Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

SEC tournament: Kentucky Wildcats can smile for now after beating Ole Miss

TAMPA — Kentucky's Jodie Meeks and Darius Miller strolled onto the stage for their postgame news conference cracking jokes and wearing wide smiles. They looked exactly like you'd expect carefree college ballplayers to look.

But, lately, this scene has been an unfamiliar site for the Wildcats.

Kentucky's 71-58 win over Mississippi in the first round of the SEC tournament Thursday provided some much-needed relief for a program that — according to coach Billy Gillispie — has "been reeling."

The Wildcats (20-12) advance to meet West top seed LSU this afternoon at the St. Pete Times Forum, setting up a rematch with a team that dealt Kentucky one of its four straight losses to end the regular season. All told, Kentucky lost eight of 11 down the stretch.

Thursday, it faced a two-point deficit after a tightly contested first half, but the Wildcats leaned on a ferocious defense, hustle plays and Meeks' 15 second-half points to pull away.

Whereas Mississippi was getting its share of loose balls and protecting the ball in the first half, Kentucky turned up its pressure on guard Terrico White and the Rebels, forcing them into 11 second-half turnovers. During one stretch beginning with 15:52 left, they committed turnovers on three straight possessions. Meanwhile, the Wildcats crashed the boards and hauled in 13 total offensive rebounds to the Rebels' seven.

"We refer to effort areas every game, and they dominated in those areas," Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said.

But Kentucky did something more obvious in the second half: make shots. The Rebels shot 31.8 percent in the second half, not nearly enough to keep up with Kentucky's sizzling 53.8 percent conversion rate.

It was all so refreshing.

"We've had a couple of leads this year, and we didn't finish the game out right," Gillispie said.

For the game, Meeks was 9-of-15. Forward Patrick Patterson finished with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. White led Mississippi with 21 points.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]

Kentucky 71

Ole Miss 58

SEC tournament: Kentucky Wildcats can smile for now after beating Ole Miss 03/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 9:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Downs full of high-paying races this season


    OLDSMAR — Tampa Bay Downs is green like never before.

  2. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  3. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.
  4. Quarterback Jameis Winston will start Sunday for the Bucs


    TAMPA — Jameis Winston hadn't thrown in practice since he injured his right shoulder in Sunday's loss at Arizona, and with that uncertainty, a wide line of TV cameras and reporters' cellphones were all out Friday morning, recording the moment as Winston tested his shoulder with his first throws early in …

    Despite a sore shoulder, Jameis Winston will be making his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.
  5. Bucs journal: LB Kwon Alexander ready to return from injury


    TAMPA — LB Kwon Alexander, sidelined by a hamstring injury since the second quarter of the Bucs' season opener against Chicago, will finally make a healthy return Sunday against the Bills.

    Linebacker Kwon Alexander needs “to get my stats back up” after being out since the opener.