Press Release from Mississippi State Athletics
Mississippi State nearly erased an 18-point second-half deficit but could not close the deal, falling 88-81 to No. 5 Kentucky in a nationally-televised SEC men’s game played Tuesday night at Humphrey Coliseum.
Playing as part of ESPN’s Super Tuesday national television package and a season-best home crowd of 9,768, the Bulldogs put on a show, shooting 54.2 percent from the floor and forcing the Wildcats into 16 turnovers.
However, the Bulldogs could not pull even after as 22-7 run brought them within 69-66 with 7:49 left. The Wildcats scored the game’s next seven points to move back out of danger.
“We did a great job of making a comeback against one of the best teams in the country,” MSU coach Ben Howland said. “Disappointed in how we allowed them to get such a big lead. If we are down 10 and not 18, we have a chance to win the game.
“The crowd was outstanding. I wish we would have had a better start. It was heartfelt the way our fans clapped for the kids when the game ended. They know how much effort is being given. Credit Kentucky. They are great.”
Lamar Peters led the Bulldogs with a career-high 25 points. Quinndary Weatherspoon added 15 points and Mario Kegler added 13 points (most in a conference game). Kegler also had a team-high eight rebounds. Weatherspoon had a career-high four steals.
“We feel like we could have won that game,” Peters said. “It’s frustrating that we didn’t do the things that we needed to do to win. We know Kentucky is one of the best teams in the nation. They do this every night. We feel like we can be one of the best teams in the nation, too. We are going to keep working at that.”
Kentucky built an early 16-6 lead after a 10-0 run. A layup by Peters capped a 6-0 run to bring the Bulldogs within 24-21. The Wildcats would then stretch the lead back to 10 points at 34-24 with 5:23 left in the first half.
Kentucky shot 52.9 percent from the field in the first half and led 46-34 at halftime.
In the second half, the Wildcats quickly stretched the lead to 17 at 55-38 less than four minutes in. The lead was 18 at 62-44 with 12:54 left.
From there, Peters and Weatherspoon combined for a great rally. The Bulldogs pulled within 66-62 on a 3-pointer by Kegler and layup by Wetherspoon. A 3-pointer by Peters followed and the Bulldogs would then trail 69-66 with 7:49 left.
Kentucky pushed the lead to 10 before MSU got it back to five three times down the stretch.
“The foul trouble really hurt us,” Howland said. “We shot 54 percent from the floor and forced 16 turnovers and lost. This was a really good effort.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 32 of 59 shots from the field (54.2 percent), 5 of 17 shots from 3-point range (29.4 percent) and 12 of 22 shots from the foul line (54.5 percent). The Wildcats hit 33 of 65 shots from the field (50.8 percent), 7 of 18 shots from 3-point range (38.9 percent) and 15 of 24 shots from the foul line (62.5 percent).
Kentucky held a 38-32 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 10 assists and 19 turnovers, while the Wildcats had 16 assists and 16 turnovers.
Kentucky placed five players in double figures. De’Aaron Fox had 21 points, while Malik Monk had 14 points, both Wenyen Gabriel and Derek Willis each had 13 points and Isaiah Briscoe had 12 points. Gabriel had a team-high eight rebounds.
MSU hits the road for a Saturday contest at Tennessee. The Bulldogs and Volunteers tip at 5 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.