It was another classic test on the road. One of those games that asks you what you’re made of and then steps back and waits for your answer. It usually always is whenever you go to the Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, MS.
Mississippi State had lost three in a row, but you never would have known it last night as they put together one their best games of the year against Kentucky. The threes were raining in. When talented but inconsistent big man Renardo Sidney started the scoring with a three ball of his own, you knew it would be one of those nights.
It was the polar opposite of the Vanderbilt game. This time Kentucky was punched in the mouth, repeatedly, looked tentative and on their heels on both ends of the court and watched helplessly as their opponent did whatever they wanted to do en route to building a 13 point halftime lead.
Down 41-28 ,and staring their largest halftime deficit of the season in the face, everyone knew the Cats had some runs in them. The question is if those runs would be enough. In the blink of an eye, an 11-2 spurt has the lead sliced to four at 43-39. But the Bulldogs refused to go quietly. They continued to make big plays. Jalen Steele would be mysteriously left wide open, a la Steve Kerr back in the 90′s and he made UK pay. Kentucky would continue to make runs and Mississippi State would continue to thwart them and cling to the lead.
Finally with four minutes left in the game, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s put back gave UK a 63-62 lead on their way to a 73-64 win. He was back to his old MKG self last night with 18 and 10 boards. Darius Miller was huge as well, scoring all 12 of his points in the second half as he made 3 threes. Might as well say four since he went to the line and sank 3 free throws after being fouled while shooting a three. The Cats were balanced again as five players reached double figures. Marquis Teague just missed out, he had 8 despite battling foul trouble.
Darius is still the key to me. I’ve said it before, if he plays with a fraction of MKG’s aggressiveness on a consisntent basis, look out. He still passes on shots he shouldn’t think twice about taking. But when he asserts himself you get poster dunks like we saw Saturday. Ask Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner. If you haven’t seen it YouTube
it. Buckner is probably still having flashbacks himself.
Up next for UK, Vandy (19-8, 8-4 SEC) at home on Saturday. If you think Mississippi State was dangerous from deep, the Cats better not relax at all with John Jenkins and company coming to town.
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