Kentucky Basketball: Cats Claw Back, Beat Ole Miss 67-62

LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY – FEBRUARY 15: Tyrese Maxey #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates after a basket in the game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Rupp Arena on February 15, 2020 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Kentucky Basketball battled foul trouble, turnovers, and poor shooting from three-point land to come back and beat Ole Miss 67-62.

Do you remember going to the pool in the summer? Have you ever played the game where you compete with another person or a group of people to see who can hold their breath underwater the longest?

You dunk your head. Maybe, you hold your nose. You get to that point of discomfort. Your lungs begin to burn. You fight to hold your breath for just a few more seconds. Your eyes open to check to see if your competition is still underwater with you.

You hold on.

You fight for a few more seconds…trying your best to emerge from the pool a victor.

Many Cats fans held their breath watching Kentucky Basketball play on Saturday afternoon versus Ole Miss.

The game started with Kentucky holding the Mississippi scoreless for the first four and a half minutes. But the Cats nearly drowned as Ole Miss took Kentucky into the deep end, with both E.J. Montgomery and Ashton Hagans fouling out.

Somehow, the Cats held on and overcame a staunch effort from the Rebels. Kentucky basketball arose from the pool, victorious!

Clutch Nick RichardsOnce again, Nick Richards overcame a poor first-half performance to dominate the second half. Richards had 2 points in the first half as Kentucky Basketball trailed at half time.

The SEC Player of the Year candidate and Naismith Award Semifinalist finished with 16 points on 6-10 shooting from the field. Richards pulled down seven boards and had two blocks, as well.

Richards continued his clutch shooting from the free-throw line. He shot 4-5, including sinking a pair with 1:11 left in the game that put the Wildcats up for good 63-62.

Turnovers

Kentucky Basketball nearly gave the game away to Mississippi (13-12, 4-8 in the SEC) with their lack of ability to hold on to the ball. The Cats had 10 first-half turnovers.

Ashton Hagans led the team with 4 turnovers, however, the proverbial wealth was spread around the team. Of the eight Kentucky Basketball players to see action versus Ole Miss, only E.J. did not have at least one turnover.

The Cats refocused in the second half and placed a greater emphasis on controlling the ball. Kentucky had only one second-half turnover and finished with 11 turnovers, overall.

Kentucky Basketball Three-Point ShootingThe Cats struggled shooting from the outside all afternoon.

Kentucky basketball spread their three-point makes evenly, however. The Cats made a single three-pointer in the first half, and one in the second half. Kentucky shot an atrocious 2-22 from downtown. That’s 9.1% for the game.

Immanuel Quickley led the Cats in scoring, with 17 points. He was 1-8 from behind the arch, however. Johnny Juzang made the other three-pointers for the Cats; he shot 1-4 on the afternoon.

Hagans and Tyrese Maxey combined for an 0-10 shooting performance from three. Each went 0-5. Maxey finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds, while Hagans fouled out with 6 points and 3 assists.

So…how the heck did Kentucky Basketball pull this off?!

John Calipari made a couple of adjustments in the second half that really helped the Cats turn things around.

The first; Kentucky began to work their offense from the inside out. Kentucky attempted 14 threes in the first half compared to 8 in the second half. Kentucky worked their offense through Nick Richards and he was able to take advantage of mismatches down low.

Secondly, Kentucky recognized that Mississippi was playing a lot of isolation basketball with their guards. Once Kentucky Basketball keyed in on the offensive sets being run, they were able to make shot attempts difficult for Ole Miss, especially as the Cats closed the second half.

Ole Miss was held to only 3 assists on the afternoon. Kentucky basketball also held Mississippi to 8 points in the final 5 minutes of the game, while putting up 13 points to end the contest.

Kentucky Basketball can also point to two other tangible advantages on the afternoon

The Cats out-rebounded Ole Miss 41-33 on the afternoon. Montgomery, Richards, Keion Brooks Jr., and Nate Sestina pulled down 24 boards, as compared to Ole Miss’ front court pulling down 17.

Montgomery led the Cats with 8 rebounds. Brooks had another strong rebounding effort, grabbing 6 boards.

Kentucky Basketball utilized their superior free throw shooting to stay in the game and, eventually, overtake the Rebels. The Cats shot 19-24 from the line, 79.2% on the afternoon. Ole Miss went 8-11 from the charity stripe.

Kentucky Basketball (20-5, 10-2 in the SEC) takes on LSU (18-7, 9-3 in the SEC) at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Tuesday. Tip time is 9 PM.