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Calipari wants even more from PJ Washington, but Ben Howland thought he did plenty for Cats

PJ Washington had 23 points Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)


Mississippi State had a dominating 19-2 run against Kentucky in the second half of Saturday’s game in Starkville — and still couldn’t beat Kentucky as the Cats won 71-67 for their 10th straight win.

“That’s a disappointing loss where we cut it to one with eight minutes and some change left in the game. Credit Kentucky. They’re a very good team and very tough,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said after the game.

“I thought that late in the game (Tyler])Herro made the one (3-point) shot at the (shot clock) buzzer in front of their bench was a huge shot because it was a four-point game. We had a chance to get a stop on that. That was a really good defensive possession for us. (PJ) Washington was very hard for us to handle.”

Washington had 23 points — his fifth game in the last six with 20 or more points — on 9-for-13 shooting, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range, despite being limited to just 24 minutes of play because of foul trouble before he fouled out. Yet coach John Calipari was not happy at all with his play, mainly because he only had three rebounds. He also had one block and one assist.

“He (PJ) didn’t play bad. I think he’s the best player in the country but not like he played today,” Calipari said. “He didn’t go get rebounds, he didn’t get loose balls, missed one-footers, missed every free throw. Come on, if you’re the best, play that way. Come out with great energy and a motor. It’s not about made shots, it’s about how you play.

“My point is, you have to conquer yourself. Before you worry about conquering someone else, you have to conquer your own mind and again, obviously, PJ is not quite there yet because he reverted. And him reverting, he ends up with 23 points, but he only gets three rebounds and he fouls out. I’m telling you, he’s better than that.”

Howland was thrilled Mississippi State held Kentucky to just 31 points the second half after UK built a 40-24 halftime lead. But he knew “digging a hole” was a big problem.

“If you go into halftime with 20 minutes left in the game, down 15 against a really good team – maybe the hottest team in the country is Kentucky right now – that puts a very low (win) probability,” Howland said.

Very low, indeed, even with a 19-2 run.


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  1. A game is the full 40 minutes with all the ebbs and flows that can occur within that span of time. UK had its times in the last 12 minutes of the first half, and MSU in the first 10 minutes of the second half. The game went into the last 4 minute segment before deciding the winner, just as it probably should given the venue and the quality of both teams.

  2. A win is all that really counts. Another win on the road too I might add.

  3. This team couldn’t find a way to win in the losses to Alabama and Seaton Hall. But boy has this team has change since then. There getting the job done with more grit in therr game and thats all it takes. I was critical of CAL early in the season but now I think he’s doing the best job of his UK 10 yrs tenure. Looking forward to this week’s games. Go Cats!!

  4. Understand what Cal is saying re PJ not being as consistent as he can be, but I think Cal has got to stay on Nick as far as Nick failing to conquer himself and EJ to slightly lesser extent. At least when EJ comes in he tries to give good effort but still falls short offensively. Nick takes 1 step forward and then will take 5 steps back. You would think most of Nick’s teammates would want to stay in his face on this and maybe they do. No one played all that well yesterday except PJ and that has to be concerning at this point in the season. There are going to be ebbs and flows by both teams during the game but a 19-2 run by the opponent shouldn’t be happening. I think Travis has been under performing for many recent games and don’t think he scored a point in the 2nd half. I may be wrong, but I think in 3 of our last 4 victories we have not won both halves of the ball games and have to be able to reverse that. This week should go a long way in showing exactly where we are at. We have played outstanding defense as of late and are doing what we need to do with toughness to pull out the wins.

  5. This week we find out just how tough and good we are.

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