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By David Schuh | @DSchuhKernel
Time and time again this season, the UK men’s basketball team has let opponents take over games for minutes, even halves, at a time. The Cats have never been able to stop the bleeding.
Finally, Tuesday night, they did just that, overcoming a 16-0 Ole Miss run to beat the No. 16 Rebels, 87-74, at Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford, Miss.
Sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer led the Cats with a career-best 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting, despite not scoring in the last 16 and a half minutes of the game.
The first half was a constant battle for UK. Three players committed two fouls in the first 10 minutes of the half. Twenty fouls were called in the opening 11 minutes of the game.
Despite it all, the Cats defended the Rebels well, holding them to 29 percent shooting in the opening half. But, partly because of 12 offensive rebounds, Ole Miss took a one-point lead to the break.
The early part of the second half, though, belonged to the Cats. They scored on 15 of their first 17 possessions of the half and took a 17-point lead with 10:13 left in the game.
Twenty seconds later, freshman center Nerlens Noel picked up his fourth foul, and Ole Miss took full advantage.
The Rebels went on a 16-0 run from that point, cutting the UK lead to one with four and half minutes left. The Cats went exactly six minutes without scoring.
After a timeout, sophomore guard Ryan Harrow hit a three to give the Cats some breathing room, and they never looked back.
They finished the game on a 14-2 run to win their first game over an RPI top-50 team this season.
Noel, despite scoring only two points, had a major impact on the game. His 12 blocks set a new UK single-game record, breaking the previous mark of nine held by Sam Bowie and Andre Riddick.
Now through 20 games, Noel is ahead of Anthony Davis’ block pace by two, 95-93.
Freshman guard Archie Goodwin had one of his more efficient games of the season, finishing with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Freshman forward Alex Poythress followed his breakout game against LSU with another solid performance, tallying 15 points and seven rebounds.
The Cats have a few days to enjoy their win before traveling to College Station, Texas, on Saturday to face Texas A&M. UK will be looking to avenge its home loss to the Aggies earlier this season, when senior guard Elston Turner scored 40 points at Rupp.
Saturday’s tip will be at 6 p.m. on ESPN.