STARKVILLE, MS (WLBT) - Facing an 18-point deficit early in the second half, Mississippi State put together a furious comeback effort to battle back to within one point. However, No. 5 Kentucky was able to respond down the stretch and escaped with a 71-67 victory over the Bulldogs at Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (16-7, 4-6 SEC) have been handed back-to-back losses by four points apiece to a pair of ranked opponents. Five of MSU’s six SEC losses have come by five points or less.
Lamar Peters and Quinndary Weatherspoon dialed up 26 of their 30 combined points on the strength of seven treys during the second half. The duo also accounted for five of MSU’s seven steals on the defensive end.
Robert Woodard II equaled a season’s best with nine points coupled with five rebounds and two blocks. Tyson Carter added six points followed by Aric Holman’s three points and three rebounds as Mississippi State scored 18 of the game’s 25 bench points.
Nick Weatherspoon secured nine points and handed out three assists, while Abdul Ado chipped in a solid all-around effort with six points, four rebounds and two blocks.
Reggie Perry, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, was limited to four points and six rebounds after tallying double-doubles in three of his last four appearances.
Kentucky (20-3, 9-1 SEC) extended its winning streak to 10 games since falling in its SEC opener at Alabama and emerged with its 13 straight victory over the Bulldogs dating back to the 2008-09 season. The Wildcats posted a 35-28 rebounding advantage and registered a 34-24 edge in paint points.
FROM THE BENCH WITH COACH HOWLAND
“That's a disappointing loss where we cut it to one with eight minutes and some change left in the game. Credit Kentucky. They're a very good team and very tough. I thought that late in the game [Tyler] Herro made the one shot at the buzzer in front of their bench was a huge shot because it was a four-point game. We had a chance to get a stop on that. That was a really good defensive possession for us. [PJ] Washington was very hard for us to handle.
“I really liked our fight, our effort and the way we fought back in the second half. I thought we really played hard defensively holding them to 31 points in the second half, but we made some adjustments in our ball-screen defense. I thought Robert Woodard [II] really was a huge, again, factor for us in terms of just effort, intensity, toughness. That was big for us today.”
“For us today, it’s not digging a hole in the first half. If you go into halftime with 20 minutes left in the game, down fifteen against a really good team – maybe the hottest team in the country is Kentucky right now – that puts a very low [win] probability. I thought we gave ourselves a great chance there when we were down one with eight minutes to go. I’m proud of our guys. I’m proud of their effort and their defense. We are better offensively when we are playing good defense and creating some offense out of our defensive play as most teams are.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The first 10 minutes of the contest was a back-and-forth affair which featured four ties and five lead changes. The Bulldogs took a 17-15 edge with 10:12 remaining off a Lamar Peters drive and dish to Abdul Ado for a layup.
Kentucky found its groove on both sides of the ball and ripped off 25 of the last 33 points over the last 9:42 of the first half to open up a 40-25 halftime lead. The trio of PJ Washington, Reid Travis and Tyler Herro piled up 25 points and connected on 10 of their 14 shots attempts.
The Wildcats tucked away their largest lead at 49-31 after a Washington trey with 16:34 left.
A Quinndary Weatherspoon three-pointer began a 19-2 flurry for the Maroon and White over the next 7:30 off the clock. Robert Woodard II brought the Bulldogs into single digits at 49-40 as he split defenders and hit an up-and-under layup with 13:46 to go.
The Bulldogs kept coming after back-to-back dunks from Woodard II and Tyson Carter. A pair of Quinndary Weatherspoon free throws made it 51-50 at the 8:41 mark.
On the ensuing possession, Washington bowled over Quinndary Weatherspoon en route to a layup. Kentucky would stretch it back to double digits at 63-53 following two Keldon Johnson free throws with 5:08 remaining.
Mississippi State put together another run of its own. The deficit got down to 65-61 and 68-64 on consecutive three-pointers by Peters. Sandwiched between was an off-balanced, late shot clock trey from Herro.
A traditional three-point play courtesy of Quinndary Weatherspoon cut the margin down to 70-67 with 1:18 left. The Bulldogs got a stop on the defensive end but were forced into a turnover during the last 10 seconds of the game.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 23-of-53 shots from the field (45.4 percent), 7-of-16 shots from three-point range (43.8 percent) and 14-of-18 shots from the foul line (77.8 percent).
The Wildcats countered with a 27-of-57 mark from the field (47.4 percent), 7-of-18 shots from 3-point range (38.9 percent) and 10-of-17 shots from the foul line (58.8 percent).
MSU had seven assists and nine turnovers, while the Wildcats had 13 assists and nine turnovers.
Washington finished with a game-leading 23 points on 9-of-13 from the floor. Johnson and Herro tallied 13 and 12 points, respectively. Reid Travis tacked on eight points and eight rebounds followed by Ashton Hagans’ eight points and nine assists for the Wildcats.
The Bulldogs wrap their three-game homestand and will look for a season split with Alabama on Tuesday. Tip time is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by SEC Network and available online through the WatchESPN platform.