On a warm Wednesday night in Starkville, Mississippi, the Mississippi State Bulldogs played host to John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats. With Mississippi State and Kentucky fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid, Wednesday night at the Hump had a lot riding on it. Many painted the matchup as an elimination game for the NCAA Tournament, with the loser likely needing a miracle in the SEC Tournament to reach the Tournament.
It was about as physical as it comes in the first half, with Kentucky and Mississippi State fighting on every possession for the slightest advantage. It was a defensive struggle in the first half as Kentucky held on to a 36-35 lead at the break over Mississippi State. Helping Kentucky was the rebounding advantage the Wildcats held over the Bulldogs by a margin of 18-9. Kentucky turned that over to eight second-chance points compared to the five from Mississippi State. In the scoring category, Kentucky had Jacob Toppin and Antonio Reeves with 11 and Oscar Tshiebwe with eight. For Mississippi State, it was Tolu Smith with 11 and Shakeel Moore with 8.
Following halftime, Kentucky came out and silenced the crowd at the Hump and secured a massive win. Kentucky opened the second half on an 18-2 run pushing the Wildcats out in front of Mississippi State. Mississippi State had a run in them, but it wasn’t enough, as Kentucky played an unbelievable half to earn a season saver win in Starkville.
Kentucky wanted the win more as the Wildcats played their asses off and hustled on every possession earning the 50/50 balls crucial to winning in the Southeastern Conference.
The difference maker of the night for Kentucky was on the glass, where the Wildcats outrebounded Mississippi State 38-22. Elsewhere around the box score for the Wildcats, it was the Oscar Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin show as the two combined for 34 points.
In the postgame press conference, Coach Calipari talked about refusing to lose. Wednesday night was a completely different Kentucky Basketball team than the one we watched on Saturday against Georgia. Calipari also mentioned the bench and the swagger they brought to the Wildcats tonight. Without Wheeler, and CJ, odds were stacked against the Wildcats; but Kentucky refused to lose and is now heading back to Lexington with Tennessee coming to town on Saturday afternoon.