By David Brandt/The Associated Press
OXFORD — Kyle Wiltjer scored a career-high 26 points and Nerlens Noel set a school record with 12 blocked shots as Kentucky beat No. 16 Ole Miss 87-74 on Tuesday night.
Kentucky (14-6, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) looked like it might run away with the win, taking a 73-56 lead with 10 minutes remaining. But the Rebels roared back with 16 straight points, cutting the deficit to 73-72 with 4:22 left.
Ryan Harrow nailed a 3-pointer to stop Ole Miss’ run and Kentucky was able to hold on and win for the fifth time in seven games. Archie Goodwin scored 24 points and Alex Poythress added 15.
Ole Miss (17-3, 6-1) had its nine-game winning streak snapped. LaDarius White led the Rebels with 22 points while Marshall Henderson added 21. Henderson made 5 of 19 shots from the field, including just 2 of 11 from 3-point range.
Ole Miss had almost no production in the paint thanks to Noel, who was the game’s most important player despite an off night on offense. The 6-foot-10 freshman was everywhere, blocking the 12 shots and altering countless more.
The Rebels’ Murphy Holloway is the only player in the SEC averaging a double-double with 14.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, but he was held to 10 points and eight rebounds.
With Noel awesome on defense, Wiltjer provided the offense. The 6-10 sophomore made 10 of 19 shots from the field and 5 of 12 from 3-point range.
Ole Miss led 38-37 at halftime despite making just 13 of 44 shots (29.5 percent) from the field. Henderson led the Rebels with 16 points and White had 15.
Kentucky stayed close thanks to Wiltjer’s 17 points while Goodwin added 10, but the Wildcats struggled at the free throw line, making just 10 of 20.
Both teams struggled with foul trouble for almost the entire first half and had to dig deep on the bench for bodies.
But once the second half started, the Wildcats were back at full strength and their offense exploded. Wiltjer hit two early 3s to push Kentucky ahead and the lead grew to 71-56 with 11:27 remaining.
Kentucky’s offense was good during that stretch, but the Ole Miss defense was just as bad. The Wildcats made several easy baskets in transition and off offensive rebounds.
And with Ole Miss needing points, Henderson was mostly silent in the second half. The Rebels came back anyway, with a stunning 16-point run that cut the deficit to 73-72 with 4:22 left.
Once again, the Rebels were let down by their defense. Harrow hit the wide open 3-pointer and the Wildcats were able to slowly put the game away.
Holloway became Ole Miss’ all-time leading rebounder on Tuesday, passing Walter Actwood’s record with his 946th rebound in the second half.
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