-to-back games under Calipari only five times during his time in Lexington. Four of those came during the 2012-13 season.

• UK returns to action Saturday at Rupp Arena against LSU in a 4 p.m. ET tipoff on ESPN.

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

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