Huertas triggers Mississippi’s upset of Kentucky

Published 1:10 am Wednesday, January 28, 2009

With his showdown with Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks fizzling, Mississippi’s David Huertas got fired up.

Huertas scored 19 of his 21 points in the final 20 minutes and the injury-depleted Rebels rallied to upset No. 24 Kentucky on Tuesday, snapping the Wildcats’ five-game winning streak a day after they entered the Top 25 for the first time this season.

“At halftime coach was hollering at us like he was crazy,” Ole Miss guard Terrico White said. “David got mad.”

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Huertas also got the better of Meeks, who struggled as he has few times this season. Neither Meeks nor Huertas — the Southeastern Conference’s Nos. 1 and 3 scorers — managed a field goal in the first half. But Huertas hit a 3-pointer with 11 seconds gone in the second half and the Rebels (11-9, 2-4 SEC) managed to overcome 24 points from Patrick Patterson for a rare win over the Wildcats (16-5, 5-1).

The win snapped Ole Miss’ three-game losing streak and its nine-game slide to Kentucky, which had won 11 of 12 overall coming into the game. It was the 12th win for the Rebels in 107 games against the Wildcats.

The Rebels, without three of their best players due to season-ending knee injuries, managed one of their best defensive games of the season.

The Wildcats were fourth in the nation with a shooting percentage of 50.2 percent per game, but struggled against Ole Miss’ mix of the 2-3 zone with man-to-man defense and shot 34.3 percent (25-of-65). It was an especially difficult night for Meeks, the nation’s No. 3 scorer coming in with 26.1 points per game.

The Rebels held him without a field goal for the first 28:04 and he finished 4-for-15 from the floor with 21 points. He had eight in the first half, all on free throws, after scoring in double figures in the first 20 minutes of nine of the Wildcats’ last 10 games and 14 of 20.

“Now we feel we can build on this win and get on a run,” Huertas said.

Terrico White also scored 21, Malcolm White added a career-high 20 and Zach Graham had 11 for the Rebels.

Huertas quickly got open on the left wing on the opening possession of the second half and buried a 3. That spurred Ole Miss to a 16-4 run to open the half that featured four 3-pointers. Graham’s second 3 of the run put the Rebels up 53-43 and Kentucky never crept closer than three points after Meeks hit his first two field goals of the game to make it 58-55 with 11:18 left.

Malcolm White scored five points and Huertas hit another 3 during a quick 8-2 run to put the game out of reach.

“We just played horrible defense,” Patterson said. “We weren’t tough at all.”

Ole Miss hit 10 of 26 3s in the game and outrebounded Kentucky 45-40. The Wildcats were just 7-of-28 from the 3-point line. Early it appeared that Patterson would get the best of Malcolm White and the Rebels’ interior defense, but the Wildcats went outside in the second half, forgetting about their big man.

“We took 28 3s and I don’t think we’ve taken that many since I’ve been here,” second-year Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said.

Terrico White had an especially big game for the Rebels. The freshman finished a point shy of his career high, set one with seven assists and had five rebounds in 37 minutes despite being a game-time decision due to a bruised knee. He missed the second half of Saturday’s loss at South Carolina and was questionable until Tuesday’s shootaround.

The knee bothered him, but that didn’t stop him from dunking over Patterson and Perry Stevenson, both 6-foot-9.

“He came to the shootaround and I asked him if he could run,” coach Andy Kennedy said. “He said, ‘Yes.’ I asked him if he could jump. He said, ‘Yes.’ I told him, ‘You’re starting.’ He was phenomenal.”