Kentucky holds off Mississippi 75-66

Miller, Harrellson and Lamb step up as Knight, Jones struggle

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 12, 2011 

ATLANTA — After Mississippi beat South Carolina on Thursday, forward Terrance Henry said the Rebels wanted to make someone other than Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones win Friday's second-round Southeastern Conference Tournament game.

Several of Kentucky's "someone elses" obliged.

Darius Miller and Josh Harrellson filled the void offensively as UK beat Ole Miss 75-66.

Miller scored 15 points, grabbed seven rebounds and took a heady charge inside the final three minutes of a one-possession game. Harrellson evoked memories of his breakout game at Louisville with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Throw in Doron Lamb's team-high 19 points, and Kentucky moved safely into the SEC Tournament's semifinals for the 15th time since the league went to divisional play 20 years ago.

"Saved us," Jones said of contributions worth heralding from unheralded teammates. "Took over the game."

Knight and Jones struggled with their shooting, making eight of 26 shots. UK Coach John Calipari also noted a poor floor game by Knight and a lack of aggressiveness from Jones. Yet Kentucky never trailed in improving its record to 23-8.

"A big step for our team," Harrellson said. "It shows we have a lot of different weapons. Even if those two aren't scoring, other guys can step up."

Ole Miss (20-13) got 20 points from all-league guard Chris Warren. That left him two short of 2,000 for his career. But he made only five of 20 shots and never put his stamp on the game.

UK's stopper, DeAndre Liggins, explained the defensive strategy as "make him shoot twos. Make him drive. Stop him from shooting layups.

"When I guarded him, I always had a hand up. Crowd him."

Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy acknowledged that UK's taller defenders, primarily 6-foot-6 Liggins and 6-4 Lamb, bothered Warren, who is listed at 5-10.

The first half suggested that the stars would not be shining bright in this game. Kentucky had to feel good about a 36-29 halftime lead after Knight and Jones combined to make two of 14 shots.

Lamb, who failed to reach double-digit points in three of the past four games, filled the void. He scored 13 first-half points. He made all five of his shots, including two from three-point range. It was a remarkable — and well-timed — display for a player who had made only nine of 30 three-point shots away from Rupp Arena this SEC season.

"I knew I had a couple bad nights," Lamb said. "Coach (Rod) Strickland told me to be aggressive."

Harrellson, who went scoreless at Tennessee on Sunday, noted the similarity with the Louisville game, when he also reaped the rewards of an opponent concentrating on containing others.

"I don't think it's much of an insult," Harrellson said. "It's fine with me. Sometimes the team sags off a little too much. That's when we get going."

Knight credited Calipari with emphasizing Harrellson as a scoring option.

"We knew from the beginning their bigs were going to leave him," the UK point guard said. "Coach said we could look for Josh."

Warren set the halftime score with a three-pointer from the right side with 1:35 left. That was his only basket in a 1-for-7 shooting half.

Warren seemed content not to shoot for long stretches. He didn't take his first shot until the 15:16 mark, a pull-up jumper that Liggins easily blocked.

Terrance Henry was Ole Miss's version of Lamb. Coming in averaging 9.7 points in league play, he scored 11 first-half points en route to 17, which was his high this season against an SEC opponent.

Kentucky twice re-established 10-point leads early in the second half. With Kentucky's lead at a zenith (51-39), Ole Miss mounted a charge. A Warren three-pointer began a 9-0 run. Dundrecous Nelson finished it by taking the ball from a stumbling Knight at midcourt and speeding to a dunk.

Ole Miss got as close as 53-51. As Miller hit a floater in the lane to ease the tension, Kennedy flipped up his palms in a what-can-you-do gesture.

Kentucky stayed ahead, sealing it with seven straight points in the final 1:22. That included 5-for-6 free-throw shooting by Knight.

When asked what a victory powered by "others" meant, Jones thought long-term.

"It means we really have a long way to go," he said. "We still have a lot left we can do."

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