Darius Miller fuels UK comeback win



The No. 1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats finished the game on a 20-4 run to come back from a seven-point deficit in the final six minutes to defeat the Mississippi State Bulldogs 73-64 Tuesday night in Starkville, Miss.

The Bulldogs started off hot, streaking out to a 12-2 lead over the Cats in the first five minutes.

Senior guard Dee Bost led the MSU first half effort, scoring 16 points.  Bost hit 2-of-4 3-pointers in the half and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.

The Bulldogs stretched the lead to 13 at the half (41-28) fueled by 6-for-12 shooting behind the arc.  The 13 points was the largest halftime deficit for the Cats this season.

“I thought for the first 20 minutes, we were about as good as you can be at both ends.  Defensively we controlled the game and offensively we were very precise,” said Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury.

The Cats took over to start the second half, pulling to within four at 43-39 with 16:02 left in the game with a 11-2 run.

The game stayed between a four and seven point lead for MSU for the next nine minutes, until sophomore forward Terrence Jones drove to the basket and scored a layup to pull the Cats to within two at 55-53 with 7:18 remaining.

MSU quickly went on a 5-0 run after a rim-rattling Arnett Moultrie follow-dunk and yet another 3-pointer from Dee Bost.  That put the Bulldogs ahead seven again with a little over six minutes left in the game.

From that moment on, the Cats controlled the game – ending the game with a 20-4 run.

Senior guard Darius Miller started the run by nailed three free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer.

Freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist contributed a jumper, four free throws and one driving layup to the bucket with a Bulldog defender draped all over him.

The drive by Kidd-Gilchrist gave the Cats their very first lead of the game at 63-62 with 4:06 left.  The Cats never trailed again.

Miller also was huge down the stretch, nailing two 3-pointers along with the 3 free throws to start the run.

“I just knew we were all going to have to make plays.  Everyone else was making plays so I had to step up too,” said Miller.  “The guys did a great job of providing opportunities for me.”

Miller was scoreless until hitting his first bucket with 7:51 left in the game.  He finished with 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting behind the arc.

“Darius Miller is the fiber that holds that team together.  He is the key to them and was the total difference in the game tonight,” said Rick Stansbury.  “He stepped up and made plays when he had to make plays for that team.”

Along the way, the Cats locked down the Bulldogs defensively, holding the Bulldogs to 2-for-7 shooting and two turnovers in the final six minutes.

“At the end there it got away from then (Mississippi State).  Darius Miller made some big shots.  We made some free throws,” said UK head coach John Calipari.  “We did some stuff down the stretch – we had a couple of good blocks and defensive stops.”

Bost, who had lit the Cats up for 16 points in the first half, was limited to five points on 1-for-6 shooting in the second half after Calipari assigned Kidd-Gilchrist to cover him.

“I love that challenge. I love playing defense,” said Kidd-Gilchrist. “That is just my game right there.”

The Cats had five players reach double-figures in points and two players hit for double-doubles.  Kidd-Gilchrist scored 18 points and ten rebounds. Freshman forward Anthony Davis had 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Jones and sophomore guard Doron Lamb both added 11 points each.

The No. 1 Cats (27-1, 13-0 SEC) next face the Vanderbilt Commodores (19-8, 8-4 SEC ) at Rupp Arena Saturday at Noon.  Vandy gave UK a strong test in Nashville two weeks ago, with the Cats coming away with a 69-63 win thanks to strong defense down the stretch.