- Tuesday, February 16 2010 -
Kentucky - 81 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 2nd by AP and 2nd by ESPN/USA Today]
Mississippi State - 75 (Head Coach: Rick Stansbury) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 32, Mississippi State 29
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Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK disconnects State
STARKVILLE, Miss. - DeMarcus Cousins vowed to keep his infiltrated cell phone number until after Kentucky made its visit to Mississippi State so he could hear what the students who called him would say in the aftermath.
He may not change it at all now.
Kentucky (25-1, 10-1) erased a seven-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation and pulled away in overtime for an 81-75 victory in front of an electric Humphrey Coliseum record crowd of 10,788. Patrick Patterson's 15-foot baseline jumper with 39.3 seconds left in regulation helped UK send the game to extra time and John Wall's old-fashioned three-point play gave the Cats the lead for good with 1:31 remaining in overtime to help seal the deal.
"I told them in the huddle, 'This is going to be a great comeback for television,'" UK coach John Calipari said. "They were saying they weren't going to lose the game. They just refused to lose."
Things looked bleak for the Cats when Dee Bost hit two free throws to cap a 16-4 spurt that gave the Bulldogs (18-8, 6-5) a 67-60 lead with exactly three minutes left, but DeAndre Liggins buried a three-pointer from the right wing to spark the Cats' comeback. Moments later Patterson blocked Romero Osby's drive that led to Eric Bledsoe's runout lay-in, suddenly pulling the Cats within two points with 2:07 left.
Cousins gave UK stops on Mississippi States' next two possessions (drawing a charge on Bost and blocking a Barry Stewart drive) to set up Patterson's jumper from the right baseline.
"Big time. Big time shot," Calipari said of Patterson. "That's what we've been waiting for. We've been begging him to do it."
While Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury had to bite his tongue after the game about the officiating - star forward Jarvis Varnado fouled out in only 23 minutes - he refused to rain on UK's parade, suggesting the Bulldogs' collapse was partly UK's supreme confidence and partly State's own missteps.
"That's why they're Kentucky," Stansbury said. "That's why they find ways to win and why they are 25-1.
"We had plenty of opportunities. It was 67-60 and we have four empty possessions and Kentucky scores on three of four. There were plenty of plays we can look back on. We had our chances against the best basketball team in the country."
UK took control in overtime by getting to the free throw line 16 times - making 10 - to complement Cousins' critical tip-in and Wall's drive into the lane where he hung and drew a foul on Stewart. Wall also made a sensational block on Bost with UK leading 76-72, coming from the weakside to swat away what appeared to be an uncontested drive for Bost.
"We held them to 38 percent for the game and 28 percent from three," Calipari said. "That's pretty good. If we do that we've got a chance to win."
As the record crowd's frustration manifested itself into throwing empty water bottles onto the court in the final seconds, UK's players smiled and celebrated, unsure of how they got out of the Mississippi plains with a victory.
"They should have won the game," Calipari said of Mississippi State. "We just reached out and grabbed the game. I'm not sure how we did it, but we did."
John Wall (#11) kicks into a new gear in front of Mississippi State's Phil Turner
DeMarcus Cousins works against MSU's Jarvis Varnado (#32)
Daniel Orton (#33) blocks the shot of Kodi Augustus (#24)