- Thursday, March 12 2009 -
SEC Tournament (at Tampa, FL)
Kentucky - 71 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
Mississippi - 58 (Head Coach: Andy Kennedy) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Mississippi 38, Kentucky 36
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Florida 53 - 60|||||Louisiana State 58 - 67|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats keep hope alive with win over Rebels
TAMPA - The wait for Darius Miller to become a consistent difference maker has been a long and patience-testing process. The reward may finally be coming.
Miller changed the flow of the game in an impressive second half performance as Kentucky pushed by Ole Miss 71-58 in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the St. Pete Times Forum. The freshman forward finished with 12 points, making critical plays time and again down the stretch with his ability to break down the defense late in the shot clock.
UK (20-12) avenged an earlier loss to Ole Miss by clamping down on the defensive end and turning Miller loose against the Rebels' zone defense in the second half. Although Ole Miss provided the blueprint to beating UK in an 85-80 victory on Jan. 27 the plan was not nearly as effective in the rematch, thanks in large part to Miller finding seams in the defense then using his mid-range game and passing ability to break it down.
"The defense is going to focus on Jodie and Pat so it's up to the rest of us to do a little bit more," junior forward Ramon Harris said. "We have to bring a little more to the table. Darius had the hot hand and was very aggressive because they were playing off him and almost daring him to shoot.
"He got some floaters and next thing you know he's having 10, 12 points and now they have to adjust and they really can't because they have to respect Pat and Jodie. It helps in so many ways. There are only so many things a team can do. When Darius has a game like this teams have to play him a different way and that will open up another player."
Miller's line score may not scream 'superstar' but when the Cats needed it most he seemed to always be the player in the middle of the action. His driving leaner as the shot clock expired sparked a 20-9 run that turned a 49-44 game into a 69-53 margin inside the final three minutes, capping it with another jumper in the dying seconds of the shot clock. During the 12-minute stretch Miller also added a spinning move in the lane, a picturesque drive-and-dish to Perry Stevenson for a dunk and sticky defense on Ole Miss star guard Terrico White.
"They were really playing Pat and Jodie tight so it opened up a lot of driving lanes and scoring opportunities for the rest of us," Miller said. "I was just trying to play my game and take open shots. I was just trying to help them out because Pat and Jodie have been carrying us all year."
Miller wasn't alone in providing some relief for Meeks and Patterson, which was crucial to keeping the Cats' postseason hopes alive and well. Perry Stevenson broke out of a prolonged slump with 13 points, eight rebounds, two steals and a semblance of the nasty streak he too often fails to show.
"I think he just realized we have to have Perry to play and win," junior guard Michael Porter said. "He did a great job of going to the glass."
In actuality it was the entire team that flipped the outcome on Ole Miss in large part because it kept the athletic Rebels off the offensive glass. UK allowed just seven offensive rebounds and only nine second chance points, thus providing the type of defense and rebounding that held the Rebels to just seven (including a cosmetic jumper) points over the final 7:40 of the contest.
"I thought they played very well," UK coach Billy Gillispie said. "I thought we were fairly efficient over the 40-minute period. Those guys are hard to guard. I was really happy with the way we defended in the second half."
And lived to fight another day along the way.
Mississippi freshman Terrico White squeezes between DeAndre Liggins (#34) and Perry Stevenson (#21) for a shot
Ramon Harris (#5) tries to get off a shot against the Mississippi defense
Patrick Patterson(#54) dunks