By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky did so many things poorly and made so many mistakes that it needs some help against Ole Miss — and got it when Breein Tyree, a 79 percent foul shooter, missed the front end of the bonus twice in the final minute Saturday in Rupp Arena.
Kentucky rode the clutch play of Immanuel Quickley to rally to beat Mississippi 67-62 and keep alive its Southeastern Conference title hopes because a home loss to the Rebels could have been devastating.
Quickley was only 4-for-15 from the field and just 1-for-8 from 3-point range but went 8-for-10 at the foul line. He had 13 of his points in the final 11 minutes after UK fell behind 45-38.
“Cal (John Calipari) does not get enough credit for player development,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said. “Quickley was not a factor in the game last year.”
Quickley made his free throws when it counted and Tryee, who had 19 points (UK coach John Calipari said he was “happy” Tyree “only” got 19) and was 4-for-4 at the line going to the final minute, missed twice. Both came with UK leading by one point.
“We had our best player at the free throw line. Had him there a million times,” Davis said. “He is a great free throw shooter. Nobody else would put on the line if I had to pick. He competed his tail off. He’s main guy we would want there.”
Kentucky hit its last 13 free throws and 19 of 24 in the game. Ole Miss was 8-for-11 at the line.
“They got to the line and we didn’t,” Davis said. “Up one and had to make free throws and they did.”
However, Kentucky missed 20 of 22 3-pointers and the Rebels just stayed in the zone defense daring the Cats to shoot. Quickley, Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans combined to go 1-for-18 from deep.
“Kentucky plays old school basketball. Drive it and throw it in the post,” Davis said. “We tried to make them shoot it (outside).”
Kentucky coach John Calipari stressed to his team at halftime it was 1-for-13 from 3-point range and to look inside more. But he also said not do discredit Ole Miss.
“They have done what they did to us to every team. They had Auburn down 19. Last three games they won by an average of 20,” Calipari said. “I don’t want to take away from them. But the biggest thing coming back to us is teams are trying to out rough us. We just have to get lower and not accept it.”
Freshman Keion Brooks Jr. did that twice when he came down with rebounds after Tyree missed the late free throws. Calipari called them the “biggest rebounds” of the game before noting that an offensive board EJ Montgomery got that led to a Maxey layup late was also crucial.
Nick Richards finished with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting against a zone designed to negate him and also had seven rebounds. Davis called him one of the best centers in the country — again.
Maxey, despite missing all five 3-pointers, was 7-for-8 in side the air and had 14 points — he did not get to the foul line — also with five rebounds and three assists.
“You don’t have to play great every night but in the last part of the game you play to win,” Calipari said.
Kentucky did that and that’s why in a game it probably didn’t play well enough for 38 minutes to win, it still somehow won.