STARKVILLE, Miss., - A record crowd of 10,788 fans watched Mississippi State take Kentucky down to the wire and into overtime.
But the upset of the second-ranked Wildcats simply was not meant to be. MSU could not overcome the loss of their leading two scorers for most of the game and fell 81-75 in the overtime period.
The Bulldogs leading scorer Ravern Johnson was suspended before the contest by head coach Rick Stansbury for an 'attitude detrimental to the basketball team' and was without the services of big man Jarvis Varnado for only five minutes of the second half before fouling out.
Despite those difficulties, Stansbury was pleased with the way his squad stood up to the challenge set forth by the Wildcats.
"I couldn't be more proud of what our guys just accomplished even though they lost the basketball game," Stansbury said. "We are all hurt and are all disappointed but at the same time I'm very proud of them. As a coach and as a player, all you can ask is that you leave everything you have between the lines and we did that.
"We overcame so many obstacles. When you look back I did without Jarvis Varnado the whole second half and we all know the difference he would have made. Ravern Johnson didn't play because of a coaches' decision - attitude detrimental to the basketball team. Even with that basically without your two leading scorers, our guys fought."
The Bulldogs held their largest lead of the night with three minutes remaining only to watch Kentucky claw back with seven straight points to end regulation to tie the game 67-67 and force the second consecutive overtime game for State.
The Wildcats quickly took the lead in the overtime frame and although Mississippi State was able to tie things up twice, we unable to take the lead and fell to 6-5 in the SEC and 18-8 overall.
"(Mississippi State) should have won the game," said Kentucky head coach John Calipari. "We kind of reached out and grabbed one and I don't know how we did it, but we did. (Stansbury) gave his team every chance to win this game. This is an NCAA tournament team."
Kentucky overcame a horrid first half shooting effort to finish the game at 42.4-percent. The Wildcats were led with a trio of double-double efforts from DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and John Wall. Cousins finished the night with 19 points and 14 rebounds while Patterson added 19 points and 10 boards and Wall chipped in 18 points and 10 rebounds.
"Coach told us that we were not losing this game," Wall said. "We also knew this was not going to be easy because they were making shots but we were able to come up with big stops and tough shots. The whole team stepped up and played defense and we were able to take it into overtime."
Kentucky shot just 1-of-12 from behind the arc in the first half but was still able to take a slim 32-29 lead into the locker room at intermission. The Bulldogs battled back to lead for most of the second half before the late Kentucky barrage to close out regulation.
The Wildcats outscored MSU 14-8 in the overtime frame.
"In those last five minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime, there were no subs left," Stansbury said. "We had absolutely nothing left in the tank. We were playing some guys way extended minutes at the four and the five. Romero Osby was at the four and hadn't played it all year and Kodi Augustus was extended at the five. We just couldn't execute well enough to complete some plays down that stretch."
The Bulldogs shot 38.6-percent on the evening including draining 10 shots from the outside but were outrebounded 52-35 in the contest.
Dee Bost led all scorers with 22 points while having only two turnovers in 43 minutes on the floor running the point.
"The most important thing was I tried to help us come out with the win," Bost said. "That's something we didn't do but we've just got to keep getting better."
Augustus added 17 points for State while Barry Stewart chipped in 16 points including three treys leaving him one shy of tying the school's career record.
Varnado finished his night with 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes before fouling out with 5:08 remaining. Varnado had only one foul at the break but picked up three in less than three minutes of the second half.
"I can't say what I really think so I will be politically correct the best I can, Jarvis has to be more disciplined right there and not pick up four and five," Stansbury said. "Four and five for him were nicky-pick fouls, both of them. The fifth one was in front of our basket and just reached in. With all that pushing and shoving going on and we are 98-feet from the basket going the other way, boy that's a tough one to foul your best player out on."
The loss snapped an 11-game home winning streak for the Bulldogs this season and also a string of three previous victories over Kentucky. Mississippi State will now have to regroup for a road test at LSU Saturday at 3 p.m. on the SEC Network.
"We played the number two team in the country and played them down to the wire," Stewart said. "I think as long as we stick together we'll be alright. We can't let this get us down. We've got to go on the road and get one."