TAMPA, Fla. – Defending the SEC’s leading scorer was less an issue for Ole Miss in the first half Thursday, when Kentucky couldn’t guard the SEC’s freshman of the year.
Terrico White hit 5-of-7 field goals and lifted Ole Miss to a halftime lead, but the Wildcats held White in check in the second half of a 71-58 win that eliminated the Rebels from the SEC tournament at the St. Pete Times Forum.
A partisan Kentucky crowd watched their team – practically the home team here – work harder at denying White’s touches while playing much more physical against him. As a result White had only six of his 21 points after halftime.
The Rebels were able to contain Meeks from the 3-point line, but the junior guard got his points in other ways. He averages and SEC-best 3.5 3-point field goals per game. He was 1-for-4 from the arc but 9-for-15 overall and scored 25 points.
White had five points on the Rebels’ last two possessions of the first half to help Ole Miss lead 38-36 at the break.
As soon as the second-half clock started ticking it was clear what Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie talked about at halftime.
“He’s so hard to guard, because if you get too close he’ll go by you and dunk it, but if you don’t get close enough he can make it from 28 feet,” Gillispie said. “We had a little lapse in the first half, and he kind of got going. I thought Darius Miller did a fantastic job guarding him for the most part in the second half.”
Miller also hurt the Rebels (16-15) by getting free in the lane and dropping floaters through the hoop.
He finished with 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
It was the Cats’ defense, though, that carried the day. White didn’t think all of that physical play was within the rules.
“When I was jumping they were holding me with their hands and pushing me, but the ref wasn’t calling fouls. Nothing you can do about that,” he said.
There was nothing the Rebels could do about Patrick Patterson either.
Kentucky (20-12) held Ole Miss without a field goal a stretch of 7 minutes, 14 seconds in the second half.
Patterson, the All-SEC center, had three blocked shots in that stretch as the Rebels tried to create non-White offense.
“I thought Patterson was a man among boys with his ability to dominate on both ends of the floor,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
Patterson had 15 points and 14 rebounds as Kentucky claimed a 35-28 edge on the glass.
Ole Miss center Malcolm White was a huge factor in the Rebels’ 85-80 win over the Wildcats in Oxford on Jan. 27. He was much less a factor Thursday, scoring two quick buckets, then one at the final horn for six points.
While the Wildcats manned up on White in the second half, they were more aggressive with the rest of the Rebels too. Ole Miss had 18 turnovers – led by Terrance Henry with five – with 11 coming in the second half.
With White in the lead Ole Miss shot 53.8 percent in the first halt but just 31.8 in the second half.
“They denied Terrico the ball in the second half, which was smart, but I thought we gave into that a little more then,” Kennedy said. “They ran and jumped a couple times, and when they do that, we have to be smart enough to get the ball to the right people.”
Parrish Alford/Daily Journal