- Tuesday, February 2 2010 -
Mississippi - 75 (Head Coach: Andy Kennedy) - [Ranked 25th by AP and NR by ESPN/USA Today]
Kentucky - 85 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 4th by AP and 3rd by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 46, Ole Miss 37
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Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats use team effort to beat Ole Miss
Kentucky's array of talent has been the focal point of the 2009-10 season but as the calendar turns to February the Cats' sum is appears to be beginning to become greater than its parts.
John Wall rediscovered his joy, Patrick Patterson quietly reasserted himself, Darnell Dodson filled it up and DeMarcus Cousins got another double-double, all helping the Cats rip off an 85-75 wire-to-wire victory over Ole Miss in front of 24,341 fans at Rupp Arena.
The Cats (21-1, 6-1 SEC) jumped to a 27-9 lead then fended off a bevy of Ole Miss (16-6, 4-4) runs before putting away the pesky Rebels with a late 20-6 spurt. Terrico White, who torched UK in both meetings last season, brought Ole Miss back early in the second half, slicing the UK edge to three, but was held scoreless over the final 13:57 as UK steadily pulled away.
"The last time we were in this building (in 2008) I think we got down 25-4 so that was actually a fast start compared to the past," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "Kentucky had a lot to do with that. Kentucky is too good to give them free points. You have to make them work because they are so explosive."
The Rebels certainly gave UK a fight, rallying every time the game appeared to be on the verge of being put on ice. As the Cats have done so often this season they routinely allowed the opponent to creep back into the game with careless turnovers and suspect transition defense, but unlike most of those prior transgressions the youthful squad seems to have figured out how to stem the tide, buckle down and reassert itself.
The maturity has come from a lengthened and more consistent bench. UK coach John Calipari knows for the most part what he'll get from Wall, Cousins, Patterson and Eric Bledsoe but the other role players have been a work in progress to this point. With Dodson's second consecutive impressive performance, DeAndre Liggins' continued rise to resident pit bull and Darius Miller making a clutch three-pointer the Cats' pieces are beginning to take shape.
"John Wall is a special player," Kennedy said. "DeMarcus Cousins is playing lights out. I love Eric Bledsoe. I mentioned three guys and I don't even mention the preseason Player of the Year in the league, Patrick Patterson? They get significant contributions from Dodson and they have Miller. Those guys are role players and they seem to have accepted that and when they get an opportunity take advantage of it. They also have Liggins and Daniel Orton off the bench. They've got all the pieces in place."
"We've just got to be more consistent," Wall said of his he and his teammates. "If every game we get contributions from four or five guys scoring instead of just two or three that's going to help us out a lot. When you've got a lot of guys stepping up like that it takes a lot of pressure off and we're going to be hard to beat."
The scary thing, at least in the eyes of the Cats themselves, is there is still substantial room for growth. UK had 17 turnovers - leading to 26 Ole Miss points - and struggled at times to get back and stop the Rebels in transition.
"I think we played for a great period of time but we have a lot of things we still need to work on," Patterson said. "It's a good thing and a bad thing. It's good that we've been winning even with all the things we have to work on and we've come a long way with people changing their style of play from what they're used to and adapting. It's bad in that time is running down, we're approaching the end and we still have so much to improve on to be that elite team."
The key word may be team, which suddenly UK is much closer to being as the season nears its most critical portion.
DeMarcus Cousins (#15) drives
John Wall (#11) runs into Mississippi's DeAundre Cranston (#52)
Daniel Orton (#33) shoots