Just a week before the start of the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Kentucky desperately needed some positive momentum to build upon heading into the last week of regular season competition. But in their final road contest of the season, the Cats failed to come away with a win once again, falling to Ole Miss 70-62.
As has been the case in nearly every loss, Kentucky’s offense was nonexistent once again, as they connected on just 21-56 (37.5%) from the field. Keion Brooks Jr. led all Kentucky players with 16 points on 8-14 shooting, but no other Wildcat made more than five shots. Olivier Sarr added 15 points, Isaiah Jackson had 13 and Davion Mintz had 10 to go along with a career-high eight assists. The Cats connected on just 5-20 from downtown while Ole Miss, the worst three-point shooting team in the league, nailed 8-13 from behind the arc.
Surprisingly enough, Kentucky actually won the turnover battle, giving the ball up just seven times compared to the Rebels’ 17. But when it came to rebounding, Ole Miss crushed the Cats, winning the battle on the glass 42-28. Brooks led the way with eight boards, Jacob Toppin had five and Jackson and Sarr each added three.
“I’m not quitting on these kids,” UK head coach John Calipari said after the game. “I’m not cracking. You can tell my mindset is fine. I’m not used to this, but you know what, I’ve said how many times, ‘I don’t have a magic wand.’ Now everybody believes me. I don’t have a magic wand. If I had one I’d be using it on individual players and the team.”
Kentucky erased their 29-32 halftime deficit quickly once the second period started, using a pair of threes from Davion Mintz and some aggressive post play by Olivier Sarr to grab a 46-40 lead with 13:18 to play. But after a free throw by sophomore Sammy Hunter gave the Rebels a 49-48 lead, the Cats would never lead again, scoring just 12 points over the final 12:41 of regulation.
With the loss, Kentucky falls to 8-15 on the season and 7-9 in the SEC. They currently sit eighth in the conference, tied with Mississippi State. They’ll look to regroup before hosting South Carolina Saturday in their final contest of the regular season. Tipoff is set for noon on ESPN.