- Sunday, March 11 2001 -
SEC Tournament Championship (at Nashville, TN)
Kentucky - 77 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 15th by AP]
|J. P. Blevins||14||1||4||0||2||1||1||0||1||1||1||1||0||0||1||3|
Mississippi - 55 (Head Coach: Roderick Barnes) - [Ranked 11th by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 36, Mississippi 19
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Arkansas 87 - 78|||||Holy Cross 72 - 68|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Jeff Drummond; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
UK routs Ole Miss 77-55 for 23rd SEC tourney title
NASHVILLE, Tenn. --- What a long and winding road from 3-5.
Kentucky's rough start to the season is now a distant memory after the Wildcats wrapped up their 23rd Southeastern Conference Tournament championship on Sunday with a 77-55 rout of Ole Miss at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
"When you're 3-5, nobody thinks you're going to win a whole lot of games," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "And I was probably a little bit skeptical myself. But the kids believed in themselves, trusted the coaching staff, and trusted one another. They stayed together, and that's the big key. We knew that we were very young, and it was just a matter of time before we matured and became and experienced team."
"When I came to this university, I wanted to play in big games like we've been playing the last few days," said Kentucky's Keith Bogans, who scored 65 points in the three tournament games. "We love the challenge."
Tayshaun Prince poured in 26 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds in leading the blowout and garnering tournament MVP honors. Kentucky, which led by as much as 29 over the Rebels midway through the second half, also got 19 points from Bogans and a combined 15 points from freshmen Gerald Fitch and Jason Parker.
"What a dynamic duo," Smith said of his Prince-Bogans tandem. "They're doing a great job."
"This is a great basketball team," Prince said. "...We feel like we're as good as anybody in the country, and we're ready to make run for the championship."
The No. 15 Wildcats roll into the NCAA Tournament with a 22-9 record. Ole Miss takes its No. 14 ranking and a 23-7 mark into the big dance. The Rebels, who had beaten Kentucky 65-55 in Oxford on Jan. 20, were playing in only their fourth SEC Tournament championship game and appeared shell shocked by the Cats' level of play.
"We had a great opportunity today, but ran into a great team that was really prepared to play," Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said.
Kentucky's victory began on the defensive end of the floor. The Cats stormed to a 36-19 halftime advantage by holding Ole Miss to 20 percent (7 of 35) shooting from the field. The Rebels missed 13 of their first 16 shots from the field and all of their first eight attempts from long range.
The Cats turned defense into scoring opportunities, as five different players scored in a 16-3 run to close the half.
"It seemed like (Ole Miss) didn't have the energy today, but we were really energized," Smith said. "I thought our kids came focused and came ready to play, especially on the defensive end."
Rahim Lockhart and Justin Reed, the Rebels' top two players, were held to seven and two points, respectively, in the game on 4-for-15 shooting from the field.
Kentucky picked up the second half the way it left off the first, hitting eight of nine shots to stretch the lead to 54-27. Prince had nine points and Bogans added seven in the decisive stretch of play. Ole Miss, who got off no field goal attempts in the first four minutes of the half, could pull no closer than 20 the rest of the way.
Jason Harrison led the Rebels with 12 points. No other Ole Miss player made it to double figures on a day when the team shot 29 percent (18 of 62) from the field and 19 percent (4 of 21) from 3-point range.
Kentucky, meanwhile, hit 51 percent (30 of 59) from the field against a stingy Rebel defense that held opponents to 42 percent on the season.
"I hate to say (it came easy), but that's because of our kids," Smith said. "I thought we were really focused defensively, and we have been over the three days here at the tournament. Defense wins championships, and when we get the quality play from Tayshaun and Keith and good minutes from our bench, we're tough to beat."
Kentucky's NCAA seeding will be announced in the selection show at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The program is televised by both CBS and ESPN.
"We need to get back, get our rest and make sure our young men are correcting any mistakes that we've been making, and there are a few," Smith said. "We don't want to lighten up at all. We want to continue to do what we've been doing to get us to this point.
Jason Parker defends the goal
Gerald Fitch (#4), Keith Bogans (#10) and the rest of the bench celebrate as time winds down
The Wildcats celebrate the tournament championship