February 17, 2010 8:37:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The University of Kentucky men''s basketball team found a way to close at the end.
It should be expected from the No. 2 team in the country, but the Wildcats had to grind for it.
The nip-tuck match saw Kentucky mow down a seven-point hole to force overtime, where it clinched the foul-ridden match -- 45 in all -- 81-75.
In front of a record crowd of 10,788 at Humphrey Coliseum, Mississippi State popped tags with black and maroon uniforms and in a pulsating game was on the brink of pulling an NCAA tournament-worthy upset.
All those stars, all the notoriety, all the hype -- it was going to take a thorough performance to take down the Wildcats.
For majority of the game, though, the Bulldogs were right there.
MSU trailed 32-29 deficit at halftime and never fell behind by more than six points. Point guard Dee Bost matched UK counterpart John Wall and finished with a game-high 22 points.
Wall went 6 of 16 from the floor and had 18 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists, while teammates DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson each went for 19 points.
Despite MSU coach Rick Stansbury bucking the current trend of teams running zone defense against the Wildcats and opting to man up, Kentucky (25-1, 10-1 Southeastern Conference) closed the game and escaped an upset loss on national television.
MSU (18-8, 6-5) had its chances to lock up the win after going up 67-60 with three minutes left in regulation, but it went cold the rest of the half and watched UK finish regulation on a 7-0 run before locking it up in overtime.
"We kind of reached out and grabbed one," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "I told them (UK players) ''This is going to be a great comeback for television.''"
Stansbury lamented the effects of star center Jarvis Varnado fouling out and Ravern Johnson being relegated to a game-long spot on the team''s bench due to "attitude detrimental to the team." However, the coach took pride in the gritty obstacles the Bulldogs overcame to be in a position to win the game.
Also, the bench he''d pleaded with for more production and quality minutes turned in 61 minutes.
But most of that was through Phil Turner and Riley Benock, and things got tougher when Varnado became a non-factor.
The start of the second half had all the makings of an MSU meltdown when Varnado picked up three personal fouls just two minutes in.
With four fouls, MSU''s defensive anchor was forced to endure a long spell on the bench. He fouled out with five minutes remaining.
"I just couldn''t stay on the floor. (Kentucky) did a good job taking me out of the game," Varnado said. "They were so quick and my fourth foul was kind of suspect. He said I held him, but I don''t know."
Varnado''s exit with 5 minutes, 8 seconds left in regulation came after the Wooden All-America candidate converted a hard-earned and-one play and cleaned up a miss to give MSU a 61-58 lead.
UK was already hammering MSU on the glass, and Varnado''s exit magnified the gap even greater. The Wildcats finished with a plus-17 rebounding margin.
Cousins was glad to see Varnado go after the Bulldogs ran pick-and-rolls at the Wildcats instead of settling for the deep ball.
"(Varnado) is an incredible player. He makes things happen for them, and when he was out of the game, it made things a lot easier," Cousins said.
With Johnson banished to the bench and Varnado held to 23 minutes, the Bulldogs rallied around their backcourt and league-leading defense to take a 42-38 lead and force Calipari to call a timeout early in the second half.
At that point, the Wildcats were shooting 35.1 percent from the floor and found their star big man Cousins in foul trouble after the freshman picked up his third personal seconds after Varnado went to the bench with his fourth.
The Wildcats didn''t falter, however, as they built a 54-51 lead when Cousins re-entered and followed a pair of shots.
Leading 67-60 with three minutes left, the Bulldogs came up empty on four consecutive trips, while Kentucky scored on three of four, including Patrick Patterson''s 15-foot jumper to tie the game at 67.
Stansbury knew his team was starting to wear down.
"We did it without Jarvis and Ravern Johnson, our two leading scorers. We had plenty of opportunities, though," Stansbury said. "We were up 67-60 with three minutes to go and had four empty possessions. Coming down the stretch in the last five minutes of regulation and the five minutes of overtime we just didn''t have the subs. We played Kodi (Augustus) and Romero (Osby) extended in situations they hadn''t been in."
Barry Stewart had the Bulldogs'' final shot in regulation, but his 3-pointer fell short of the rim.
Stansbury said the play was a pick and roll with Osby, who was supposed to receive the ball on a hard cut to the basket.
Augustus went 4 of 7 from behind the arc and finished with 17 points, while Stewart ended with 16 and five steals.
The Bulldogs return to the court Saturday at LSU, while Kentucky travels to Vanderbilt for a Top-25 matchup.
n NOTES: Stansbury said Johnson could return to the lineup Saturday if "he does everything we are asking of him." MSU sports information director Gregg Ellis said before the game that Cousins will be asked to provide the phone numbers from the harassing phone calls and text messages he received this week from MSU fans. If any of the numbers belong to MSU students, they will be referred to the dean of students.
tigers81 commented at 2/17/2010 10:14:00 AM:
They call Kentucky people "rednecks"??? What about idiotic fans whot throw crap on the floor? That is redneck. Keep up the good work state. You deserve a big fat fine from the SEC and NCAA for your awesome actions!!! I am ashamed to be a bulldog today.
Tucky commented at 2/17/2010 10:28:00 AM:
What an embarrassment Mississippi State fans are! They certainly showed their lack of class and sportsmanship last night...which is a real shame after the Bulldogs played their hearts out. Did you all like Cousins when he made the gesture of answering a phone? Good one Cuz!!! And...one of the Miss. State players wouldn't shake Cousin's hand after the game...really?...GROW UP....because you may one day be his teammate in the NBA...that is IF you get that far!!!
catfan commented at 2/17/2010 10:53:00 AM:
Great job State...lets see in the week prior to the game some of yall leave messages for and text racial slurs and the like to an 18 year old kid? Then you throw water bottles on the floor, actually striking on of your OWN cheerleaders and then some bench riding State player won't shake Big Cuz's hand??? Yall should rename the Hump to the House that No Class Built....yall enjoy the NIT this year....
TLWiz commented at 2/17/2010 12:36:00 PM:
Great effort from the MSU basketball team, but it was marred by the fans lack of class. The Dawgs deserve better fans.
TLWiz commented at 2/17/2010 12:39:00 PM:
It is pretty amazing how the Mississippi press (unlike every national news outlet) doesn't even mention the crowd throwing crap at the players and officials. Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away.
YRS commented at 2/17/2010 1:15:00 PM:
You have a record sell-out crowd that came and supported the team mixed with a few disrespectful fools and now ALL state fans are considered bad??? Come on poeople! It was obviously NOT the last impression MSU fans wanted to leave with the wildcats and an apology is due, but over all MSU fans seem to do a fine job! Don't allow a few idots to take the focus away from a great game played and coached by both teams!!!
Zach commented at 2/17/2010 1:51:00 PM:
MSU fans should be ashamed. We at UK have had our share of bad losses in the no-so-distant past, but one thing we understand is that there is never an excuse for throwing things at players. One of y'alls message boards even went so far to say that "throwing things on the floor happens like every other game"??? Really?! Maybe at The Hump...or is that The Dump? One of the ESPN writers said that he'd never heard such bad language in 18 years. Y'all are nothing but a bunch of rednecks that want to pick a fight with an 18 year old who OWNED you. In the words of Ron Burgandy: You stay classy, Starkville.
Fred commented at 2/17/2010 2:38:00 PM:
Not all MSU fans ate punk redneck kids, just like not all Kentucky fans have fingers that outnumber their teeth.
State and Kentucky played a great game, but it sucks some stupid redneck freshmen had to cast a shadow over it.
Rebecca Ballard commented at 2/17/2010 3:47:00 PM:
I, being a die hard KY fan, LOVE a game that is down to the minute- its so Intense! WE all know that MSU is more of an intense rivalry than UK vs U of L. I have to tell MSU fans that you should have known you were gonna lose- for the fact that BIG D was harrassed the way he was. Come on! The only reason that was done was to try and piss him off so bad that he would foul himself out on the court- removing a HUGE obstacle for an MSU victory. Moral of the story- "What comes around- goes around" Also, you guys looked so good on the court- now all people remember is what bad losers you are.
Matthew commented at 2/17/2010 7:30:00 PM:
I attended the game last night, and it was a outright awesome game. The officials were as bad as they come in the game!!!!!!!! but of course the UK fans will disagree and what's new??? 10 fouls on MSU the last 3 minutes and ZERO ON UK????????? something just is not right wouldn't you say? and not all MSU fans are rednecks for your information Zach. Maybe you all should be counting down the days till PROBATION KID. Great game state and we will see the KITTENS in the sec tournament which where we will have our players back. Its alright the officials contributed to the loss.
Ranchdawg commented at 2/18/2010 8:28:00 AM:
All you need to know about this game: 8 fouls called on MSU the last 3 minutes of regulation and during the over time. 0 called on UK over the same period of time. Great comeback refs!
Tucky commented at 2/18/2010 8:41:00 AM:
Matthew.... you must be feeling more like a poodle than a bulldog?!?!
UKFan commented at 2/18/2010 4:39:00 PM:
First of all I am directing my comments to those who acted so poorly in their behavoir tuesday night and to those who pranked called DeMarcus. What I do not understand is why MSU fans were so racist against DeMarcus. Do you not realize that not only are you offending him but also some of your own players who are black as well as the entire black population in the world. (including our US president.) As for as the calls go the refs missed several MSU travel calls. So there were bad calls and misses on both teams. I do agree on the goal tending against Wall that what missed but, a single call does not decide the game. Regardless of how the game was called, we all need to remember it still just a game. Good luck to MSU in there future games. Hope they make it to the NCAA Tourny. Best of luck to all of the other SEC teams. Go Kats!!
Stormy commented at 2/19/2010 2:17:00 AM:
Class act guys!!! Now all we need is for those who did the tossing, cussing and prank phone calls, is to stand up and take credit for your work. Are you ashamed of your behavior? Come on, take a stand in what you believe!! Stand up right and say your name. Could it be that you are walking around with your tail tucked between your legs for acting like crude, disrespectful fools? If you are the one, or one of the ones, that did this ... stand up and show yourself!
Mjoelner commented at 2/19/2010 2:45:00 AM:
Hey Zach, put down you blue colored glassed and pick up your banjo and corncob pipe.
"One of the ESPN writers said that he'd never heard such bad language in 18 years." Really? I wonder where he heard it????
The 'writer' and I use that term loosely that you refer to is non other than U-KYjelly homer Pat Forde. He is and always has been nothing other than a hack who started his hatred of Starkville and MSU when we beat you in football in a game we shouldn't have won when he was a writer for a paper in Kentucky years ago. I'm guessing that he lost a lot of money on the game down here that year or that some guy refused Forde's advances at a bar after the game that night. By the way, that HACK WASN'T EVEN AT THE GAME TUESDAY NIGHT!
Stormy commented at 2/20/2010 2:14:00 AM:
Hey Mjoelner, you one of the few, the proud the throwers?