Oxford, MS – Kyle Wiltjer scored a career-high 26 points and nailed five 3-pointers and Archie Goodwin added 24 points, as Kentucky held off 16th-ranked Ole Miss, 87-74, Tuesday in an SEC offensive battle.
Nerlens Noel nearly recorded a double-double with a school-record 12 blocks and seven rebounds for the Wildcats (14-6, 5-2 SEC), who picked up their first win over a ranked opponent this season and now have found victory in four of their last five contests. Alex Poythress contributed 15 points and seven rebounds in the win.
LaDarius White led Ole Miss with 22 points and Marshall Henderson added 21 for the Rebels (17-3, 6-1), who shot a mere 32.9 percent from the floor in ending a nine-game winning streak.
It was the first time the schools had met with the Rebels ranked and Kentucky outside the Top 25 since Jan. 20, 2001.
Both teams opened up the second half shooting on point, but it was Wiltjer, who's dunk just under four minutes into the action, gave UK a 53-46 lead.
The Wildcats increased their advantage to 71-56 on Poythress' monster slam with 11:31 remaining, but they also benefited from some solid defense, as the Rebels missed seven shots during the 18-10 surge.
Ole Miss, though, had its own answer, as Jarvis Summers' crafty crossover froze two Kentucky defenders for an easy layup, bringing the home team within 73-66.
On the next possession, Murphy Holloway added to the 13-0 run with a three- point play making it 73-69 with just over six minutes remaining. The surge extended to 16-0 as White nailed a 3-pointer brining Ole Miss all the way back within one-point, 73-72. That was the closest it be for the home team, however, for the remainder of the contest.
Kentucky and Noel finally woke up out of its slumber, and changed the outlook of the game in a matter of minutes. Ryan Harrow's 3-pointer, followed by a sensational Noel blocked shot on Holloway's dunk attempt, which led to two Goodwin free throws, quickly made it 78-72 with under four minutes left.
"He was the difference in the game," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said about Noel. "We all would agree with that. He is an incredible defensive presence. Our guys found a way to fight back in the game. The way everybody is guarding Marshall (Henderson), it's no secret that they're going to switch and defend on all of the screening action. Nerlens would not allow the ball to go in the basket. As a result, we ran out of possessions and they capitalized."
The damage had been done and the Wildcats ended the game on a 14-2 run following Ole Miss' valiant surge. Noel finished with five of his blocks alone in the final 5:28 of the game.
After both teams stayed even for the majority of the first half -- the highest lead for either squad was two points -- White changed that with a three-point play which made it 26-22 with 5:16 left in the stanza.
Henderson turned a one-point, 30-29 lead into a five-point swing, with a jumper and a trey, which gave Ole Miss a 35-30 advantage.
Ole Miss led 38-37 after 20 minutes of play.
"We shot quick shots, played slower today than we've played all year, but we scored more points," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "We were trying to grind it out and make people guard. I was pleased with Ryan (Harrow)'s point guard play. He had been gone the last two weeks, but he played today. Archie (Goodwin) made some good shots. Alex (Poythress) was outstanding today as well. We're getting better as a team."
Ole Miss lost for the first time this season when holding a lead at halftime ... In the Jan. 20, 2001 contest between ranked Ole Miss and un-ranked Kentucky, the Rebels picked up a 65-55 home victory ... Ole Miss is now 11-1 at Tad Smith Coliseum this season ... Kentucky's bench outscored Ole Miss', 28-6 ... The Wildcats shot 50 percent (28-of-56) from the floor ... Harrow added 13 points, while Noel finished with just two points.