Kentucky Mississippi Basketball

Kentucky quiets Marshall Henderson, beats No. 16 Ole Miss

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We all bought a ticket to the Marshall Henderson Show, but instead, what we got on Tuesday night was a feature on just what Kentucky is capable of being when it all comes together.

They went into the Tad Pad and knocked off No. 16 Ole Miss 87-74 thanks to 26 points from Kyle Wiltjer, 24 points from Archie Goodwin and a scintillating defensive performance from Nerlens Noel, who blocked a school-record 12 shots.

And while I singled out some impressive stat-lines for three of Kentucky’s biggest stars, the fact of the matter is that this was a team victory for the Wildcats in every sense of the word.

In the first half, as UK was battling a shortened bench — Willie Cauley-Stein missed yet another game — and a quick whistle that led to massive foul trouble, John Calipari was forced to use a lineup that included Jarrod Polson, Jon Hood and Kyle Wiltjer for an extended period of time. Despite that, Kentucky managed to head into the break trailing Ole Miss by just a single point.

In the second half, Wiltjer continued his hot shooting, reaching his career-high of 26 points with 17 minutes left on the game. When the Rebels started to focus in on him, Alex Poythress took over, helping push Kentucky’s lead to 73-56 with 12 points and four boards during the surge.

And when foul trouble once again destroyed Kentucky’s momentum, aiding a 16-0 run that cut the Wildcat lead to just a single point, it was Noel that took control of the game.

Ole Miss was able to cut their deficit in large part because they used Henderson as a decoy to spread the floor and create mismatches before pounding the ball into the paint, where Noel couldn’t afford to foul out. But the flip-switched for Noel when he took an elbow and got into a bit of a shoving match with Reginald Buckner on a free throw block out at the six minute mark.

From that point on, Noel blocked five of the six shots that Ole Miss took in the paint, including a pair of incredible blocks on dunk attempts. The only shot he didn’t block was a driving dunk attempt by Murphy Holloway that he changed into a missed lay-up.

What makes the win all the more impressive is that Kentucky did all this on the road in a game that they just about had to win.

Beating teams in the top 50 in the RPI on the road is not an easy thing to do, and it’s an opportunity that’s not going to come along that often in the SEC this season. Kentucky did that.

But this win does more than simply bolster a resume that was is desperate need of work.

It builds their confidence. Poythress and Wiltjer have both been inconsistent, but they dominated for stretches during this game. Goodwin has had issues with shot selection and decision-making, and he scored 24 points on 11 shots while getting to the line 14 times and finishing with a 4:3 assist-to-turnover ration. Kentucky went deep into their bench and got contributions from everyone that contributed.

And, most importantly, they withstood a run by a good team on their home floor.

Ole Miss may be overrated at No. 16 in the country, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is the kind of win that can change the course of Kentucky’s season.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.