OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Kentucky’s Julius Randle started his big night with a few dunks, then made a boatload of free throws and capped it off with a difficult finish in the lane to seal the victory.
The 6-foot-9 freshman is turning into the consistent force the Wildcats hoped he would be. That could make them tough to beat as March approaches.
Randle scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season as No. 18 Kentucky beat Mississippi 84-70 on Tuesday night.
“We know we can do this,” Randle said. “We can do this every game. It’s about chemistry and having fun out there and today it showed.”
Aaron Harrison added 17 points and four assists for the Wildcats.
Kentucky (20-6, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) dominated throughout most of the game, going on a 15-0 run midway through the first half to take a 25-11 lead that proved insurmountable.
Kentucky was active in the paint and had several alley-oop dunks, jumping over the Rebels’ overmatched defense. The Wildcats had seven dunks in the first half alone.
It was an emphatic victory just days after one of Kentucky’s most disappointing setbacks this season — a 69-59 loss to Florida on Saturday at Rupp Arena.
“In the last eight years or so, after a loss, our teams have bounced back to win by an average of 17 points,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I challenged them to see how they would respond and they responded.”
Ole Miss (16-10, 7-6) lost its third straight game and has almost completely fallen out of the picture for an at-large NCAA tournament berth. The Rebels had a bad shooting night and were steamrolled on the boards.
Jarvis Summers led Ole Miss with 22 points and Anthony Perez added 21.
Kentucky had already beaten Ole Miss once this season, 80-64 on Feb. 4 at Rupp Arena. The Rebels kept that game fairly close until the end, but the Wildcats made sure this one was in hand quickly.
Randle had a double-double before halftime, with 10 points and 10 rebounds as the Wildcats built a 42-25 lead. Kentucky shot 58.6 percent from the field in the first half, finishing on several high-percentage looks inside and shooting 6 of 13 from 3-point range.
Kentucky had a big lead for most of the second half until a late Ole Miss rally. The Rebels cut it to 76-70 with 1:48 remaining after Perez banked in a 3-pointer, but on Kentucky’s next possession Randle drove the lane and made a short jumper in traffic to stop the surge.
“Today says a lot about us,” Harrison said. “We knew this was going to be a big game and we knew Ole Miss would take a lot of 3-pointers. We knew they’d make shots, but we won, we won by double digits, no big deal.”
The Rebels simply couldn’t contain Kentucky’s big men — especially Randle. He had an efficient night, going 6 of 7 from the field and 13 of 14 at the free throw line. It was his third straight double-double.
Randle had made less than 65 percent of his free throws the past five games, but didn’t have any problems on Tuesday.
“You’ve got to get bad thoughts out of your mind and concentrate,” he said. “We wanted to get to the free throw line because we were making them.”
Randle was dominant, but the rest of the Wildcats were good, too. James Young scored 16 points and Andrew Harrison added 10.
Marshall Henderson scored 18 for Ole Miss, but shot just 5 of 17 from the field, including 5 for 14 from 3-point range. The Rebels made only 38.7 percent from the floor (24 of 62).
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was particularly exasperated with his team’s poor inside shooting. The team’s three starting forwards — LaDarius White, Dwight Coleby and Aaron Jones — combined to score seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.
“We made the right read,” Kennedy said. “Then we have to make the play.”
Kentucky had a 39-23 advantage on the boards, shot 52.1 percent (25 of 48) from the field and 90 percent (27 of 30) on free throws.