Kentucky's first conference game of the season looked like it would be over before it ever really started. The Wildcats jumped out to a 12-0 lead on Ole Miss and seemed poised to do what they've done so many times this season: demoralize their opponent into submission before the halftime buzzer sounded. Something funny happened along the way, though. The Rebels decided they weren't going away.
Ole Miss became the third team this season to hold a lead against Kentucky at halftime and had plenty of chances to win in regulation before the game headed to overtime. In the extra session, the Wildcats dodged bullet after bullet to win 89-86 and move to 14-0 on the season.
Ole Miss really could have won this game, and in the process it gave the country a formula for what beating Kentucky might look like. It goes something like:
1) Shoot the lights out
The Rebels were on fire from the perimeter for most of the night. Ole Miss went 9-of-17 from three-point range and hit 19-of-22 free throws. 5'9 guard Stefan Moody had the game of his life, hanging 25 points on Kentucky's team of giants. Teammate Jarvis Summer added 23 points in the loss. Every improbable outside shot made you think this upset actually had a chance to happen.
2) Fight like crazy on the glass
Kentucky starts two 7-footers in Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns, which not even a single NBA team can say. Ole Miss starts two 6'9 guys in the front court. Despite the size mismatch, Ole Miss was still able to hold its own in the rebounding battle, losing 34-32.
Kentucky pressed the Rebels into 18 turnovers on the night. Aaron Harrison was the player of the game for Kentucky, scoring 26 points and hitting 5-of-9 attempts from three-point range. It was only the second time this season a Kentucky player has scored over 20 points. Devin Booker was also brilliant off the bench, scoring 13 points and going 3-for-3 from deep. More telling, it might have been the worst game of the season for Cauley-Stein. Ole Miss was doing something right on the inside.
3) Defend without fouling
This is what did Ole Miss in. Kentucky shot 40 (!) free throws, and made 28 of them. That's only 70 percent shooting from the foul line, but when you get 40 chances, it's still effective. On the other side, Ole Miss only shot 22 free throws.
John Calipari seemed to be in good spirits after the game, but did concede one thing:
Calipari: "If Moody doesn’t cramp up, we probably lose the game."— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) January 7, 2015
Kentucky now travels to face Texas A&M this weekend. The Wildcats weren't counting on SEC play to go like this.
The two sides of Ohio State
The Buckeyes looked as good as they have all season in the first half against Minnesota. It was mostly because freshman guard D'Angelo Russell looked completely unstoppable.
If you pay attention to mock drafts in January, you'll notice Russell is becoming a popular choice to be a lottery pick after this season. While that's all still months away from meaning anything, the freshman guard did showcase just how good he can be in the first half. Russell scored 25 on 10-of-12 shooting in the period and Ohio State held a 12-point lead at the break.
The second half didn't go as well:
Russell would only score two points in the second half, and Minnesota stormed back to make it a game down the stretch.
DeAndre Mathieu scored seven points in the last eight minutes, including a layup with 1:30 left to bring Minnesota within one. The game headed to overtime after some clutch free throw shooting by the Golden Gophers and an easy miss inside by Ohio State's Amir Williams on the Buckeyes' last possession.
The overtime session again went down to the final seconds, but Ohio State cliched a victory when Marc Loving hit a short jumper with six seconds left. Watch the shot over at LGHL.
The Buckeyes move to 13-3 overall, while Minnesota drops to 11-5. Hey, someone has to finish second in the Big Ten.
Iowa State can play a little defense now
The Cyclones have an identity under Fred Hoiberg, and that's as an up-tempo, freestyling offensive team. Iowa State finished No. 6 in offensive efficiency each of the last two seasons and were sitting at No. 16 coming into the night. This is why it was so surprising to see ISU grab a win over a quality Oklahoma State team in large part thanks to its defense.
That's Dustin Hogue up top, spiking Oklahoma State's game-winning attempt into the third row. Hogue had a tremendous night, finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds on 7-of-9 shooting. Georges Niang and Matt Thomas each chipped in 10 points for Iowa State in the win.
Oklahoma State was led by Phil Forte III (21 points) and Le'Bryan Nash (19 points) in the loss.
Other notable scores
No. 8 Villanova 90, No. 24 St. John's 72
No. 23 Arkansas 79, Georgia 75
Providence 66, Butler 62
Alabama 65, Texas A&M 44
Michigan 73, Penn State 64
George Washington 75, St. Louis 72
UCF 79, Houston 78, overtime
Tweet of the night:
Kennedy: "Moody’s a little bit like Marshall Henderson, and thank God only a little bit."— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) January 7, 2015