Cats put away Rebels 85-75 [ SLIDESHOW ]


Freshman guard John Wall celebrates after making a dunk at the end of the first half of UK’s win over Ole Miss on Tuesday evening. Photo by Britney McIntosh

Freshman guard John Wall had 17 points — and said he was back to having fun. Junior forward Patrick Patterson had 12 points — and no Facebook messages for fans after the game. Freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins had his fifth consecutive double-double — and avoided any temper tantrums and serious foul trouble.

The No. 4 Cats (21-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) used a balanced scoring attack to stave off repeated comeback attempts by the Mississippi Rebels (16-6, 4-4 SEC). Four Cats finished in double figures. UK never trailed and there were no ties.

“It feels great to have the fun back,” Wall said. “Being frustrated, it puts a lot of pressure on you and you want to tune everybody out.”

UK led by as much as 18 in the first half, but slowly relinquished the lead. Twice in the second half, the Rebels cut the lead to three points. The Cats would let them get no closer.

“They responded,” UK head coach John Calipari said.

Cousins’ team-highs of 18 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks were a source of consistency for the Cats. In front of about two dozen NBA scouts, he became the first UK player to have five straight double-doubles since the early 1970’s.

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy called Cousins the complete package and said he was playing as well as any post player in college basketball.

But the highest praise came from Calipari. Asked if he had ever coached a player as good as Cousins, Calipari had a surprising answer.

“Not a big man,” Calipari said. “Including (when I coached) in the NBA … You’re talking about a skilled 6-11 player that can make free throws, can pass, has a great mind for the game, and is emotionally growing day by day by day. I’ve never had a player come this far this fast.”

The star freshman found himself surrounded by Rebels when he got the ball in the post and took 10 foul shots during the game. Cousins said players would push or slap him to try and stop him and he found a large cut on his back after the game that he said “was burning.”

“I think I might be the next Shaq,” Cousins said, referring to the strategy in which NBA teams foul star center Shaquille O’Neal in an effort to slow him. “I just wish I was the referees sometime just to see what they see so I could understand. I wish they were in my shoes.”

Cousins called the Cats the best team in the country after the game.

Freshman guard Eric Bledsoe was the only UK starter to not finish with double figures, but he paced the Cats on both ends of the court with eight assists and four steals.

Sophomore guard Darnell Dodson hit four 3-point attempts to finish with 14 points. Kennedy said he considered Dodson to be the most important player in the game.

Calipari suggested that for UK to learn to put teams away, they might need to lose one or two more close games that come down to an unnecessary turnover. But after another win, Calipari was just happy to get contributions from so many places on the team.

“They’re maturing,” Calipari said. “All the things, when they screw up, it’s the best lesson for them. I don’t get mad about it, I just deal with it. I don’t put my head in the sand, but I sit them down and explain that this is a great life lesson for you. This is a lesson for five years down the road.”