STARKVILLE, Miss. - In a game that saw 14 lead changes, No. 12 Mississippi State came up just short in a tough overtime loss to No. 13 Kentucky, 92-86, at Humphrey Coliseum on Sunday.
Both teams were locked in offensively during the game. Mississippi State (6-2, 1-1 SEC) finished with 54 points in the paint and shot an impressive 69 percent in the field in the second half after shooting just 35 percent in the first 20 minutes of the game. Kentucky (9-1, 2-0 SEC) had the hot hand from beyond the arc, knocking down 14 3-pointers at a 50-percent clip.
In the second half, reigning SEC Player of the Year Rhyne Howard went off for the Wildcats, scoring 25 of her 33 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. State had no answer for the junior, who also finished with 10 rebounds and six assists in 37 minutes of action.
Rickea Jackson had a solid performance with 23 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. The sophomore forward posted 10 points in the third quarter to help MSU pull ahead after facing a six-point deficit. Aliyah Matharu had a big game with 19 points and four assists off the bench.
“First of all, it was really good to play this type of game with a top-15 matchup,” said head coach Nikki McCray-Penson. “I’m disappointed with the outcome. I thought the first three quarters that we weren’t playing any defense. There were moments in the fourth quarter where we had a group out there that were locked in to defense. We have to defend. This was not a very good defensive effort for us. I thought offensively that we did some good things, but we could have gotten more from an offensive standpoint as far as getting in the paint because we knew we had the advantage. The other thing for our team is that we have to grow up. If we don’t, we’ll have games like this. Down the stretch, we talked about being together and doing our own thing. I thought we did our own thing and were not together against a team that is more veteran than us. We are not a veteran team. Everything is still new to us. We have to combat that. We did our own thing, and it cost us. We’ll regroup, watch film and break it down. There’s a lot of positives that we can take away from this game, but there are still some things that we have to continue to grow and get better.”
Jessika Carter recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds. She converted a huge and-one with 27 seconds left in regulation that sent the game to overtime. JaMya Mingo-Young rounded out the double-digit scorers for Mississippi State, tallying 12 points, six rebounds and two steals. Myah Taylor finished with nine points and three assists, while Xaria Wiggins added seven points in her season debut.
The first quarter saw five lead changes as the two teams battled back and forth. State was aggressive on the glass early, grabbing five offensive boards and earning six second-chance points. Jackson had seven points in the frame to help MSU take a 17-16 lead.
The Wildcat offense was hot in the second stanza, knocking down six of their eight shots during a stretch and using a 9-0 run to pull ahead in the game. Mississippi State stayed within striking distance with the help of three 3-pointers, including a long ball from Matharu with 1:36 remaining that made it a one-possession game at the break with Kentucky leading 36-34.
MSU scored 18 points in the paint and hit four threes to fuel the offense. On the other end of the floor, Kentucky found success from deep, knocking down seven 3-pointers. The Wildcats also excelled at making the extra pass to get a clean shot, assisting on nine of their 12 baskets. Jackson and Mingo-Young paced State in the half with nine points each.
After going down by six halfway through the third quarter, the Bulldogs caught fire on offense, rattling off a 10-0 run to pull ahead. Jackson had 10 points to fuel the offense, and Matharu chipped in seven points of her own. State shot a blazing 85 percent (11-of-13) from the floor in the frame to take a 59-57 lead into the final frame.
The battle ramped up in the fourth quarter with both teams shooting 50 percent or better for the period. An impressive showing by Howard, who had 15 points in the stanza, fueled Kentucky’s offense. With the contest going back-and-forth, Carter converted an and-one to tie the game with 27 seconds left after a 9-0 run by the Wildcats. Then on the ensuing possession, the Bulldogs forced a five-seconds call on the in-bounds play to get the ball back for the final shot. State drove to the basket with less than five seconds on the clock but was unable to convert, sending the game to overtime.
Howard had 10 points in overtime and came up with a huge offensive rebound on a missed free throw that led to an and-one for the Wildcats and gave Kentucky a three-point lead with 1:20 remaining. State quickly responded with a layup from Taylor, but UK knocked down five free throws in the final minute to seal the game.