Kentucky staves off Mississippi State for 20th win of the season

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The streak continues for Kentucky.


The fifth-ranked Wildcats (20-3, 9-1 Southeastern Conference) staved off a furious rally by host Mississippi State and held on for a 71-67 win over the Bulldogs Saturday in Starkville.


Kentucky recorded its 10th consecutive victory and completed a regular-season sweep of the Bulldogs. Kentucky defeated Mississippi State 76-55 on Jan. 22 in Lexington. 


Kentucky, which has won five straight road games, led by 18 early in the second half before Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6) went on a 19-2 run and pulled to within 51-50 with seven minutes remaining. The Bulldogs couldn’t get closer as the Wildcats held on down the stretch.


"If you want me to 
"If you want me to tell you everything's all good, it isn't," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "I went right down to each guy. Not mean, screaming or cussing. I wasn't.


"But you're here because you want me to keep it real. Well, this is real."
tell you everything's all good, it isn't," Calipari said. "I went right down to each guy. Not mean, screaming or cussing. I wasn't.


"But you're here because you want me to keep it real. Well, this is real."


PJ Washington paced the Wildcats with 23 points. Washington connected on three 3-pointers before fouling out with 1:18 remaining in the contest.  Washington has scored at least 20 points in five of the past six games.


"I think he's the best player in the country, but not like he played today," Calipari said. "He doesn't go get rebounds, doesn't get loose balls, missed one-footers, missed free throws. What? If you're the best, play that way. Come out with great energy. A motor."


"It's not about making shots. It's the way you play."


Keldon Johnson followed Washington with 13 points and scored eight of those in the second half. Tyler Herro added 12 points and sank a key 3-pointer down the stretch to help stave off the Bulldogs, who made seven 3-pointers of their own in the second half to overcome the double-digit deficit. 


Kentucky has won 13 straight against the Bulldogs. Lamar Peters led Mississippi State with 16 points, followed by Quinndary Weatherspoon followed with 14 points and scored all of those in the second half.


CAL NEARS HALL


Calipari, who turns 60 Sunday, notched his 295th career victory at Kentucky and moved within two games of tying longtime and retired Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall. Hall compiled a 297-100 record in 13 seasons with the Wildcats.


LOOK AHEAD


Kentucky debuted as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament Preview Show Saturday. The overall No. 1 seeds were Duke, Tennessee, Gonzaga, and Virginia. The bracket has the Wildcats in the Midwest Region, where Virginia is the No. 1 seed. Duke is the overall No. 1 seed, followed by Tennessee, Virginia, and Gonzaga.


Michigan (East), North Carolina (South) and Michigan State (West) also are considered No. 2 seeds.


GAMEDAY RETURNS


For the second time this season, ESPN College GameDay will return to the University of Kentucky campus. The event is free to the public and seats will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. and the live show will begin at 11 a.m. Kentucky takes on top-ranked Tennessee at 8 p.m. Saturday at Rupp Arena.


Kentucky compiled a 22-4 record against Tennessee at Memorial Coliseum. The most memorable win came when Dan Issel hit the game-winner in a 60-59 win over the No. 4 Volunteers on Feb. 12, 1968.


Gametracker:
LSU at Kentucky, 7 p.m., Tuesday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.


Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

 

 

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