Recap: Kentucky 89, Ole Miss 86 - OT

LEXINGTON, Ky – In the nine days that have passed since Kentucky’s impressive road win over Louisville, the Bluegrass airwaves have been filled with talk of the Southeastern Conference having no hope to challenge the mighty Wildcats.

So, naturally, Kentucky’s league opener against a four-loss Ole Miss squad was a wildly-entertaining overtime thriller at Rupp Arena.

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In a game that featured 13 ties and eight lead changes, the No. 1 Cats made more clutch plays in the final two minutes of overtime to claim an 89-86 win over the upset-minded Rebels. Ole Miss had shots at both the end of regulation and the extra period which could have won the game or extended it to a second overtime as a sellout crowd of 24,275 held its collective breath and kept dreams of a perfect season alive.

Kentucky (14-0, 1-0 SEC) overcame a 49-percent shooting effort by the Rebels, the best figure posted by a UK opponent this season. The 86 points were also the high mark against the Cats, who entered the game giving up only 48 per game.

Ole Miss got 25 points from junior guard Stefan Moody, who was spectacular before leaving the game late with severe cramps, and 23 from senior guard Jarvis Summers. Only one opposing player had gone for 20 points against UK this season.

“If Moody doesn’t cramp up, we probably lose the game,” UK coach John Calipari said of the Rebels’ junior guard. “I mean, he was just ridiculous. We couldn’t do anything with him.

“We go 11-for-20 from the 3-point line and just escape. What?”

The Rebels dropped to 9-5 on the season.

“Our goal coming in here, we never talked about one time, ‘Hey lets go in and beat the No. 1 team in the country.’” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “I just wanted them to compete for 40 minutes, and I certainly thought they did that. (We) Gave ourselves a chance, really proud of the effort, proud of the fight.”

Sophomore guard Aaron Harrison scored a game-high 26 points, including a 5-for-9 night from behind the arc and a 9-for-10 effort at the line, to lead the Cats. Devin Booker (13), Andrew Harrison (12), Karl-Anthony Towns (11) and Trey Lyles (10) also reached double digits for UK.

Willie Cauley-Stein also had an active stat line for the Cats. The junior center scored 7 points, grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, blocked four shots and recorded three steals. He had a key putback and four rebounds in overtime.

In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the day's highs and lows:

WHAT WE LIKED: Kentucky didn’t have its ‘A’ game Tuesday on the heels of a long holiday layoff, but it did demonstrate the will to win and remain undefeated. With the type of shots Ole Miss was burying from all angles and some bad breaks along the way, it would have been easy for the Cats to “let go of the rope,” as Calipari likes to say, and just chalk it up to not being their night. Instead, they clearly want to keep their run at history alive.

KEY MOMENT: With UK trailing 77-76 and just 28 seconds left in regulation, Ole Miss rebounded an Andrew Harrison miss and had a chance to force the Cats into a fouling situation, but Lyles came up with a steal that led to Andrew Harrison’s game-tying free throw moments later that forced OT.

STAT OF THE DAY: Ole Miss didn’t come into the game with the reputation of being a strong rebounding team, but led UK in that category most of the night. The Cats grabbed 10 of the final 14 rebounds in the game to finish with a narrow 34-32 edge.

QUOTABLE:"Moody’s a little bit like Marshall Henderson, and thank God only a little bit.” – Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy on sharp-shooting guard Stefan Moody and his former Rebel free spirit.

UP NEXT: Kentucky returns to action Saturday at Texas A&M. The Aggies (9-4, 0-1 SEC) lost 65-44 at Alabama on Tuesday.

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