Kentucky 80, Mississippi 40
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)—Joe Crawford had 17 points and Preston LeMaster added a career-high 12 as Kentucky solidified its NCAA tournament chances with an 80-40 victory over Mississippi Wednesday night.
The blowout guarantees the Wildcats at least an 8-8 Southeastern Conference record in a rocky season that has included two three-game losing streaks.
Despite the impressive win, Kentucky (18-9, 8-5) will know soon exactly where is stacks up among conference elites. It concludes the season with games against the SEC’s only three ranked teams—No. 24 Louisiana State, No. 10 Tennessee and No. 12 Florida.
The Rebels (14-12, 4-9) were playing without their best player, center Dwayne Curtis, who left for Chicago earlier this week to attend the funeral of his brother, who died from injuries suffered in a car accident.
It was a game in which coach Tubby Smith emptied his bench, playing 14 different Wildcats, and 13 of them scored.
Many of Crawford’s points came from Rajon Rondo’s dazzling assists— including two alley-oop passes that Crawford dunked home. Rondo finished with a career-high 12 assists, three short of Travis Ford’s team record of 15 set Dec. 8, 1993, against Eastern Kentucky.
Two quick 3-pointers by LeMaster helped ignite an early 17-2 run for the Wildcats, who led 40-17 at halftime. LeMaster also got his first rebound in almost three months, then promptly traveled.
No Mississippi player reached double figures. Londrick Nolen and Clarence Sanders had nine points each.