LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis made an impression on Andy Kennedy.
The Mississippi coach heaped praise on Ulis after he had 20 points and 10 assists to help No. 10 Kentucky beat Mississippi 83-61 on Saturday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
“I think he is best point guard in college basketball,” Kennedy said. “He just kind of skates through. When he is making shots, he is very difficult (to stop).”
Ulis set the tone for the blowout, scoring seven of Kentucky’s first nine points. He pounded his chest after connecting on a layup igniting those in attendance, including his parents.
“There was just a lot of energy,” Ulis said. “The crowd was going crazy. I was actually looking for my parents but they had changed seats. I finally found them.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari was pleased with the way Ulis performed on both ends of the court.
“He is a good player and also took on a challenge (of facing Ole Miss scoring leader Stefan Moody),” Calipari said. “He is out to prove who he is. I just want a team full of guys that want that.”
Sparked by Ulis, Kentucky (11-2) ended the Rebels’ seven-game winning streak and limited Moody to eight points in the first half, hindering the Rebels’ hopes for an upset.
Jamal Murray made four of Kentucky’s seven 3-pointers and had 18 points. Marcus Lee added 13.
Despite a slow start, Moody led the Rebels (10-3) with 23 points. Sebastian Saiz followed with 12.
The Wildcats held a 14-11 advantage with 10:29 remaining in the first half and put the game away with a 23-3 run, pushing it to 37-14 with 3:40 remaining in the first half.
Murray made two 3-pointers during the decisive spurt and finished with 11 points in the opening half.
Kentucky led 46-22 at the break and didn’t let up in the second half.
Ole Miss struggled from the field, especially in the first half, shooting 23 percent (6 for 26). The Rebels fared better in the second half and finished 20 of 50 from the floor for 40 percent.
A year ago, Ole Miss took the Wildcats to the wire before losing 89-86 in overtime, but failed to duplicate the performance.
“We lost a lot of guys that were part of that run,” Kennedy said. “I thought the moment might have been a little big for them early.”
Kentucky junior guard Dominique Hawkins left with 13:55 remaining and didn’t return after tweaking his ankle while going up for a rebound. Hawkins scored a career-high 13 points against No. 18 Louisville in his last outing. Hawkins played three minutes and didn’t score.
“They say he will be fine,” Calipari said. “I didn’t see it but it was ugly. But he is a tough kid.”
SMITH WOWS CROWD
Jordan Smith, the latest winner in NBC’s “The Voice,” drew a rousing applause after performing the national anthem prior to tipoff. Smith, a native of Harlan County, is a senior at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, and has already signed a contract with Republic Records.
Kentucky: Briscoe returned to the lineup after tweaking his ankle during pregame warmups prior to Kentucky’s win over Louisville. He finished with six points. … Murray has hit a 3-pointer in his first 13 games, a school record. … After playing 10 of their first 13 games at home, the Wildcats play their next two conference games on the road, starting Tuesday at LSU. … Kentucky has won nine of its last 10 games against the Rebels. … Calipari improved to 8-1 against Ole Miss as coach of the Wildcats.
Ole Miss: The Rebels fell to 53-2 in games played against the Wildcats in Lexington. Their last victory over Kentucky at Rupp Arena came when they posted a 73-64 win in 1998. … Moody has made a 3-pointer in 27 straight games, the fourth-longest in school history. … The Rebels play their first game at The Pavilion at Ole Miss on Thursday. The facility will seat 8,867 fans.
Kentucky is at LSU on Tuesday night.
Ole Miss hosts Alabama on Thursday night.