This is more like the UK teams we’re used to seeing.
The Cats played perhaps their best game of the year Tuesday as they went into Oxford and handed #16 Ole Miss their first SEC loss in 7 tries this season. Kyle Wiltjer had a career high 26 points to go along with 7 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 assists. He was 10-19 from the floor, including 5 of 12 from behind the 3-point line, to lead all scorers. Nerlens Noel had the best game you may ever see from a player who scored 2 points. As he’s demonstrated repeatedly throughout the year, his ability to block or alter shots has a cumulative effect on an opponent, and Tuesday was no different. Noel finished with 12 blocks, a school record, along with 7 rebounds and those 2 points. UK also got stellar performances from Archie Goodwin (24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), Alex Poythress (15 points, 7 rebounds) and Ryan Harrow (13 points). Ole Miss was led by guard Ladarius White with 22 points; and sharpshooter Marshall Henderson, who scored 21 points but was held to 5-19 from the floor, including 2-11 from behind the arc.
The game was competitive throughout the 1st half, with Ole Miss leading 38-37 at the break. The Cats came out hot in the second half, especially Wiltjer, who scored 9 points as UK started the half with a 16-8 run to lead by 7 within the first four minutes. UK then bore down on defense, keying a 20-10 run that gave UK its biggest lead, 73-56, with just under 10 minutes to go. Ole Miss was not deterred, fighting back with a 16-0 run of its own over the next 5+ minutes to cut UK’s lead to 1, 73-72 with just over four minutes left. That was as close as they got as Ryan Harrow hit a 3 and Archie Goodwin added a layup and two free throws to stretch the lead out and effectively end the game.
UK now turns its attention to Saturday, when they visit Texas A&M, who beat them at Rupp earlier this year. As valuable a win as this is for the Cats, a loss Saturday in College Station could potentially negate much of that value.
I'm on Twitter! Follow me @wapaytick