- Tuesday, February 29 2000 -
Kentucky - 73 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 22nd by AP]
|J. P. Blevins||13||1||3||1||3||0||0||0||2||2||0||3||1||0||0||3|
Mississippi State - 61 (Head Coach: Rick Stansbury) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 34, Mississippi State 29
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Arkansas 60 - 55|||||Florida 85 - 70|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Jeff Drummond; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
UK tops State 73-61
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- As much negative attention as Kentucky's shooting has received this season, just think how the Wildcats' opponents are feeling.
Mississippi State became the 17th team to shoot less than 40 percent against Kentucky, hitting only 24 of 66 attempts (36 percent) Tuesday in a 73-61 loss to the No. 22 Wildcats at Humphrey Coliseum.
"I thought we came focused and ready to play," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "We had a very intense defensive effort tonight."
The Bulldogs, praised earlier this week by Smith for their fundamentals and execution, seldom got an open look at the basket. And for the fifth straight game, the Cats gave the opponent's leading scorer a difficult night at the office. Junior forward Tang Hamilton --- like Arkansas' Joe Johnson, Tennessee's Vincent Yarbrough, Georgia's D.A. Layne and Alabama's Schea Cotton before him --- never got untracked. Hamilton finished with only 11 ponts on 3-for-11 shooting.
"The reason we're coming out successful is our defense," UK sophomore forward Tayshaun Prince said. "We know that's what's winning games for us."
"With our shooting, we have to play great defense, and thankfully we do," Smith said. "I thought tonight we really challenged shots and limited touches for Hamilton and Todd Myles. We made them work to get their shots up."
Kentucky also showed improved offensive play, hitting 46 percent (27 of 59) from the field and 14 of 17 at the line. Senior center Jamaal Magloire scored 16 points and just missed his fourth consecutive double-double by pulling down nine rebounds. With his fifth point of the game --- a free throw at the 7:09 mark of the first half, he became the 47th member of the school's 1,000-point club, an amazing feat considering his status as a role player and defensive stopper for most of the first three years.
"We set the tone early by going inside, and Jamaal delivered for us. He just missed a double-double tonight, but I thought we had excellent balance," Smith said. "Tayshaun really came ready to play. It was just a great team effort all the way around."
Prince also scored 16 in addition to pulling down six boards and blocking two shots for the Cats. Keith Bogans and Desmond Allison added 13 and 12, respectively, while Saul Smith played a strong floor game with five points, seven rebounds and six assists from his point guard slot.
The combined effort helped Kentucky (21-8 overall, 11-4 Southeastern Conference) remain in a position to claim a share of the league's overall and Eastern Division championships. The Cats are a half-game ahead of Tennessee and a half-game behind Florida with the regular season finale coming Saturday at Rupp Arena against the Gators.
"That's the type of challenge our players live for," Smith said, "and the type of challenge, as coaches, we get excited about. It'll be something to fight for, for sure."
"We'll be fired up," Prince said. "I hope it's the same way for them as when we had to go down there."
First, however, the Cats had to take care of business at State.
Kentucky scored the game's first five points and raced to a 29-19 advantage late in the first half. But just when it seemed the Cats would run away with the game, State responded with a 10-0 run under the 2:09 mark. A 3-pointer by Michael Gholar started sparked the Bulldogs, followed by a steal and runout basket by guard Derrick Zimmerman, a goaltending hoop for Antonio Jackson and a three-point play by Hamilton.
But the Cats answered with five straight points in the final 41 seconds to regain the momentum. An Allison 3-pointer from the left corner and a Magloire basket at the buzzer --- set up by an out-of-bounds play called in a late timeout --- gave UK a 34-29 advantage at the half.
Kentucky essentially put the game away with a 16-8 run to open the second half. The Cats hit eight of their first 11 shots, including a series of three different post moves by Magloire and 3-pointers from Allison and reserve guard J.P. Blevins to make it 50-37 at the 12:50 mark.
"This is a hard place to play on the road," Prince said. "Their fans got on us when they made their runs, but we stayed focused and came through. We got the momentum back in the second half and got back on track."
The Bulldogs got no closer than seven the rest of the way. Kentucky sealed the victory by hitting 10 straight free throws.
Mississippi State (13-15, 4-11 SEC) got 12 points from both Jackson and Gholar. Zimmerman added nine for the Bulldogs.
Tayshaun Prince (#21) grabs a rebound in front of MSU's Michael Gholar