Cardiac Cats storm back in final minutes, beat Bulldogs in overtime


UK men’s basketball beats Mississippi State University 81-75 in overtime at the Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Down seven with three minutes to play, John Wall and the Cats willed themselves back to life in front of a crowd of 10,788 on the road at Mississippi State (18-8, 6-5 Southeastern Conference), winning 81-75 in overtime.

Water bottles fell to the floor from the disgruntled fans that packed Humphrey Coliseum, and the UK men’s basketball team (25-1, 10-1 Southeastern Conference) left unscathed.

“Oh, it did (have the intensity of an NCAA Tournament game),” UK head coach John Calipari said. “And their fans were terrific. The stuff at the end is just unfortunate. And let me say this, that was probably 15 people in the whole building, out of 12,000, that were idiots.”

UK (25-1, 10-1 SEC) was led by a balanced scoring attack of three players with 18 or more points, and three double-doubles from Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson, to close out the Bulldogs.

With the game tied at 20, Wall took a pull-up jumper from 15 feet away and on the next possession hit a spinning fade away jumper while getting fouled. The ensuing free throw pushed the UK lead to five at 25-20. The Cats stretched the lead to seven at 29-22, but the Bulldogs closed the half on a 7-3 run to make the score 32-29 at the break.

While the Cats absolutely throttled Mississippi State on the boards in the first half to the tune of 28-11, their 34.3 percent shooting from the field, including 1-for-12 from beyond the arc, allowed the Bulldogs to stay within three points.

Timely 3-point shooting from senior guard Barry Stewart kept Mississippi State in the game and with three minutes left the Bulldogs held a 67-60 lead.

Sophomore guard DeAndre Liggins performed the first of numerous timely plays for the Cats on the ensuing possession, draining a 3-pointer with 2:42 to go to bring the Cats within four. Patterson and Cousins provided key defensive stops, combining for two blocks, a drawn charge and a steal. A Bledsoe layup and Patterson 15-foot jumper finished the UK comeback and sent the game to overtime.

In overtime, UK scored 10 of its 14 points from the charity stripe, and played tight defense, allowing only five points for the Bulldogs. Counting the final three minutes of regulation, Mississippi State scored just five points in the final eight minutes of the game.

“Every game we play we grow up a little bit,” Cousins said. “We’re maturing as a team and as individuals. So, we came in and we knew what we had to do.”