Date story was published: Thursday, January 10, 1985
OXFORD, Miss. - Maybe there was some confusion about the change to Central Standard Time. That would explain why Kentucky started playing about an hour late last night.
Even with that, UK was too much for a truly hapless Mississippi team and won 57-45.
After walking through the first half in a 2-3 zone, UK took charge with an aggressive man-to-man defense.
Never miss a local story.
The suddenly fired-up Wildcats immediately took the lead. Once again, it was Kenny Walker who led the way.
Walker, who scored 24 of his 28 points in the second half, had a three- point play 15 seconds into the final period. That shot gave the Wildcats a 21-18 lead.
Ole Miss turned it over at the other end when Don Royster set an illegal pick, and Kentucky capitalized when Winston Bennett rebounded a miss.
Kentucky, winning for the seventh straight time, broke the game open with a 12-2 run later in the second half.
Walker had six of those points as UK broke out to a 40-27 lead.
Against an Ole Miss team shooting so poorly that even its own fans applauded derisively when the Rebels made a free throw, a 13-point lead was plenty safe.
How bad was Mississippi? Forward Joe Ayers, the team's leading scorer, tried a 10-footer from the baseline in the second half. It hit the top of the backboard.
The victory raised Kentucky's record to 8-4 overall. The Wildcats are now 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference and tied for first place with Mississippi State.
Ole Miss fell to 6-6 overall and 0-4 in the SEC.
Walker did it on both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-8 junior had four steals in the second half, three in the first eight minutes when UK broke ahead to stay.
Kentucky set the more aggressive tone quickly in the second half. The Wildcats were all over Mississippi, forcing three turnovers in the opening minutes and grabbing the lead for good.
So frustrating was UK's defense that Eric Laird, who led Ole Miss with 16 points, threw an elbow at James Blackmon. The blow came as Blackmon hounded the Rebel guard in the backcourt.
"It looked intentional but I don't think it was intentional," said Blackmon, his left eye nearly closed because of swelling.
Laird apologized and said he was only trying to get Blackmon off his back.
"It should have been a foul," Laird admitted, "but the refs just missed it; I don't know how."
That play symbolized the intensity with which UK played after intermission.
The best thing that could be said about the first half was that it was quick.
It took only 31 minutes to thrash through a first half. The end result? An 18-18 standoff.
"We were ashamed of ourselves," Kentucky coach Joe Hall said of the first-half performance.
A passive zone defense by UK gave Mississippi many makeable shots. But the Rebels couldn't make them. (Ole Miss made 32.1 percent of its shots in the first half and 34.7 percent for the game.)
The man-to-man proved much more effective. Hall said he deployed the Cats in a first-half zone because he wanted his team pressing. "But we were a step behind, so we scrapped the press," Hall said.
UK's other first-half embarrassment was leaving Walker out of the offense.
Walker got off only four shots against Mississippi's sagging 2-3 zone.
"I think our players just did a better job of getting the ball to him," Hall said of the second half. "He usually got it in a crowd, but he was able to stick it in."
Walker scored 11 of UK's first 15 points of the second half. Included in the surge were the typical post-up shots inside and a monster two-hand dunk with 4:28 remaining that pushed UK ahead 49-36. The Wildcat lead reached 17 points (54-37) in the closing minutes.
"I come to play, that's the bottom line," said Walker, who has been making a habit of dominating games lately. Walker has now scored 20 or more points in five straight games. He has now scored in double figures 25 consecutive times.
Walker stood out defensively as well. All five of his steals came in the second half when Ole Miss had hoped to exploit the matchup that put Blackmon on Laird.
"I was hoping they would play man-to-man," Laird said. "I wanted Blackmon on me."
Yet Laird had a hard time getting the ball. Walker could play loosely against his man, usually center Derek Horne, and help out.
UK, playing its first game outside Kentucky in a month, looked shaky in the early going. The Wildcat freshmen played like rookies, and the whole team suddenly lost the ability to make shots from inside the lane.
As bad as UK shot, Mississippi was even worse. The Rebels missed three layups and three other shots never even found the rim.
Such futility (the two teams entered the game as statistically the SEC's worst shooters) made for a half in which neither team could take control.
UK got off strong in the game, hitting four of its first eight shots and taking an 8-2 lead. Walker and Harden each had four points in that streak.
But Kentucky cooled off from there. Its freshmen started throwing the ball away and Ole Miss crept back into it.
The Rebels missed nine of their first 10 shots. Freshman Joe Coleman, starting his first game, missed a fast-break layup in the game's first minute. Later, he tried a banker from 10 feet that hit the backboard and nothing else.
Another Rebel, Horne, tried a 5-footer from the left baseline that went about 2 feet over the basket.
In the half, Ole Miss made just nine of 28 shots.
Mississippi was by no means alone in shooting poorly.
UK made just nine of 24 shots and missed its share of easy baskets. Winston Bennett missed twice from under the basket after grabbing rebounds.
Freshman Robert Lock had two wide open shots from 2 feet that refused to fall.
Even the usually phenomenal Walker proved he was human, missing a 5-footer.
In this battle of 2-3 zones, only Troy McKinley seemed on target. McKinley, one of the Cats' designated zone-busters, entered the game with 9:01 remaining in the half and UK ahead 12-10.
The senior swingman made three of four long-range bombs and accounted for UK's last six points of the half.