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Date story was published: Saturday, March 12, 1988

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Kentucky, the gauge by which Southeastern Conference rivals measure their programs, provided that service again last night.

Mississippi learned it has room for improvement.

The Cats dominated, winning 82-64 and rolling into the SEC Tournament's cream-rising-to-the-top semifinals.

Top-seeded UK, 23-5, will play home-standing Louisiana State today (1 p.m. EST tip-off). LSU, the fourth seed, topped Vanderbilt 87-80 earlier yesterday.

Florida, the third seed, will play Georgia, which beat second-seeded Auburn 65-60 in last night's late quarterfinal game.

"Although we've made a lot of progress, we haven't yet moved up to Kentucky's standards," Ole Miss coach Ed Murphy said. "We both run motion offenses. The difference is athletic ability."

That was especially true inside. UK's low-post threats -- Winston Bennett and Rob Lock -- outscored Ole Miss' starting inside tandem 32-10.

The Cats got a bonus when freshman LeRon Ellis scored 11 more off the bench.

"A big difference was under the boards (40-31 in UK's favor)," Murphy said. "When we miss, we can't put it back in the basket."

UK had stars at both ends of the floor. Rex Chapman and Bennett led a balanced attack with 19 points each.

On defense, Chapman led a team effort that held Ole Miss star Rod Barnes to 18 points. Barnes scored 31 against the Cats last Saturday in Oxford.

"At home, I penetrated past Rex and (Ed) Davender and no one was there to contest the shot. Tonight, someone was there. I had to shoot over 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-11 guys. Give them credit. Things were a lot harder tonight."

Although UK had its way against Ole Miss, Coach Eddie Sutton warned that LSU at home would be a tougher test today.

"I never like to play LSU here in this arena," Sutton said. "It's an advantage. But we had the advantage two years ago."

UK swept LSU in the regular season. UK won 95-69 in Lexington and 76-61 here.

"At Rupp, we played perhaps our best game of the year," Sutton said. "We got ahead 55-32 by halftime and they were never in the game.

"I was very impressed with the way they (LSU) dismantled Vanderbilt today (87-80)."

The Cats had too many turnovers (17) last night, Sutton said, and too few block-outs under the boards. UK will also need more production from Eric Manuel, who took only one shot and went scoreless in 16 minutes.

"He wasn't aggressive enough," Sutton said. "Perhaps it was just a bad game. There's nothing wrong with him."

Still, Kentucky never trailed in a game that saw the Cats leave the floor ahead 42-29 at the half.

On offense, the Cats responded to Ole Miss center Sean Murphy's challenge. Murphy wondered Thursday if UK could match the 62.5 percent shooting that beat the Rebels 78-71 last Saturday.

The Cats did better, shooting 69.6 percent in the half.

Defensively, the Cats controlled Barnes. For much of the half, Chapman guarded the 6-1 senior. Unlike at Oxford, the Cats were quicker to flash a second defender on Barnes when the Ole Miss guard made his move.

It was one reason Barnes had three turnovers. Entering the game, Barnes had committed three turnovers in his last 108 minutes.

Barnes scored only five points in a frustrating half. He missed his first four shots and hit only two of seven for the half, seven of 19 in the game.

Ole Miss missed six of its first seven shots in falling behind 10-2.

A highlight in UK's early rush was a fast-break lob that Chapman threw to a streaking Lock for a dunk.

Ole Miss closed to 12-10, but the final two of three straight Ellis baskets pushed the lead to six.

Chapman drilled a three-pointer to end a 7-0 run that left UK ahead 19-10.

Barnes' first basket -- a difficult turnaround over Manuel with 8:30 left -- helped fuel an Ole Miss rally that cut the UK lead to 21-16.

Bennett took an inbounds pass for a layup that began a 13-5 run that put UK ahead 32-21.

Chapman ended the run by cutting into the passing lane and taking a ball intended for Barnes. Chapman raced in for dunk.

Lock scored with one second left to give UK its largest lead. The basket typified Ole Miss' first-half frustrations.

Murphy thought Ed Davender walked as he made his move to begin the sequence.

Then, a Bennett shot in the lane was tipped. Lock grabbed the loose ball and laid it in.

Ole Miss rallied briefly to start the second half as Barnes hit back-to- back baskets. The second matched his first-half total and cut the UK lead to 42-33 at the 18:38 mark.

But UK scored the next 12 points to all but clinch the victory.

Chapman began the run by sandwiching two jumpers around a Davender basket.

Bennett provided the capper with two 15-footers.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss went more than six minutes without a point.

Barnes broke the drought, hitting two free throws with 12:08 left. The shots moved Barnes into double figures.

When Barnes hit a jumper at 11:39, it was the Rebels' first basket since he hit one at 18:38.

The rest was formality.