LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Aaron Harrison scored 26 points, including two big free throws with 1:29 remaining in overtime to put Kentucky ahead to stay, and the top-ranked Wildcats withstood three final Mississippi attempts to rally before escaping with an 89-86 victory Tuesday night.
Overwhelming favorites against a Mississippi squad they had beaten 102 times in 115 previous meetings, the Wildcats (14-0, 1-0 SEC) instead survived a back-and-forth battle with the determined Rebels in their Southeastern Conference opener. Especially in OT, as missed free throws down the stretch gave the Rebels chances to either go ahead or tie the game.
Mississippi couldn't take advantage as LaDarius White missed on one possession and the Rebels (9-5, 0-1) lost the ball out of bounds on the next. The Rebels had one last opportunity after Trey Lyles missed two free throws with 15.4 seconds left, but Martavious Newby's 3-pointer bounced high and was grabbed by Willie Cauley-Stein to keep Kentucky unbeaten.
Devin Booker added 13 points, Andrew Harrison 12, including a free throw with 33 seconds left, and Karl-Anthony Towns 11 as the Wildcats survived their toughest test this season.
Stefan Moody scored 25 points and Jarvis Summers 23 for the Rebels, who beat Kentucky 30-26 in the paint and controlled the boards for much of the game before falling short 34-32.
Summers even had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but his 3-point attempt with 4 seconds left bounced high off the rim with the game tied at 77.
Though the Rebels fell short of pulling off a huge upset, they succeeded in giving Kentucky the scare that few expected the Wildcats to face in the SEC.
Unfazed by trailing Kentucky 12-0 and 18-5, Moody helped Mississippi's offense regroup to mount runs of 10-0 and 7-0 to get within 23-22 before eventually taking a 30-26 lead with 7:01 left in the half. The junior guard went 4 of 5 from long range en route to 16 points while White added his only attempt, leading a 50-percent shooting half by Mississippi in leading 38-36 at the break.
Kentucky meanwhile followed a 7-of-9 start by making just 4 of its final 23 to enter intermission shooting 34 percent from the field. Aaron Harrison had 15 points at halftime, but missed his last three long-range shots after making his first three.
Mississippi led several times late before Kentucky battled back thanks to Aaron Harrison, who hit a big 3-pointer with 6:40 left for a 66-63 Kentucky lead. But Summers' 18 points after halftime kept the Rebels in it.---
Mississippi: The Rebels had their two-game winning streak in SEC openers snapped and fell to 28-54 all-time.
Kentucky improved to 64-19 in SEC openers and 5-1 under coach John Calipari.
Mississippi hosts South Carolina on Saturday.
Kentucky visits Texas A&M on Saturday.