The No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team (16-4, 6-2 SEC) defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs (13-6, 4-3 SEC) 82-74 Tuesday in overtime; granting Kentucky head coach John Calipari his 800th win.
The notorious blue and white stayed on top during the first half of play. At the end of 20 minutes, the Wildcats led 37-24. Kentucky held onto its double-digit lead early, however, Mississippi State turned up the heat. The Southeastern Conference opponent quickly challenged the No. 12 team, applying pressure.
Forward Oscar Tshiebwe finished the night with 21 points and 22 rebounds to aid Kentucky in its win. The six-foot-nine junior joined Blake Griffin and Tim Duncan for the most career 20-rebound games by a major conference player since 1996-97 with five.
At the end of regulation, the SEC opponents sat knotted at 72. And the Wildcats claws came out. Guard Kellan Grady secured back-to-back 3-pointers to silence the Bulldogs and ultimately secure the win.
Calipari said the 800th win means he’s coached a lot of good players.
“When families entrust you with their sons — you’re blessed,” he said.
The Bulldogs fought until the last second, but it wasn’t enough to stop the hungry home team. Guard Iverson Molinar led Mississippi State in points with a career-high of 30 throughout his 36 minutes of playing time. Molinar scored 22 of those points in the second half.
The Bulldogs overcame a 16-point deficit to put the home team in a corner and force overtime. But the excitement ceased to last long as Mississippi State claimed only two points in the extra period, while the Wildcats boasted an 8-0 run. The all-out effort wasn’t enough as the Bulldogs handed Kentucky its eighth straight win over them at Rupp Arena.
Visiting team head coach Ben Howland said it was a hard-fought game.
“I was really proud of our team: the way we fought our way back,” Howland said.
Kentucky steps out of conference play to tackle the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse Saturday. Similarly, Mississippi State encounters a nonconference opponent in the Texas Tech Red Raiders Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.