LEXINGTON, Ky. (Ole Miss Athletics) The Ole Miss men's basketball team saw its winning streak come to an end as a back-and-forth contest ended in favor of No. 12 Kentucky. With seven lead changes over the final five minutes, the Wildcats (20-5, 10-2 SEC) made free throws down the stretch to hand the Rebels (13-12, 4-8 SEC) a heartbreaking 67-62 loss.
Ole Miss played well defensively. Kentucky entered the game as the SEC's best three-point shooting team in conference play (37.5 percent), and the Rebels limited the Wildcats to just 2 of 22 (9.1 percent) from beyond the arc. The Rebels tallied nine steals led by three from Devontae Shuler.
Breein Tyree scored a game-high 19 points to pace Ole Miss, while sophomores KJ Buffen and Blake Hinson tallied 13 apiece. Hinson scored all 13 of his points in the second half. Shuler added 11 of his own.
Kentucky was led by Immanuel Quickley, who tallied 17 points. Nick Richard added 16 points, while Tyrese Maxey got some tough shots to go late and finished with 14 points.
The game got off to a sluggish start. Ole Miss couldn't connect on its first seven shots, while Kentucky started 1 of 8. Five minutes into the contest, Antavion Collum put the Rebels on the board with an offensive putback. Shuler added five points on two of the next three trips down the floor, keeping Ole Miss within striking distance.
Ole Miss ramped up the defense, forcing the Wildcats to turn the ball over and also miss contested three-pointers. A drive down the lane by Tyree gave the Rebels their first lead of the ballgame, 17-16 at the 5:14 mark of the first half, but Kentucky quickly grabbed the advantage back with a Quickley bucket. Ole Miss answered as Buffen drilled a baseline jumper. A Tyree three increased the lead to four, 22-18, forcing Kentucky head coach John Calipari to call timeout with 3:50 left in the half.
Tyree nailed another three, giving him 10 first half points, to put the Rebels up five. The Wildcats countered with their first three of the game after missing their first 12, but Ole Miss headed into the locker room with the lead, 27-25. Having a 10-1 advantage in points off turnovers, behind seven steals, helped the Rebels grab the lead after the first 20 minutes.
Kentucky came out for the second half and tied the game with an Ashton Hagans jumper. The Rebels quickly got back the lead after Buffen converted down low and drew the foul, completing the old-fashioned three-point play. Following a stop on the defensive end, a Tyree three doubled the Rebels' lead six, 35-29.
A 7-0 run flipped the game into the Wildcats' favor, 38-37, but Hinson countered with an offensive putback to push the Rebels back in front. Sy added one of his own before Hinson's three from the top of the key was nothing but net. The sophomore was fouled on the shot and finished off the four-point play. The 8-0 run made it 45-38 Rebels with 11:39 remaining.
The half of runs continued as Kentucky scored seven straight points to knot things up at 47-47. Ole Miss battle back to regain control before the Wildcats put together four consecutive points to take a one-point lead. With less than five minutes to go, both teams traded multiple buckets to flip the lead back and forth.
The one-point advantage flipped seven times before Kentucky held onto it. Richards nailed two free throws to put the Wildcats up 63-62 with 1:11 to go. The Rebels did not answer on the other end over the final three possessions, which included missing a pair of front-end one-and-one free throws. On the other side of the floor, Kentucky was perfect from the line down the stretch to escape with the five-point win.
The Rebels remain on the road Tuesday (Feb. 18), beginning a home-and-home series with Missouri in Columbia. It will be the second of three road games over a two-week stretch (four games). Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network.