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No. 23 Kentucky pulls away from Mississippi 96-78

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky has followed a four-game slide with four consecutive wins featuring some of its best play this season along with the poise that was missing during the slump.

The No. 23 Wildcats had all of those aspects come together late to beat Mississippi for a victory coach John Calipari suggested his young team had to win.

Kevin Knox had 22 points and Quade Green added 18, including eight during a 15-5 second-half run that helped Kentucky pull away from Mississippi for a 96-78 victory Wednesday night.

“It was a win we had to have and I told them after the game,” said Calipari, adding that telling them before the game might have made them nervous. “I didn’t want to tell them that, this was like the biggest game of the year for us. This was it.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 17 points, a career-high 10 assists and seven rebounds. Wenyen Gabriel added 15 points and PJ Washington 10 as the Wildcats (21-9, 10-7 Southeastern Conference) won their fourth consecutive game and home finale, the first without departing seniors under Calipari. Green had two 3-pointers and a layup during the run that provided an 82-69 lead with 6:40 remaining.

The freshman guard ended up making 7 of 12 shots in 30 minutes, crediting his play to playing off guard as Calipari stressed.

“Just being aggressive, really,” Green said. “When I’ve got the ball, just be aggressive and make the right plays. Score when I have to score. Shoot when I have to shoot, pass when I have to pass.”

Kentucky shot 56 percent after halftime and 50 percent overall in a game that was chippy at times, resulting in five technical foul calls and the quick ejection of Ole Miss senior forward Marcanvis Hymon after just 3 1/2 minutes.

“We knew they were going to be aggressive and get a little out of hand,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We just had to keep our composure and keep ahead.”

Terence Davis had 26 points and Breein Tyree and Bruce Stevens 13 each for the Rebels (12-18, 5-12), who lost for the ninth time in 11 games. The Rebels shot 41 percent.

“They really turned up the pressure,” acting coach Tony Madlock said. “They made some really good stops and we were not able to make some of the plays that we need to make when you’re able to cut it to four and you’re right in the middle of what you want to do. Just not able to make the plays late.”

BIG PICTURE

Mississippi: Losing Hymon to two quick technicals seemed to inspire the Rebels just as they were about to trail by double digits, responding to outscore the Wildcats 21-12 over 8:06 for a 25-24 lead. Ole Miss got within a basket several times after that but couldn’t catch Kentucky, which strung together baskets and got the rebounds needed to stay ahead and gain some distance late.

Kentucky: The Wildcats took a little longer to get rolling, but their second-half run arrived on time and showcased the things that Calipari has stressed. Besides outrebounding the Rebels 43-35, they shared the ball (19 assists) and knocked down shots resulting from those good looks. The Wildcats also thrived at the line, making 16 of 19 attempts in the first half alone en route to finishing 26 of 35.

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING

The game was delayed several times in the first half as officials reviewed video to sort out several confrontations, including one that resulted in Hymon’s departure before the first media timeout. Hymon drew his second technical foul for dead ball contact with 16:36 remaining in the first half after a skirmish under Kentucky’s basket in which Wildcats forward Nick Richards received a non-contact technical foul while Stevens got a personal foul. Hymon drew an earlier technical foul after Ole Miss’ opening basket 1:13 in.

Five technicals were ultimately called, with the Rebels’ Justas Furmanavicius getting one later in the first half and Gabriel called for another in the second half. Gabriel thought the Rebels initially played physical to goad the Wildcats’ buttons.

“It’s expected and you don’t have nothing to lose when you’re playing against us,” he said. “They’re going to play their hearts out, and if they’re going to get a technical, so be it.”

UP NEXT

Ole Miss hosts Vanderbilt in the regular season finale Saturday night.

Kentucky concludes the regular season on Saturday at Florida, which escaped with a 66-64 upset win at Rupp on Jan. 20.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

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Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

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Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”

Arizona releases non-conference schedule

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A trip to Maui, a home date against Baylor and trips to UConn and Alabama highlight Arizona’s non-conference schedule, which the school released Thursday, this season.

Despite losing nearly the entirety of last year’s talented-but-troubled group, Sean Miller still scheduled aggressively. The first test will come the week of Thanksgiving in Hawaii at the Maui Invitational. It’s an extremely competitive field with Duke, Auburn, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Illinois, San Diego State and Xavier. The bracket for the event has yet to be released.

The Wildcats travel to Storrs to face UConn in Dan Hurley’s first season on Dec. 2, and then a week later visit Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The marquee home game will be Saturday, Dec. 16, when Scott Drew and Baylor come to Tucson.

Here’s the full schedule:

Day Date Opponent Location

Sunday Nov. 11 Cal Poly Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Nov. 14 UTEP Tucson, Ariz.

Monday Nov. 19 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Tuesday Nov. 20 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 21 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 28 Texas Southern Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 2 at UConn Hartford, Conn.

Thursday Dec. 6 Utah Valley Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 9 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Saturday Dec. 15 Baylor Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Dec. 19 Montana Tucson, Ariz.

Saturday Dec. 22 UC Davis Tucson, Ariz.