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Cats get the swagger back with 80-76 road win over Ole Miss

Keldon Johnson (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky got what it needed from different players at the right times to get a needed 80-76 win at Mississippi Tuesday night.

Kentucky was coming off a disappointing loss where it was never in the game the final 25 minutes at Tennessee and improved its Southeastern Conference record to 14-3 going into Saturday’s final regular season game at home with Florida.

“This win on the road against Ole Miss against a team that everyone assumes will be in the NCAA (Tournament) is one you just add to the good side of the ledger,” UK Radio Network analyst Mike Pratt said.

Just look at what it took for Kentucky to win.

— Keldon Johnson had 14 of his team-high 22 points in the first half. He finished the game 9-for-18 from the field and had seven rebounds, three assists and one steal.

— Tyler Herro had 13 of his 20 points in the first half and finished 8-for-12 from the field with five rebounds and three assists. He hit two free throws in the final 20 seconds — which was no surprise considering he’s now 54 of 55 at the line in SEC play.

— PJ Washington got in early foul trouble, played just seven minutes the first half and did not score. The second half he had 13 points and in one stretch where UK took control of the game had 11 of UK’s 13 points. He was 6-for-11 from the field and got four assists by making passes when he was double teamed. He also blocked two shots.

“You are not going to stop PJ with one man. He’s a monster,” ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes said.

— Ashton Hagans had 10 points, two rebounds and two assists.

— Immanuel Quickley had five points, two rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes. He hit the two free throws with 5.9 seconds to play to secure the win. “I like those moments (at the end),” Quickley said. “Ole Miss is a really good team. We played a little bit better in the second half. Credit Ole Miss. They are a really good team.”

— EJ Montgomery had only two points in 26 minutes but he blocked four shots, including two late in the game, and six rebounds.

— Nick Richards had six points, four rebounds and one block in 18 minutes.

That’s why even though Ole Miss went 20-for-22 at the foul line and outrebounded UK 37-29 it will could not beat the Cats. Kentucky went 31 for 56 from the field, including a blistering 14 for 25 (56 percent) in the second half. Kentucky also had just seven turnover, including only two the second half.

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  1. A win is still a win but not sure why we would pull any swagger from a rather ugly win. It seems like we are living and playing on the edge. TG we don’t have to play UT this weekend. Keldon and Tyler both had unbelievable first halves and kept us in the ballgame. PJ is still committing too many fouls for his experience and is hurting the team. He had a very good stretch to start the second half but you could tell he fell off toward end of game. We still are not a good passing team and miss way too many shots in close. Will Hagans ever get another steal in regular season or post season?…..talk about a guy tailing off. Am beginning to wonder of the Travis injury isn’t taking on the same mystery as Vanderbilt last year. Nick and EJ are still offensively offensive.

  2. I thought it was a game they had the swagger in a good road win. I didn’t see no ugly game out of it we pass the ball around a whole lot better than we have the last two games. It was a team effort to pull this out without PJ not playing much. It’ just show what this team can do without PJ.

    1. Mike has to have something to whine about Cats79. Big win for the Cats.

  3. About a month ago, someone at 247 Sports started a thread, posing a question about whether the Cats were peaking too soon. At that time, the Cats were riding high, having a come from behind road win at Florida, and a home thumping of South Carolina.

    When this earlier thread appeared, I recall posting that the Cats were playing the best basketball in the country, and there was no indication to support the fear that they may have peaked.

    Whoever started that thread was prescient, because since the South Carolina win in game 22, this team has been experiencing a month long slide. Furthermore, this slide began before Travis’ injury, see the graph at the following link:

    https://s3media.247sports.com/Uploads/Assets/900/94/9094900.png

    This graph shows a moving average ANE for the last 5 games. As you can see, this moving 5 game average began to slip with game 23, and it has continued quite steadily with the exception being a bump due to the walloping of Auburn in the first game after Travis’ injury.

    If this team does not reverse this slide very soon, I fear a very short and disappointing post season.

    There is swagger. And there is SWAGGER!!!! What I saw last night was the former.

  4. LP…….I forgot to whine about a couple of other things. We have lost our rebounding edge last few games and FT % will have to improve if we are going to run for the Gold. We are still only winning only 1 half of a game in most cases, and Cal doesn’t have this team on as solid a footing as he has most of his teams going into March. We are escaping too many of these games.

    1. You are right about that Mike, but they won. That is really all that counts. If that game last night had been a national championship game UK would be the champion now. I just am glad UK won on the road. It could be worse my friend.

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