OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — In arguably its biggest game of the season, Mississippi fell flat.
The Rebels had a poor shooting night and an even worse performance on defense as No. 18 Kentucky beat Ole Miss 84-70 on Tuesday.
Julius Randle did whatever he wanted for most of the night, scoring 25 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in one of his most dominating games of the season. Aaron Harrison added 17 points and four assists for the Wildcats.
“I thought they were in control of the game from the start,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
The Rebels mounted a late rally after falling behind 62-40 midway through the second half. Anthony Perez banked in a 3-pointer to pull Ole Miss to 76-70 with 1:48 remaining, but the Rebels couldn’t get any closer.
Jarvis Summers led Ole Miss with 22 points and Perez added 21.
Kentucky (20-6, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) dominated throughout most of the game, going on a 15-0 run midway through the first half to take a 25-11 lead that proved insurmountable.
“We know we can do this,” Randle said. “We can do this every game. It’s about chemistry and having fun out there and today it showed.”
Kentucky was active in the paint and had several alley-oop dunks, jumping over the Rebels’ overmatched defense. The Wildcats had seven dunks in the first half alone.
It was an emphatic victory just days after one of Kentucky’s most disappointing setbacks this season – a 69-59 loss to Florida on Saturday at Rupp Arena.
“In the last eight years or so, after a loss, our teams have bounced back to win by an average of 17 points,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I challenged them to see how they would respond and they responded.”
Ole Miss (16-10, 7-6) lost its third straight game and has almost completely fallen out of the picture for an at-large NCAA tournament berth. The Rebels had a bad shooting night and were steamrolled on the boards.
Kentucky had already beaten Ole Miss once this season, 80-64 on Feb. 4 at Rupp Arena. The Rebels kept that game fairly close until the end, but the Wildcats made sure this one was in hand quickly.
Randle had a double-double before halftime, with 10 points and 10 rebounds as the Wildcats built a 42-25 lead. Kentucky shot 58.6 percent from the field in the first half, finishing on several high-percentage looks inside and shooting 6 of 13 from 3-point range.
“Today says a lot about us,” Harrison said. “We knew this was going to be a big game and we knew Ole Miss would take a lot of 3-pointers. We knew they’d make shots, but we won, we won by double digits, no big deal.”
The Rebels simply couldn’t contain Kentucky’s big men – especially Randle. He had an efficient night, going 6 of 7 from the field and 13 of 14 at the free throw line. It was his third straight double-double.
The 6-foot-9 Randle had made less than 65 percent of his free throws the past five games, but the freshman didn’t have any problems on Tuesday.
“You’ve got to get bad thoughts out of your mind and concentrate,” he said. “We wanted to get to the free throw line because we were making them.”
Randle was dominant, but the rest of the Wildcats were good, too. James Young scored 16 points and Andrew Harrison added 10.
Marshall Henderson scored 18 for Ole Miss, but shot just 5 of 17 from the field, including 5 for 14 from 3-point range. The Rebels made only 38.7 percent from the floor (24 of 62).
Kennedy was particularly exasperated with his team’s poor inside shooting. The team’s three starting forwards – LaDarius White, Dwight Coleby and Aaron Jones – combined to score seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.
“Sometimes it’s even a victory to get a shot,” Kennedy said. “We fall. How many layups have we missed? I don’t know what to do. We make the right read but then we have to make the play.”
Kentucky had a 39-23 advantage on the boards, shot 52.1 percent (25 of 48) from the field and 90 percent (27 of 30) on free throws.
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