By SOUTHERN BRITT
Kentucky regained their No. 1 seed amongst the SEC after defeating Ole Miss 80-76 at the Pavilion in Oxford, Mississippi. The young Kentucky basketball team had to raise their level of play after a tough loss against Tennessee. And even without star player Reid Travis, Kentucky was able to beat Ole Miss to continue the hunt for a NCAA Tournament top rank seed.
Ole Miss, still running a 2-3 zone on Kentucky’s hot offense, began to play flustered. And in a lack of defensive discipline, the Rebels allowed Wildcat Nick Richards to dunk. In this moment, Richards’ capitalized on the Wildcat momentum, but slammed down Ole Miss’ last shot for a victory.
In the last moments of the game, Wildcat EJ Montgomery made a tremendous block, taking an aggressive hit across the nose. In this defensive play, his physical sacrifice kept two points from going on the board for Ole Miss.
Not only did Kentucky have to play without Travis, but for the second consecutive game the Wildcats played without P.J. Washington’s talents for most of the first half after he picked up his second foul. Wildcats capitalized on guards Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro who stepped up to lead the team in a hard-fought game against Ole Miss.
Freshmen Johnson and Herro led the team in the first half, scoring a combined total of 42 points. However, the Wildcats still left the half a point shy of Ole Miss.
Kentucky came back from the 39-38 score with star forward Washington and a game discipline that won the game for the Wildcats. Kentucky jump started the second half with scores from the first 5-of-7 possessions, not to mention the two foul shots made by guard Ashton Hagans.
The point-for-point fight continued between Kentucky and Ole Miss. Midway through the second half, Ole Miss’ Bruce Stevens tied up the score at 58 points with two free throws. But for the Rebels, this moment would be their last shot to potentially lead the game.
Kentucky took heed of the tied score and with their next possessions, the Wildcats grasped control of the game. Washington put up two points, then soon after Herro assisted Washington with another jumper. The momentum in Kentucky’s favor, Herro made another 3 point shot to lead the Rebels by five points.
As an entire unit, Kentucky rallied together to capitalize on each players’ talents. UK’s solid performance and discipline lead to head coach John Calipari’s 300th win at Kentucky. Coach Calipari will be looking for yet another win against the University of Florida this Saturday, March 9.