Ole Miss Rebels 64 at Kentucky Wildcats 80: Willie Cauley-Stein Victory Thread

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky got a terrific win over Mississippi tonight despite some first-half difficulty. Willie Cauley-Stein returned from his slump for a double-double.

As you can tell by the title of the thread, this is not on a celebration of a comfortable victory, but also a big celebration to welcome back Willie Cauley-Stein from the debilitating slump he has been mired in for most of this year. Welcome back, Willie, we really missed you.

I think Ole Miss has to be pleased with the first half, where they went toe to toe with us and honestly could have been ahead at the half. Ole Miss has talent, although Kentucky's size really bothered them, particularly in the back court. I was frankly shocked at how well Kentucky was able to control the explosive Marshall Henderson, but make no mistake, he was absolutely the focus of the Kentucky defense, and it's tough for anyone to constantly fight through that much attention.

Box score

Some quick observations:

  • What can you say about Willie? Attaboy, Willie.

  • Kentucky really raised their defensive level in the second half. It was remarkable, and you have to wonder what it takes to get more consistency.

  • Transition defense was much improved. I know that warms the cockles of your heart as much as it does mine.

  • This game had a completely different feel in the second half. The first half, it felt like Ole Miss was Kentucky's equal, or nearly so. In the second, it felt like they were South Carolina or something. Credit the much better intensity in the second half starting out.

  • Question for thought: How good is Alex Poythress? He was darn good in this game.

  • Saw the zone a few times. Not many, but a few. It was good for one possession, but not so great on the rest.

  • Julius Randle had himself a nice second half.

  • As bad as UK shot from the line in the first half, they completely reversed it in the second. Even WCS made free throws, and thus we know that it is freezing rain not only in Kentucky, but in Hell as well.

  • This team is getting better. This is a good time to see progress. It's kind of slower than we'd all hope, but it's more or less steady.

I'll have the full postmortem later, but I really want to say how much it pleases me not to worry about the outcome of a game with three minutes left. It's about time the Wildcats had a comfortable win, and I'd like to see more of them. And just maybe we will, because although we go back on the road Saturday, it's against two of the league's weakest teams in Mississippi St. and Auburn. UK could go on a nice run here.

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