By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – At the end of the game, the box score looked in some ways like Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy would have hoped.
His best two players had big games, and there was support scoring from a third source.
No. 18 Kentucky, though, dictated terms for too much of Tuesday night’s affair and held off a spirited Ole Miss rally to win 84-70 before 8,476 at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Too often in the first half the Wildcats knocked down 3-point shots and lobbed passes over the top of the Ole Miss zone to score with dunks.
As it controlled much of the flow through the first half and into the second, Kentucky got the second-shot opportunities and dominated the glass, things that have troubled the Rebels all season long.
Kentucky led 42-25 at halftime and by 22 points with 9 minutes, 10 seconds left, and Ole Miss got as close as six points back after an Anthony Perez 3-pointer with 1:48 to play.
“We couldn’t just let them beat us like that, 20 points. We wanted to go out and play and demonstrate that we’re better than that,” Perez said. “We got it down to six points, but we couldn’t make the win. It doesn’t matter if I made 20 or Marshall made 30. We just wanted to win.”
The Wildcats (20-6, 10-3 SEC) were too good at the free throw line for the Rebels to get closer. Kentucky was 27-for-30 at the line and hit 19 straight at one point.
Most of that came from 6-foot-9 power forward Julius Randle, who was 13-for-14 at the line and finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds.
The Rebels (16-10, 7-6 SEC) got 22 points from Jarvis Summers and 18 from Marshall Henderson, who was 5-for-14 from 3-point range.
Ole Miss has lost three straight and five of its last seven as No. 2 Florida visits Saturday.
“Our approach out of the gate as not as good as it needs to be. They were in control of the game from the start,” Kennedy said.
Kentucky had a plus-16 rebounding edge and outscored Ole Miss 11-2 in second-chance points.
The Rebels forced 19 turnovers that helped fuel the comeback.
“We’ll lose focus, and a good team seizes on it. That’s what they did, and they made shots,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
Ole Miss shot 38.7 percent, far less than Kentucky’s 52.7 percent.
Kennedy sounded like he’d trade the shooting for improvement on the glass.
“We’re just not tough enough physically to put our nose in their and battle,” he said.
“As a coach when you’re saying that at the end of February it’s pretty sobering. It’s disappointing. It’s my fault.”