The Wildcats are off to their best start since the 1998-99 season when UK finished 21-11, 7-7 in the SEC and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. UK's seven league wins ties the school record. The Cats also swept the season series with the Lady Rebels after winning in Oxford, Miss., earlier this season, 81-75.
Both teams started slow offensively to begin the game, but Ole Miss found its hot-hand in Ashley Johnson and Carla Bartee. The Lady Rebels used a 6-0 run that included four of Johnson's team-high 15 points in the opening stanza to go ahead 15-9 with 11:30 remaining in the half. Back-to-back buckets by Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) and Mahoney brought the Cats to within two, 15-13, but the Lady Rebels continued to blister the nets. Consecutive three-pointers by Bartee moved Ole Miss ahead by six, 23-17. Kentucky battled back, however, tying the score at 23 with 6:58 to go. The Cats went on to score the last three baskets of the half, including two by Mahoney, to go into the locker room with a 33-30 advantage. Ole Miss hit 52.2 percent from the floor in the first half, including 62.5 percent from beyond the arc (5-of-8).
"Tonight was a really hard fought game," UK Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "I thought it was a game of runs. They (Ole Miss) started out really hot from the three-point line and hit some deep shots. I thought we did a better job of defending the three in the second half until right the end. We played tough on the boards. We only had 10 turnovers, which was good. I thought Ole Miss played very hard and with a lot of heart. When we got up by 10, they came back but we were able to answer that and come out with a win. That puts us at 18 wins and that feels good."
After another Bartee three-pointer started the half, the Wildcats scored four consecutive baskets, highlighted by Jennifer Humphrey's (Memphis) first career three-pointer to go ahead 40-35. Humphrey scored the first five points of the second half for the Cats. Roddy nailed two baskets and freshman point guard Carly Ormerod (Louisville, Ky.) connected on a three to put the Cats ahead by a 10-point (49-39) margin with 14:01 left. Ole Miss regrouped and used a 14-0 run to give the Lady Rebels a 53-49 advantage with 8:50 remaining. The Cats were held scoreless for more than eight minutes.
"I think we just knew our defense and board play was keeping us in the game," DeMoss said. "We could not let up. We have been in situations before where we have hit a dry spell on the offensive end. I thought Ole Miss played really hard on the defensive end. They (Ole Miss) have great team quickness and they were able to get at our shooters."
The Wildcats started their comeback by putting together a 10-0 run, capped off by a layup by Humphrey to pull ahead 59-53 with 5:40 left in the game. Ole Miss (14-11, 4-8) came as close as three points, 64-61, with 2:20 left with the fifth trey by Bartee. After a missed jumper by Roddy and a missed three-pointer by Jenny Pfeiffer (North Vernon, Ind.), the Lady Rebels had a chance to tie the game with 13 seconds remaining. Ashley Awkward missed the trey and Roddy grabbed the defensive rebound and was fouled. She hit one of two free throws to seal the four-point win.
Sophomore center Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.) added 12 points, while Humphrey chipped in 10 points and 13 boards for her eighth career double-double. Kentucky was dominant on the offensive glass, posting 21 offensive rebounds and out-scoring the Lady Rebels 20-5 in second-chance points.
The Wildcats shot 37.9 percent (25-of-66) from the field, while Ole Miss connected on an impressive 48 percent (24-of-50) of their shots, including 52.2 percent in the first half (12-of-23). The free-throw line proved detrimental for the Lady Rebels, as they made just 4-of-14. Kentucky was clutch from the stripe, making 11-of-18 shots.
The Lady Rebels were led by Ashley Johnson's game-high 22 points.
Kentucky returns to action Sunday, Feb. 19 when it travels to Starkville, Miss., to take on Mississippi State (6-18, 1-10 SEC). Tip-off between the Wildcats and Bulldogs is set for 3 p.m. EST in Humphrey Coliseum and the game will be carried live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price.