- Saturday, February 14 1998 -
Mississippi - 73 (Head Coach: Rob Evans) - [Ranked 18th by AP]
Kentucky - 64 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 7th by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 34, Ole Miss 23
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Game Writeup - Courtesy of Dr. Jeffrey Neil Burch; Dr. J's UK Newsletter, Vol. 7 No. 24. (All Rights Reserved)
Shades of Georgetown (Or the Night Kentucky Heard the Rebels Yell):
In a game eerily reminiscent of Kentucky's 1983 Final Four loss to the Georgetown Hoyas (in which UK played an excellent 1st half, only to fold their tents completely in the 2nd), UK lost to Ole Miss 73-64. UK had been ranked #7 by AP for this game, Ole Miss was ranked #18. The Rebels obtained their 900th all-time win with this victory (they have 1030 losses, a winning percentage of 46.6%).
Although the Rebels got the tip, Turner scored 1st, making 2 FTs for Kentucky. Mississippi quickly took a 10-6 lead, thanks for a Jason Smith layup, 2 Sesay FTs, another J Smith FT, a White bank shot, and a long Carter 3. But Evans made a layup on an assist from Smith, then after a possession with 12 consecutive misses (10 by Ole Miss, 2 by the Cats) Evans had another strong layup past the defense to tie the score at 10-10. On yet another Evans layup, and a Mohammed hook, the Cats took a 14-11 lead (Cantrell made 1 FT) at the 2nd TV timeout. Mills nailed a 3 after this, and Ole Miss went through a dry spell of over 7 minutes where they could not score. Mohammed hit a hook for a 19-11 UK edge, and Smith hit Mohammed for a layup to make it 21-11. The Rupp crowd was going crazy, trying to pump up the players as Cameron Mills had requested earlier in the week. When Sheppard made a steal and dished off to Padgett, Scott hit a 3 for a 24-11 lead, and Rob Evans called a 20 s timeout (his last) to settle his troops. The lead bounced between 9 and 11 pts over a few minute period, with Lockhart hitting a 13 footer and Carter making a long 3 to cut it to 26-22. But Mohammed scored inside, Sheppard had a blitz quick layup, Sheppard scored inside, Turner hit Mohammed for an inside basket (Nazr started 6-6 from the floor until his initial miss), and the Cats led 34-22 for their largest lead of the day. White hit a FT and Kentucky ended the half with 5 straight misses (4 by Mohammed, whose string was finally broken, and 1 by Sheppard). At halftime, the 34-23 Kentucky margin stood. UK had played stellar defense, harrassing Ole Miss and forcing numerous turnovers. The leading Rebel scorer, Ansu Sesay, had only 2 pts, and Mohammed had 12 at intermission. Ole Miss had shot a mere 29.6% from the floor in the 1st half (but better things were yet to come for them).
The 2nd half, as Monty Python would say, was completely different. Ole Miss came out fired up, and handled the ball better than they had earlier. They pressed UK hard and were the cause instead of the source of turnovers. Boone hit a FT, and Edwards began his nightmarish play with a turnover. Carter drove for a bucket, Evans had a putback, and White hit a 3 to close to within 36-31. Sesay got a dunk to cut it to 36-33 Kentucky, but Sheppard made 2 FT tosses. Darby had a layup, however, and when Sesay hit a fadeaway, it was cut to 38-37. Sheppard was mugged on a rebound but no foul was called, then UK and UM both turned the ball over before the next TV timeout. Sesay scored on a UK turnover, and it was 39-38 Ole Miss. Padgett put back his own miss, Boone missed 2 FTs, but then Edwards walked again to stymie a UK mini-run. Edwards finally made a basket (after 2 misses) and it was 42-39 Kentucky. Smith made a stupid, unnecessary foul in open court, and J Smith nailed a 14 footer. Sheppard answered with a 15 footer, but J Smith blew past 2 Kentucky defenders to close it to 44-43 UK. Lockheart hit over Magloire who offered no defense, and UM led 45-44. Sesay hit 2 FT attempts, then he and Mills exchanged FGs. Magloire bricked 2 FT tries, and Carter made a layup in heavy traffic to put the Rebels up 51-46. Magloire made a layup, but White hit a 3, and Edwards had yet another silly turnover. Turner made a nice hesitation move on a layup, and at the next TV timeout it was 54-50 Ole Miss. The crowd began to get back into the game at this pt. Evans, however, became indecisive while handling the ball outside and walked, after which Carter hit 1 FT. Boone hit 1 FT as well, and UM was up 56-50. Evans made 2 FTs after being fouled by J Smith, but Sesay hit a forced shot. Turner made a bank and it was 58-54 UM. Padgett then committed his 4th foul, against White, who made 1 FT (UM got the rebound from the 2nd but their tap missed). Turner missed a FT try, and with 4 minutes remaining it was 59-54 Rebels. Kentucky picked up the pressure on defense, and Ole Miss tried milking the clock at this pt. Edwards finally got a basket to cut it to 59-56, but Mills fouled White (who connected on 2) and it was 61-56. Edwards had a turnover, and Padgett made a foolish foul against White who hit 1 FT for a 62-56 lead. Sheppard quickly hit a 3, and with 2 minutes left it was 62-59. After the TV timeout, however, UK's doom was sealed as Edwards fouled Carter who made a 3 and then made his FT for a 66-59 edge. Kentucky wasted time (as it did against Louisville and Florida when trailing late in the game) before Padgett tried to score inside, was fouled, and made 2 FT tosses. White was fouled, however, and made both his. Sheppard missed a 3, Carter was fouled and made 1 of 2, and it was 69-61 Ole Miss. Turner had an offensive foul, and Sheppard fouled White who made 1. Turner hit a very long 3 to make it 70-64 with 30 seconds left. Smith fouled Carter who made 1, then Turner missed a 3, and Sesay finished the scoring for the day by making 2 FTs. Kentucky ended the game with yet another turnover, and Ole Miss had pulled off the 73-64 upset.
Ole Miss had 36 FT attempts compared to 13 for Kentucky, but in fairness to the Rebels, many of these came late in the game when the Wildcats were forced to foul in an effort to catch up. Of Kentucky's 21 turnovers, 13 occurred in the 2nd half. Nazr Mohammed touched the ball exactly twice in the 2nd half, and had no shots (after starting 6-10).
The last time UK lost 3 or more home games in a season was during Sutton's last miserable year (1988-89).
[JNB note - according to my research in Kentucky's basketball media guide, UK has never before had a 20 or more win season, yet lost 3 or more games at home]
Saul Smith (#11) secures the rebound behind teammate Wayne Turner
Scott Padgett secures the loose ball ahead of Mississippi's Anthony Boone
Jeff Sheppard shoots over Keith Carter