Kentucky holds off Mississippi State with buzzer-beater

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, February 28, 2024

STARKVILLE (AP) — Reed Sheppard made a runner from just inside the foul line with less than a second left  and finished with a career-high 32 points, giving No. 16 Kentucky a wild 91-89 victory over Mississippi State on Tuesday night.

Mississippi State’s Josh Hubbard tied it at 89 with 11 seconds remaining by hitting his seventh 3-pointer of the game. Hubbard finished with career bests of seven 3s and 34 points.

Kentucky led 85-78 with 49 seconds to play before Hubbard drained a 3. After Sheppard hit two free throws, Mississippi State’s Cameron Matthews converted a three-point play that cut it to 87-84. The Bulldogs closed within a point after Tolu Smith sank two free throws, before two more by Sheppard with 17 seconds left set up the frantic finish.

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Antonio Reeves scored 21 points for Kentucky (20-8, 10-5 Southeastern Conference). Adou Thiero added 11 points and D.J. Wagner had 10. Kentucky has won 19 straight regular-season meetings with Mississippi State, including four overtime victories.

“He plays to win,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of Sheppard. “He’s not playing not to lose. And we had to make some 3s to stay in the game. So we were running stuff to make some 3s in the first half to stay in the game. They went zone (in the second half), but we still ran stuff to get off some looks on 3s.”

Kentucky shot 55 percent from the floor and made 10 of 30 tries from 3-point range. The Wildcats shot 15-for-17 at the free throw line and committed 10 turnovers.

Mississippi State shot 52 field overall from the field and 11-of-25 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Bulldogs were 12-for-17 at the free throw line and had 15 turnovers. They also outrebounded Kentucky 34-27.

Smith had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs (19-9, 8-7). Shakeel Moore added 10 points.

“Once we hit a couple of shots to open the second half and got the lead to 13, they subbed pretty quick with those two freshmen (Sheppard and Rob Dillingham),” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. “They are two of the most dynamic guards in the nation and they got their pace up. They played with more pace, offensively, and were more determined.

“They got good looks out front, and on ball screens we were not as aggressive for whatever reason. But got to give them a lot of credit. They made a heck of a play and (Sheppard) is like another coach out there. We had the game where we wanted and they flipped the script on us.”