By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky led wire-to-wire Tuesday night, and afterward the No. 4-ranked Wildcats were ready to kiss their Cousins.
Freshman center DeMarcus Cousins had 18 points and 13 rebounds, his fifth straight double-double. No. 25 Ole Miss, competitive for most of the game, was torched at the beginning of each half and lost 85-75 before 24,341 fans at Rupp Arena.
It’s the second straight loss for Ole Miss (16-6, 4-4 SEC), which now stands two games in the loss column behind Western Division leader Mississippi State which plays tonight at Vanderbilt.
Cousins’ double-double streak is the longest for a Kentucky player since 1973.
“I’ve never had a player come so far so fast … never,” UK coach John Calipari said.
Cousins in the post figured to be a difficult matchup for Ole Miss, which was without its best post defender, freshman Reggie Buckner, for the second straight game. It’s unclear when Buckner’s sprained ankle might allow him to play again. The Rebels are back in action Saturday at home against Alabama.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy rarely went small against the Wildcats (21-1, 6-1) as he did in Sunday’s 80-73 home loss to Arkansas.
When foul trouble became an issue this time he tuned to junior college transfer DeAngelo Riley, who had seen only one minute of SEC play going into the game.
Starter DeAundre Cranston, Riley and other post defenders held their ground at times, allowing Ole Miss to reduce double-figure deficits in each half to just three points, but the Rebels didn’t have the gas to get over the hill.
Cousins had more than ample assistance from the family, as his presence inside helped create open looks on the perimeter. “If I had a vote for player of the game it would go to Darnell Dodson,” Kennedy said.
Dodson was 4-for-5 from 3-point range and scored 14 points. The Wildcats also got 17 points and seven assists from freshman point guard John Wall.
It was Cousins, however, who was the rally killer.
Ole Miss had fought back from a 27-9 deficit to make it 40-37 when with 1 minute, 29 seconds left in the first half when Cousins scored with a spin move against Terrico White to spark Kentucky to six straight points and a 46-37 lead at the break.
Dodson had two 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the second half, and the Wildcats upped the lead to 58-43 with 17:09 remaining.
White had seven points in a 15-2 Ole Miss run, but Cousins stopped the bleeding with a put-back. Kentucky surged ahead and was not threatened again.
Ole Miss won three of its first four SEC road games, but players said they got caught up in the sellout atmosphere of Rupp Arena.
“We were kind of scared, to tell you the truth,” said White, who led the Rebels in points with 19 and in rebounds with seven. “I think them being top five and playing in front of 24,000 … we kind of got caught up in the hype.”
Kennedy hoped changing defenses would give the Wildcats enough different looks to slow them down and that is guards, plural, would rise up. White got his points, but Chris Warren wasn’t able to knock down enough 3-pointers with the game still in the balance. He got two of his four in the final 3:53 after the lead had ballooned to 14 points again.
“We needed Terrico to play like the all-league player that he is, and at times he did,” Kennedy said. “We needed Chris to be all-league, and their size bothered him. Then when he got in foul trouble in the first half it took him out of his rhythm.”