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Adding context to Noel's record performance

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Nerlens Noel set a UK single-game record with 12 blocks in a win over No. 16 Ole Miss on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Nerlens Noel set a UK single-game record with 12 blocks in a win over No. 16 Ole Miss on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Before Tuesday night, Kentucky had played more than 2,700 games in school history. But never in the program's rich history had a player ever registered double-digit blocks in a single outing.

Nerlens Noel put a memorable end to that in an 87-74 win over No. 16 Ole Miss.

Noel obliterated the previous record of nine shared by Andre Riddick and Sam Bowie with 12 blocks, five of which came with four fouls and after the Rebels had cut a 17-point Wildcat lead to one with a little more than four minutes left. Even though he missed his lone field-goal attempt and scored just two points, the Cats likely would not have come close to pulling off their biggest win of the season without Noel.

The performance immediately goes down in UK lore, but exactly how special was it? Let's take a look.

Noel in NCAA, SEC record books

Alabama A&M's Mickell Gladness holds the all-time NCAA record for blocks in a single game with 16, accomplishing the feat on Feb. 24, 2007 against Texas Southern. There have been 17 other instances of Division I players blocking 13 or more shots since the statistic became official in 1985-86, but doing it in a major conference game is especially rare. Noel's 12 blocks tie him for the fourth most ever by a player from a BCS conference school against a BCS conference opponent.

14 - Roy Rogers - Alabama (vs. Georgia on Feb. 10, 1996)
14 - Loren Woods - Arizona (vs. Oregon on Feb. 3, 2000)
13 - Kyle Davis - Auburn (vs. Miami on March 14, 2001)

Among NCAA freshmen, there have been only four better shot-blocking performances:

14 - Shawn Bradley - BYU (vs. Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 7, 1990)
13 - Keith Closs - Central Connecticut State (vs. St. Francis (Penn.) on Dec. 21, 1994)
13 - Kyle Davis - Auburn (vs. Miami on March 14, 2001)
13 - Hassan Whiteside - Marshall (vs. UCF on Feb. 27, 2010)

Noel's 12 blocks also tie for the third most ever by a Southeastern Conference player and the second most in a league game behind Rogers.

With his career outing, Noel now has 46 blocks over his last six games and an NCAA-leading 95 on the season. Noel leads the SEC in blocks by 41 over second-place Reginald Buckner of Ole Miss.

Impact on the game


If it's possible, Noel's 12 blocks don't do justice to just how meaningful his presence was.

After he briefly went to the bench with his fourth foul, Ole Miss immediately scored back-to-back baskets. He then returned, but the Rebels continued to attack the interior of the Kentucky defense with Noel fearful of picking up his fifth. Ole Miss scored 10 of its points in the paint during a game-changing 16-0 run, but Noel eventually shook off concern over his fouls. He blocked five shots during UK's game-ending 14-2 run, including a dunk and three layups.

With Noel anchoring the defense, UK held Ole Miss to a season-low 32.9 percent from the field. The Rebels made just 28-of-85 shots, meaning Noel's blocks accounted for 21.1 percent of the opponent's misses with his blocks. That of course doesn't even take into account Noel's intimidation factor.

Moving to something that can be more objectively measured, Noel blocked nine layups, a dunk and two jumpers. He kept nine of his 12 blocks in play and UK gained possession on seven of those. The Cats then scored nine points directly off of Noel blocks, all within nine seconds of his rejection.

That's impressive, but Noel's game-ending stretch merits special attention. After UK's lead was cut to 73-72 with 4:27 remaining, the Rebels had eight possessions. The Cats made seven stops on those possessions, with Noel blocking a shot on five of them. On four of those five blocks, UK recovered the ball, which resulted in six of UK's points during its 14-2 run.

On the season, Noel has kept 79 of his 95 (83.2 percent) blocks in play. UK has gained possession 52 (54.7 percent) times and scored 58 points on those opportunities.

Making the obligatory Davis comparison  

Some recruiting analysts billed Noel as a better shot blocker than Anthony Davis. That seemed unthinkable for a long while, but it's starting to make sense now.

Noel has 95 blocks through 20 games. Through 20 games of his record-setting 2011-12, Davis had 93. Noel is currently averaging 4.75 blocks per game, ahead of the 4.65 Davis averaged last year. Davis, however, played in 40 games, the most he could possibly play, and it will be difficult for Noel to reach that point because UK would have to make the SEC Tournament championship game and the national title game.

Regardless, Noel has already flown past Riddick and Melvin Turpin for the second-most blocks in single-season UK history. They previously shared that mark at 83 blocks.

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