By LARRY VAUGHT
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.