OXFORD, Miss. (AP) _ The exuberant Mississippi fans didn't rush the floor after Ole Miss beat Kentucky. Times sure have changed. From 1925-96, Ole Miss defeated Kentucky less than half as many times as the United States inaugurated a president.
On Saturday, the No. 21 Rebels beat Kentucky for the third time in the last five seasons, 65-55 behind the clutch shooting of Jason Harrison. Harrison scored 16 points, including two big 3-pointers during a decisive second-half run.
Beating the most storied program in the Southeastern Conference wasn't as important to the Rebels as snapping a two-game losing streak that had put a damper on the school's best start in decades. ``It didn't matter who was up in here,'' said Rahim Lockhart, who had 12 points and nine rebounds. ``We needed a win.''
The past three meetings had been just like old times with Kentucky winning all three, and the Wildcats hold a 4-3 lead in recent meetings. That's still a drastic swing considering Ole Miss (15-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) has only 11 victories in 97 games against the Wildcats (10-6, 3-1).
It was the first time in the 76-year history of the series that Ole Miss was ranked higher than Kentucky coming into the game, so the win couldn't be called an upset. But with the Wildcats on a seven-game winning streak and Ole Miss struggling, it could safely be called the Rebels' biggest win of the season. ``It's a win,'' Harrison said when asked the significance of toppling the Wildcats. ``We need to try to get to 20 wins so we can get back to the (NCAA) tournament and try to win the (SEC) West on the way.''
Mississippi missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years last season, and was picked to finish near the bottom of the Western Division this season. Coach Rod Barnes said leading up to the game, ``We didn't talk about Kentucky. We just talked about getting back to doing what we do well.'' Marquis Estill came off the bench to lead the Wildcats with 13 points, and Tayshaun Prince had 11. Keith Bogans, Kentucky's leading scorer, was held to 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range. ``We didn't make shots the whole game due to the intensity of their defense,'' said Wildcats coach Tubby Smith, whose team shot 38.5 percent from the floor.
Coming off a big win against No. 4 Tennessee at home Tuesday, the Wildcats suffered their most-lopsided loss of the season. ``I don't feel like we matched their intensity,'' Bogans said. ``We let their crowd get in the game. ``Their backs were against the wall after losing two in a row. I think we were a little relaxed. You can't do that in this league.''