- Tuesday, February 14 1995 -
Mississippi State - 76 (Head Coach: Richard Williams) - [Ranked 23rd by AP]
Kentucky - 71 (Head Coach: Rick Pitino) - [Ranked 4th by AP]
Halftime Score: Mississippi State 38, Kentucky 37
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Game Writeup - Courtesy of Dr. Jeffrey Neil Burch; Dr. J's UK Newsletter, Vol. 4 No. 32. (All Rights Reserved)
St Valentine's Day Massacre:
Kentucky finally faced a good team in the midst of its offensive doldrums, and was finally made to pay the price as the Mississippi State Bulldogs won for the 1st time in Rupp Arena, beating the Wildcats 76-71. This was their 1st win in Lexington since 1967 (by the eerily similar score of 77-72, in OT), and only their 3rd win in Lexington all-time. Coach Pitino was suffering from laryngitis and was presumably not as vocal as he usually is. UK had been ranked 4th, MSU 23rd, before this game.
The Dogs started with a Grant 3 which was answered by a McCarty 10 footer, but MSU went up 7-2 on a long Fuller 2 and a Dampier dunk. The Cats closed to 7-5 after a long Delk 3, but State moved ahead 11-7 on a Bullard drive and another Dampier dunk (UK could not really stop Dampier effectively when he got the ball down low). The Cats narrowed the margin to 16-14 on a Rhodes 3, only to see MSU pull out to 21-14 on a wide open Wilson 3 and a Dampier bank shot. Despite Pitino's orders not to double-team the MSU post players, Kentucky players repeatedly tried to do this and they were burned from 3 point range as MSU hit exceptionally well, ending the game with a 55.0% 3 point percentage (vs. Kentucky's 26.5%).
UK closed to 21-19, but State pulled out again 24-19. The Cats came to within 28-26 on a Delk 3, and actually tied the game 28-28 on a Pope putback of a Rhodes miss, but the Dogs never permitted much of a sustained rally. UK led briefly at 32-31, 35-34, and 37-36 in the 1st half, but MSU hit well from 3 point range (Wilson had several) and an Honore 14 footer allowed MSU to lead at the break by 38-37. The Bulldogs had not lost a game all season when leading at the half, and they were shooting 54% from the floor and 60% from 3 point range at intermission (UK hit on only 39% from the floor and 31% from the 3 point line). MSU had won 22 straight games when shooting 50% or better from the floor.
UK took a brief lead to start the 2nd half, going up 39-38 on a Rhodes putback of a Sheppard miss, but MSU regained momentum on a Ballard 3, and they soon led 45-41. The Dogs went up by as much as 52-44 after Honore blew past a tepid defense for a layup. A 9 point lead was established by MSU at 57-48 on a Grant 3. Pope hit a 3 to make it 57-54, at which point MSU was shooting a red-hot 70% from the floor to Kentucky's 30%. UK forced a large number of MSU turnovers, but themselves either threw the ball away or took poor shots. Epps and Rhodes in particular lost the ball in heavy traffic when overpenetrating or attempting flashy but unnecessary lob-dunk passes which missed.
MSU led 66-60 after Grant completed an old-fashioned 3 point play. UK never got closer than 3 (at 71-68 and 74-71) in the game's final minutes, despite chances given on turnovers or missed FTs, and their shot selection in trying to catch up was not very good. Pope hit a 3 to make it 74-71 with around 19 seconds left, but Bullard hit his FTs when fouled to provide the final margin of 76-71. Sheppard and McCarty all missed 3 point shots in the last seconds. Thus MSU has become only the second SEC team to win at Rupp Arena during the Pitino era. Only 5 Bulldogs scored, and the Cats attempted only 6 FTs, during the contest.