By: Tyrus York – For the third straight game in a row, the #18/14 Kentucky Wildcats (17-5, 7-2) had to brave the elements of winter weather to play a basketball game. This time, they brought the weather home to Rupp Arena after icy stints in Louisiana and Missouri.
Still riding the momentum of a huge road win at Missouri, Kentucky easily handled Marshall Henderson and the Ole Miss Rebels (15-7, 6-3) 80-64 Tuesday night in Rupp.
Willie Cauley-Stein broke his SEC slump against the Rebels going for a game high 18 points and 11 rebounds to collect the double double. Defensively he blocked 6 shots and grabbed 1 steal to disrupt the Rebel attempts to score in the paint.
WCS had struggled since getting off to a great start this season, and the jury may still be out as to whether or not he can handle a larger presence inside as Ole Miss lacked a strong big man that had given Willie trouble in the past.
Julius Randle had a miserable first half, only attempting 1 field goal and grabbing one rebound. It was so bad that Coach Cal kept him on the bench to start the second half, instead going with Alex Poythress who had another excellent game with 10 points, 7 rebounds, and a Sports Center Top 10 highlight dunk.
Randle would get things going in the second half, finishing with 12 points and 5 rebounds. He would also contribute to Sports Center’s Top 10 with a thunderous coast-to-coast dunk.
Aaron Harrison contributed 16 points and 6 rebounds in a steady performance. His main impact however was defensively as it was his duty to contain the polarizing Marshall Henderson. Henderson finished with 16 points, but that was on 6-18 shooting from the field and 4-12 from three point land.
The player that keeps coming up for the Cats that went unknown the first half of the season is Dakari Johnson. The big man played only 9 minutes against the undersized Rebels, but he is starting to show some moves with the ball in the paint that really show you his potential. He scored 5 points and grabbed 2 rebounds despite the lack of playing time.
The biggest reason Dakari saw less playing time was simply because of WCS’ play. The Harrison’s are turning in more and more consistent performances, leaving it up to the big guys down low. The way I see it, we are a few games away from seeing this team really click.
Hopefully they click just in time for Florida to come to Rupp on February 15 when College GameDay comes to town as well.
The Cats will have to travel to Mississippi State and Auburn first to take care of business on the road before turning their attention to the first place Gators.
They meet Mississippi State Saturday at 1:30 pm eastern time via the SEC Network.