An outstanding first half performance gave Kentucky enough cushion to hang onto a victory in Starkville. Mississippi State cut into UK’s 15-point first half lead before falling 71-67.
The Cats were crisp in the first half. Ten of UK’s 15 field goals came off assists. On defense they shut out Quinndary Weatherspoon and didn’t allow the Bulldogs to make one three-pointer.
Kentucky’s second half was a lot sloppier. UK led 49-31 at the 16:34 mark in the second half. Over the next seven minutes Miss. State went on a 17-2 run to cut Kentucky’s lead to three. The Bulldogs were fueled by a trio of Quinndary Weatherspoon three-pointers, UK turnovers and a stagnant halfcourt offense.
Before the Bulldogs could retake the lead, Keldon Johnson entered attack mode. He had six points in a short spurt to push the UK lead back to ten, comfortable enough to keep State at bay while P.J. Washington and Reid Travis were sidelined with four fouls. Even though he struggled with foul trouble, Washington led all Wildcats in scoring with 23 points. Johnson was not far behind with 13 points.
Lamar Peters cut the UK lead the four at the under-four media timeout. Tyler Herro responded with a STFU shot as time expired on the shot clock. The next time down the court, Peters hit another three. Washington followed it with a tough bucket in the middle of the lane. On the next possession, P.J. fouled out, giving Quinndary an And One that cut the lead to three. After a botched UK possession, Miss. State had a chance to tie it, but Johnson shut down Weatherspoon.
Kentucky’s tenth-straight win didn’t come easy. The hard fought battle on the road will pay dividends in March.