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Ole Miss drops SEC opener in blowout loss to No. 8 Kentucky

There may not be many left to check off, but the Kentucky basketball team managed to do something for the first time under head coach John Calipari as the No. 8 Wildcats dominated Ole Miss in every fashion during a 99-76 victory Thursday night inside the Pavilion. It was the teams’ first Southeastern Conference game of the year.

“I thought the tone of the game was set, in my opinion, by (Kentucky’s) speed on the open floor,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “They were just running by us in transition early. Then we lost composure. So, was the game too big? That’s a poor indictment on us, I would hope not. But, maybe it was. Maybe we got guys that weren’t just quite ready for it.”

Deandre Burnett scored the first two points of the game, but it was the only lead Ole Miss (9-4, 0-1 SEC) would have the entire game as the Wildcats’ size and speed took over from there.

The Rebels did not help themselves as key players got in foul trouble early. In the first three minutes of play, starting guard Cullen Neal picked up two quick fouls and had to sit. He came back in the game but earned his third foul of the half with 11 minutes left and sat until halftime.

Kentucky (11-2, 1-0) did not need any help as they were able to score points at will, shooting 63 percent from the floor for a 60-39 halftime lead. The 60 points were the most in a half by a Kentucky team under Calipari. The Wildcat’s power duo of Malik Monk and Edrice Adebayo scored 36 points in the first 20 minutes of play, with Monk accounting for 24 of them. Monk finished with a game high 32 points while Isaiah Briscoe recorded a triple-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Adebayo finished with 25 points.

The triple-double was the second of Kentucky’s season as De’Aaron Fox recorded one earlier in the season.

“The first half, that’s as good as we’ve played in a long while,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “Then they came back at us in the second half and I got mad at some of my guys because we got sloppy. What I’m trying to do with my team is we have to have discipline. You saw in the seond half when we didn’t.”

The dominance of Kentucky’s bigs was evident on the stat sheet in many ways, one being the Wildcats outscored Ole Miss 58-38 in the paint. The Rebels’ bench did outscore Kentucky’s 27-12.

Shooting woes were part of the Rebels’ struggles. After Burnett’s opening layup, Ole Miss shot 13-of-40 from the floor and finished the half shooting less than 35 percent. Sebastian Siaz was not a presence inside due to the 7-foot bigs Kentucky had and tried to keep Ole Miss in the game from long range, shooting 3-of-7 from three-point range. Saiz finished the final stages of the game with four fouls and scored a team-high 23 points and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds. Burnett finished with 19 points and Rasheed Brooks added 15.

“Every team has a formula and we didn’t follow our forumla very well,” Kennedy said. “As a result you dig an early hole and have to play desparate. That’s too good of a team to play desparate against.”

Ole Miss now hits the road for their next two games at Florida and Auburn next week. They will return home on Jan. 11 against Georgia.