- Wednesday, January 19 2005 -
Kentucky - 53 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 8th by AP and 8th by ESPN/USA Today]
Mississippi - 50 (Head Coach: Roderick Barnes) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Mississippi 29, Kentucky 16
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Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Hayes 'saves' UK in comeback win at Ole Miss
OXFORD, Miss. - Chuck Hayes might not achieve his goal of becoming an All-American this season, but the senior saved Kentucky with his effort and hustle, rallying the Cats to a 53-50 victory over a fearless Ole Miss.
The Cats - who trailed by as many as 15 in the first half and 13 at halftime - came all the way back on the shoulders of Hayes and freshman point guard Rajon Rondo, claiming their first lead with just 3:02 remaining. UK (13-2, 4-0 SEC) never trailed again, but had to survive two Ole Miss three-point attempts in the final minute sandwiched around Patrick Sparks' two free throws with 16.9 seconds left to push the lead to three.
The end result was a product of Hayes' leadership and desire more than anything else, especially given how mentally disengaged UK looked in the first half. Even as the Cats rallied in the second half, pulling to within two on several occasions, the Rebels looked like they would maintain control, pushing the lead back out to 46-40 with six minutes left. But that's when Hayes took over, tracking down four consecutive offensive rebounds, two of which resulted in lay-ins for teammates.
"No question, Chuck just kind of willed us to win," UK associate head coach David Hobbs said. "He made sure he did everything he could do to make sure we didn't lose. Every time we took a questionable shot or even a good one that didn't go down, he got every rebound.
"He willed us to win."
The Cats needed every bit of Hayes' desire to best Ole Miss, which took the game right at UK in the first half, dominating defensively and rushing out to a 26-12 lead after an 11-0 run late in the half. For the second time this season, the Cats had a miserable offensive performance, making just 5-of-24 shots to match the exact same figure they put up in a 16-point half against Louisville.
"This was similar (to Louisville)," senior Josh Carrier said. "It was shot selection again, taking poor shots. But you've got to give (Ole Miss) credit, they are an aggressive team. We were timid in the first half, but we came in and regrouped at halftime and were more aggressive on offense."
UK turned the tables in the second half on the strength of unrivaled rebounding and 51.9 percent shooting. Crucial to the comeback was a 13-2 spurt in the first six minutes that cut into the 13-point deficit and allowed UK to hang around throughout the rest of the game. Ole Miss twice pushed the advantage back out to seven, and then to six at 46-40 before Hayes took over and the Cats shut the Rebels off the glass. UK snatched the game's final 15 rebounds, holding Ole Miss to without one the last 12:55 of the game.
Hayes, UK's 6-foot-6 forward, grabbed two offensive rebounds on a possession that resulted in no points when Randolph Morris lost the ball out of bounds. Kendrick Fox – who is a 43 percent three-point shooter – missed a wide open three from the wing and UK capitalized when Hayes rebounded a Sparks' missed three and fed Morris for a dunk at 5:04.
Hayes produced nearly the same play on the next possession, hauling in a Rondo missed three from the corner and finding a cutting Ravi Moss for a lay-in that cut the lead to 46-44. Hayes then stole the ball on the defensive end and scored off a Sparks' assist with 3:51 left to tie the game at 46.
"(Chuck) is a warrior and he showed his warrior mentality," Moss said. "He really saved us. He was everywhere for us. Every ball, he got a hand on."
Thanks to Hayes' heroics, UK was able to take its first lead of the game when Rondo drove the lane, hit the shot and was fouled by Tommie Eddie for a three-point play to make it 49-48 with 3:02 left. Hayes then rebounded the second of two missed free throws by Londrick Nolen, and Rondo stuck back a missed three by Sparks to give UK a 51-48 lead.
Ole Miss wasn't dead yet though, as Eddie – who had 12 second half points – hit a hook over Hayes to pull the Rebels within a point. Eddie tied up Kelenna Azubuike on UK's possession, giving the Rebels the ball, but Fox missed a good look at a three from the left wing and Sparks was fouled with 16.9 seconds left.
After calmly hit both free throws, Ole Miss struggled to get a good shot before Nolen back-rimmed a long three-pointer from the top of the key over Hayes at the buzzer.
"Nolen's shot…Chuck got a good contest," Carrier said. "Chuck had a hand in his face and forced him to shoot a shot he doesn't usually take. It looked good though."
It wasn't though, as Hayes fittingly had his hand – literally – on the outcome of this wild win.
Shagari Alleyne battles Tommie Eddie (44) underneath
Ole Miss' Londrick Nolen slips past Chuck Hayes on the baseline