The Mississippi State Bulldogs led the No. 1 team in the nation for over 36 minutes, but it was the final 3:36 when the Kentucky depth took over helping the Wildcats escape Starkville with a 73-64 win.
â€¨The Bulldogs (19-9, 6-7) opened the contest on a 12-2 run holding the Wildcats (27-1, 13-0) to 1-of-11 shooting in the first 5:56 of the ballgame. The frenzied crowd provided energy for the Bulldogs as they played a dominate first half of basketball.
â€¨â€śI thought that first 20 minutes we were about as good as you could be at both ends,â€ť said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. â€śDefensively, we controlled the game and offensively, we were very precise and we kept them off the free-throw line.â€ťâ€¨
Dee Bost, the point guard of the Bulldogs, was putting on a clinic in the first half with 16 points and perhaps more impressively added six assists to the mix getting his teammates involved.
â€¨State carried a 41-28 lead into the locker room marking Kentuckyâ€™s largest deficit of the season. â€¨However, the Wildcats remained composed and slowly chipped away at the MSU lead.Â The Bulldogs answered with a bucket or two, but the Wildcats kept cutting into the lead.Â Finally with 4:04 remaining, the Wildcats took their first lead of the evening at 63-62.
â€¨Without Rodney Hood, who suffered an injury to his left knee in the first half, Mississippi State didnâ€™t have the depth to create a substitution pattern or matchup with the UK length. The Wildcats used it to their advantage and simply wore down the Bulldogs.
â€¨â€śIt was a huge blow for us, they werenâ€™t going to cancel the game, but when we lose one of our key guys, Rodney Hood, with our lack of depth it is huge for us, absolutely huge,â€ť said Stansbury.
â€¨Despite Hoodâ€™s absence, the Bulldogs had a chance late in the game when according to Stansbury everything changed.
â€¨â€śThere are always plays you can point to and when you play a team like Kentucky everything gets magnified, but there was a play when we were up seven and we foul them on that 3-point shot,â€ť he said. â€śWe had gotten the rebound on that shot, huge play in the game right there.â€ť
â€¨Defensively, the Wildcats found an answer for Bost, who had a game high 21 points. Kentucky held Bost to just five points and only one assist by allowing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to guard him.
â€¨â€śHe was long and athletic and it kind of bothered me a little bit,â€ť said Bost. â€śWe got the ball where we wanted to, (but) we just didnâ€™t make the same shots we made in the first half.â€ť
At the end of the day, the Bulldogs are disappointed in the loss but Stansbury finds a lot to be proud of in his team.
â€¨â€śI donâ€™t think anybody that witnessed that game wouldnâ€™t say that those guys didnâ€™t play with their heart and their souls and went toe-to-toe under some adverse situations losing one of your guys,â€ť Stansbury said. â€śIâ€™m awfully proud of that.â€ťâ€¨
Mississippi State will be back in action on Saturday when it travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide with a 5 p.m. scheduled opening tip.View more articles in: