Ole Miss was unable to claim its first victory in school history against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament, as the No. 5 seeded Rebels fell 71-58 to the No. 4 seeded Wildcats Thursday.
SEC Freshman of the Year Terrico White paced the Rebels in a losing effort, scoring 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting. It was the ninth time he has reached at least 20 points this season.
With the loss, Ole Miss (16-15, 7-9) falls to 23-46 overall in tournament games, along with an 0-14 mark against Kentucky.
"It was a disappointing second half for us," said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy. "I thought Kentucky was quicker to the ball than us. We refer to effort areas in every game and they dominated in those areas. They really hurt us on the offensive glass and we had too many turnovers. Unfortunately, we let the game get away from us."
Kentucky (20-12, 8-8) won the rebounding battle, grabbing 35 boards to only 28 for the Rebels. Turnovers proved problematic for both squads, as the two combined for 28 giveaways for the game.
The Wildcats were more efficient in the second half, however, committing only five turnovers compared to 11 for Ole Miss.
"They were the same Kentucky we played before," said sophomore Zach Graham, who had six points in 35 minutes of action. "I think the turnovers and rebounding were key factors in them winning the game today."
After falling behind 14-11 early, junior David Huertas scored six-straight points for a 17-14 Rebel lead. Both teams followed with six points apiece, but Ole Miss still held a 23-20 advantage with a little over seven minutes left until halftime.
It wouldn't last for long, however, as the Wildcats used an 8-0 run to pull ahead by five. The Rebels responded with eight of their own, for a three point lead at 31-28.
After scoring six quick points in the opening minutes, All-SEC First Teamer Jodie Meeks finally found the bucket again with two minutes remaining. His two free throws pulled Kentucky within one, with his teammates adding four more, for a Wildcat advantage at 34-31.
A score by freshman Murphy Holloway trimmed the deficit late in the first half, while Terrico scored five-straight points, for an Ole Miss lead of 38-36 at the break.
A slow start to the second proved costly for the Rebels, as the team committed three turnovers along with four missed shots out of the gates. On the other end, however, Kentucky scored five quick points, sparking a 13-2 spurt for a 49-40 lead.
After four-straight Rebel points cut the lead to five, the Wildcats pushed ahead yet again, scoring seven points to only one for Ole Miss. With a score of 56-45, Kentucky had built a sizeable lead they would never relinquish.
Big Blue would cruise from there, leading by as much as 16 in the second.
The Rebels would get no closer than seven, as a large contingent of Wildcat Nation celebrated the 111th win for UK in the SEC Tournament.
"This was a great win for us," said Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie. "We've been reeling for a while. I thought we tried really hard in the first half, but they scored, made a bunch of threes and got to the basket. In the second half, we guarded much better. They missed some shots they probably normally make, but most of them were contested."
In the loss, Ole Miss was unable to top Kentucky for the second time this season, after defeating the Wildcats 85-80 earlier in the year. No team in school history has been able to accomplish that feat.
While he didn't start in the game, Huertas added 15 points on 4-of-14 shooting in 34 minutes. Rebels Malcolm White and Murphy Holloway were held to only 12 points and eight rebounds combined for the game.
The Rebels shot 32% from the field in the second half (7 of 22) and 43.8% (21 of 48) for the game.
Meeks and sophomore Patrick Patterson led Kentucky offensively, scoring 25 and 15 points respectively. It marked the 21st time this season Meeks has reached at least 20 points.
The Wildcats made just one three-pointer on the day, tying a season low in 10 attempts, but snapped a four-game losing streak with the win.
They are in search of their 26th tournament title. UK will meet No. 1 overall seed LSU Friday at 1 p.m.
One and Done
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