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Noel sets Kentucky swat record in win at Ole Miss

The SportsXchange

OXFORD, Miss. -- Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel blocked his way into history Tuesday, leading the unranked Wildcats to an 87-74 win over No. 16 Mississippi in front of a capacity crowd of 9,232 at C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum.

Noel recorded a school-record 12 blocked shots in 36 minutes of action. He attempted only one shot from the floor and finished with two points and seven rebounds, but Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said Noel was the difference in the game.

"He has an incredible defensive presence, which we knew prior to tonight," Kennedy said. "As our guys found a way to get back in the game, with the way everybody is guarding Marshall (Henderson), there is no secret they're going to switch and extend on all that screening action so you have to play behind it.

"We finally realized that and got the ball where we wanted it, with our two seniors right at the block. But Nerlens would not allow the ball to go to the basket, and as a result, we ran out of possessions and they capitalized."

The Wildcats (14-6, 5-2) earned their third SEC road win of the season, their second victory in a row overall.

The Rebels (17-3, 6-1) saw their nine-game winning streak end while losing a conference game for the first time. They fell to 11-1 at home this season.

Henderson, who leads the SEC in scoring, was a non-factor down the stretch for the Rebels. He scored 21 points but went 5-for-19 from the floor. LaDarius White led Ole Miss with 22 points, and Jarvis Summers and Murphy Holloway added 10 points apiece. Summers also finished 5-for-19 from the floor.

Kentucky shot 50 percent (28-for-56) from the floor, while Ole Miss made just 32.9 percent of its shots (28-for-85).

While Noel keyed the Wildcats' defense, Kyle Wiltjer was the spark plug on offense, scoring a career-high 26 points. Wiltjer and Archie Goodwin (24 points) made key plays in a second-half run that turned the game around.

The Wildcats erased 38-37 halftime deficit by outscoring the Rebels 36-18 the first 10 minutes of the second half. Kentucky led 73-56 with 10:16 to go when Goodwin scored on a put-back.

"We were being unselfish, and most importantly, we were getting some stops there in transition," Wiltjer said. "They were trying to press a little bit, and we were able to get some easy baskets at the start of the second half. This win was big for us. I'm proud of the guys for stepping up. This is a huge step in the right direction."

The Rebels didn't go down without a fight, however, as they climbed back within 73-72 with 4:25 left on a 3-pointer from White. Kentucky finished the game strong, though, outscoring the Rebels 14-2 the rest of the way.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said he's seen his team play well for one half but not follow through and play a complete game.

"We've played 25 minutes against Auburn, 20 minutes against Alabama, but then this team made a run," Calipari said. "I told them that when they make that run, you can't settle for jumpers. You got to go get fouled and you've got to make a play for your teammate. We played slower today than we have all year, which is what we wanted to do.

"We were trying to grind it out a little bit. ... I was pleased with Ryan (Harrow's) point guard play. I thought Archie took good shots. Nerlens did his thing, and Alex (Poythress) made shots. We're getting better as a team."

Poythress scored 15 points, while Harrow had 13.

NOTES: This was the first time since 2001 the Rebels entered a matchup with Kentucky when the Wildcats were unranked. That year, the No. 21 Rebels beat the Wildcats 65-55 at home. ... Holloway, a senior forward, became the school's all-time leading rebounder by grabbing eight rebounds in the contest. He finished the night with 950 career boards. Walter Actwood's old mark was 945.
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