Kentucky Rolls Ole Miss in SEC Tournament Opener

March 12, 2009

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TAMPA (AP) -- Jodie Meeks scored 25 points and Patrick Patterson had 15 points and 14 rebounds Thursday to help Kentucky stop a four-game losing streak with a 71-58 victory over Mississippi in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

The Wildcats (20-12) advanced to Friday's quarterfinals against No. 20 LSU and kept alive their hopes of extending their streak of consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament to 18.

Mississippi (16-15) was outscored 35-20 in the second half, when Meeks had 15 points and Kentucky shot 54% from the field (14-of-26) and played stifling defense that forced the flustered Rebels into 11 turnovers.

Terrico White led Mississippi with 21 points, but only had six after halftime. David Huertas came off the bench to score 15 after not starting because of a bone bruise in his left foot.

After losing four straight games to close the regular season, Kentucky likely needs to win its 26th conference tournament title this weekend to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991.

Mississippi, which beat the Wildcats 85-80 at home on Jan. 27, has never beaten Kentucky twice in the same season. The Rebels were hoping a win or two in the conference tourney would enhance their chances of receiving a spot in the NIT.

Meeks made 9 of 15 shots and was 6-for-7 from the foul line after struggling against Mississippi in the earlier meeting. Patterson was dominant inside, and the Wildcats also got increased production out of its supporting cast.

Perry Stevenson had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Darius Miller scored 12 off the bench and had two of Kentucky's 10 blocked shots.

Mississippi led 38-36 at the half, however, an inability to take care of the basketball and keep White involved in the offense eventually took its toll. The SEC freshman of the year finished 7-for-13 after making five of his first seven shots and helping the Rebels answer every time Kentucky threatened to take control early.

But beyond Huertas, Mississippi's leading scorer with an 18.2 average, White didn't get a help offensively from the rest of his teammates — none of whom had more than six points.

The Rebels shot 32-percent from the field in the second half (7 of 22) and 43.8-percent (21 of 48) for the game.