At the buzzer: Kentucky mens basketball defeats Ole Miss 75-66


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Antonio Reeves (12) dunks the ball during the Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt mens basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky won 69-53. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky mens basketball defeated Ole Miss 75-66 inside The Pavillion at Ole Miss on Tuesday, improving to 5-1 in its last six games.

The Wildcats entered the game after being defeated inside Rupp Arena for just the second time in two years, falling short 77-68 against the No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks in the final edition of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Prior to the loss the Wildcats had enjoyed a four-game SEC winning streak, which tied the longest streak of the season as a whole, that included UK’s biggest win of the season against current No. 2 Tennessee.

Ole Miss Rebels forward Myles Burns (3) looks up the court with the ball during the Ole Miss vs. Missouri mens basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, at The Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi. Missouri won 89-77. Photo by HG Biggs | The Daily Mississippian (HG Biggs)

The win over Tennessee was significant for another reason as well though, having marked the first true road victory of the season for Kentucky, with the Cats going on to earn their second in Nashville, Tennessee, against Vanderbilt just over a week later.

Now heading into Oxford, Mississippi, the Wildcats sought their third true road victory of the season and a bounce-back opportunity against Ole Miss, who entered the game 1-7 in the SEC.

Despite Ole Miss being without two of its better players, the Wildcats would have no free path to victory, entering shorthanded themselves with freshman point guard Cason Wallace being declared out prior to tipoff due to a leg injury.

Opting to go with a starting lineup of CJ Fredrick, Sahvir Wheeler, Jacob Toppin, Chris Livingston and Oscar Tshiebwe. On the other hand, the Rebels entered the matchup with a starting lineup of Myles Burns, Amaree Abram, Jaemyn Brakefield, TJ Caldwell and Robert Allen.

Kentucky won the opening tipoff and quickly scored the first basket of the night courtesy of Tshiebwe, but the Rebels quickly took charge of the game and jumped out to a 15-8 just over five minutes into the half.

The Wildcats then erupted for a 10-0 scoring run to jump ahead 18-15, a lead they would maintain until the two-minute mark in the half when Ole Miss took a 30-29 lead courtesy of a layup from Allen.

The lead was short-lived though, as both teams entered the halftime break with 32 points, marking just the second time all season Kentucky entered a halftime period tied. The Cats entered the break tied against 21-21 against Bellarmine on Nov. 29 before outscoring the Knights 39-20 in the second half to win 60-41.

Only one athlete in the game, Ole Miss’ Abrams, entered the halfway point with a double-digit point total, scoring 11 points after going 5-10 from the field in the half. Kentucky, on the other hand, was led by sharpshooter Antonio Reeves, who had nine points at the half, followed by Toppin, who had six.

Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) high fives forward Jacob Toppin (0) after the Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt mens basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky won 69-53. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Tshiebwe, the reigning consensus National Player of the Year, had a quiet first half, scoring just five points and securing just six rebounds.

Coming out of the break the Wildcats quickly jumped ahead again when Tshiebwe recorded a layup two minutes into the period.

Kentucky continued to push ahead, taking a seven-point lead with the score at 48-41 with just over 13 minutes left to play. Reeves continued to lead the Cats but on a level entirely different than before, reaching 20 points with well over half the quarter still left to play.

Tshiebwe also found himself performing at a higher level than in the first half, securing a double-double with just under 10 minutes left to play with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“Big O” then recorded a quick steal and a fast-break dunk to give the Cats their lucky number, with UK boasting an 11-point lead at 56-45. Kentucky entered the game 321-13 all-time when taking a 10-point lead at any point in a game under head coach John Calipari. The figure was unaffected by the Kansas loss, with UK’s largest lead over the Jayhawks being just five points.

The Wildcats weren’t satisfied with just 10 points though, jumping ahead even further to 14 points with just under four minutes left to play.

With Kentucky eventually going on to secure a nine-point victory, Reeves led all scorers on the night with 27 points, his highest total at Kentucky. Reeves was followed up on his own team by Toppin and Tshiebwe, who scored 18 and 14 respectively. Beyond that, the rest of the team scored just 16 points combined.

As for Ole Miss, Abram led the Rebels with 17 points, followed by Caldwell and Jayveous McKinnis, who scored 12 and 10 respectively.

As a team the Wildcats shot 48% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc, also going 19-23 from the free-throw line.

Now having gotten back to their winning ways, the Wildcats will return home on Saturday, Feb. 4, to take on the Florida Gators inside Rupp Arena. Tipoff against the Gators is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EST and will air live on ESPN.