Kentucky Escapes With Thrilling Overtime Win Over Ole Miss to Remain Unbeaten | Zagsblog
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Sunday / February 5.
  • Kentucky Escapes With Thrilling Overtime Win Over Ole Miss to Remain Unbeaten

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    NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at KentuckyBy CHRIS RUSSELL

    The dream of a perfect season remains alive.

    No. 1 Kentucky survived and continued its undefeated season in thrilling overtime fashion by defeating Ole Miss 89-86 Tuesday night in Rupp Arena.

    In a back-and-forth matchup that consisted of eight lead changes and 13 ties, Kentucky (14-0,1-0) fought to keep their undefeated hopes alive as Ole Miss (9-5,0-1) tried to pull the improbable upset on the road in the SEC opener for both teams.

    In the end, it was Kentucky that prevailed thanks to shooting guard Aaron Harrison’s season-high 26 points on 6-for-14 shooting and a career high five made three pointers.

    “We knew we had to step up to win and that’s what we did,” Harrison said. “We’ve been in big games before, so we knew what we had to do.”

    “We’ve got a will to win,” said Kentucky head coach John Calipari. “We could have let go of the rope. [We)]kept fighting.”

    NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at KentuckyAfter defeating all but one of their opponents by double-digits (Louisville by 8) this season, many thought Tuesday’s matchup was going to be another walk in the park for Kentucky.

    After all, Kentucky entered the contest as a 23-point favorite over the Rebels. Andy Kennedy’s Ole Miss squad thought differently. The Rebels matched Kentucky’s level of intensity, controlled the boards for much of the game and shot near perfect from the foul line (19-for-22) which sent the No. 1 team in the nation to the brink of defeat.

    “This team needs to keep getting hit in the mouth,” said Calipari. “I don’t even know how good this team can be.”

    Playing just their second game in 16 days, Kentucky erased any doubts of a potential slow start early as they started the contest on an 18-5 run, connecting on 4-for-4 from behind the arc. Subsequently, the momentum shifted to the Rebels as they rallied from a 13-point deficit to take a 38-36 lead into the break. Kentucky entered half time trailing for only the third time this season (Buffalo and Columbia).

    NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Kentucky“We knew they were going to fight and the SEC is tougher than what people think,” said Aaron Harrison.

    Freshman guard Devin Booker provided offensive production by scoring 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting and 3-for-3 from behind the arc and freshman Karl Anthony-Towns scored 11 points and tallied four rebounds. And Andrew Harrison added 12 points.

    Ole Miss never backed down from Kentucky’s pressure in the second half. Guard Stefan Moody was a key contributor for the Rebels in the near upset. The 5-foot-10 junior scored 25 points on 8-for-13 shooting and 5-for-7 from behind the arc.

    Senior guard Jarvis Summers had an opportunity to end Kentucky’s hopes of a perfect season when he missed the game-winning three-point attempt at the end of regulation. Summers finished with 23 points on 6-for 14 shooting from the field.

    NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at KentuckyIn overtime, center Willie Cauley-Stein was the difference-maker as he came through with key rebounds and blocked shots. Cauley-Stein finished with 7 points and 12 rebounds. Ole Miss’ inspiring effort fell short of an upset as Moody sat on the bench for the most part due to cramps.

    “If Moody doesn’t cramp, we probably lose this one,” Calipari said. “He was ridiculous.”

    Kentucky will look to continue its perfect season Saturday in a road trip to college station as Texas A&M (9-3, 0-0) awaits.

    “They’re [Texas A&M] having parties down there waiting for us. I would,” said Calipari.

    Photos: Mark Zerof / USA Today Sports

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.