Kellan Grady goes ups for a shot in Kentucky’s win over Mississippi State Tuesday night at Rupp Arena (Dr. Michael Huang Photo)
LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky was without its second-leading scorer but one of its most experienced players provided the heroics against Mississippi State Tuesday night.
Kellan Grady scored eight points in overtime to lead the Wildcats to an 82-74 triumph over the Bulldogs, giving Kentucky coach John Calipari his 800th career victory at both the collegiate and professional level.
The 12th-ranked Wildcats (16-4, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) were without second-leading scorer TyTy Washington who suffered an ankle injury in Kentucky’s 80-71 loss to top-ranked Auburn last Saturday.
Calipari praised his team’s ability to scrape out a close encounter going into Saturday’s showdown at No. 5 Kansas in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
“It was a game I thought would be like this,” the Kentucky coach said. “We struggled to get some baskets when we needed to, TyTy being out probably affected that, but they were good. … We needed this game. I told the guys afterward, we needed a game like this, where we had a chance to end it (in regulation). … We’re going to Kansas and they’ve been in a couple of close games. We had to be in this kind of game to understand how we finish it off.”
Grady agreed with Calipari and added the Wildcats were resilient in overtime after faltering down the stretch in the second half that enabled the Bulldogs to rally and force overtime.
“I wish we hadn’t blown that lead,” he said. “I think this game was good for us, it shows that we can execute and win a game down the stretch. There is a lot we can take away (from this game). … The last 10 minutes of that game was atrocious — not good and I think the overtime was a reset. … it was a good win for us.”
Grady missed a 3-pointer at the end of regulation that pushed the contest into overtime, but he more than made up for the missed shot in the extra period. Grady scored eight straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers that helped the hosts fend off the feisty Bulldogs.
Grady sank four 3-pointers overall and scored 18 points. He was one of four Kentucky players who finished in double figures.
Oscar Tshiebwe led the Wildcats with 21 points and 22 rebounds. He grabbed two crucial offensive rebounds on a pair of missed free throws in overtime.
Sahvir Wheeler made a pair of free throws in overtime and added 15 points, while Keion Brooks chipped in with 12 points.
The Bulldogs (13-6, 4-3) rallied from a 16-point deficit in the second half and used a big performance from Iverson Molinar, who led all scorers with 30 points. Molinar sparked Mississippi State’s comeback attempt with 22 points in the final half.
Dontaie Allen provided a boost for the Wildcats in the first half and finished with five points. Allen connected on a 3-pointer and slammed home a dunk in his first significant outing since November.
Gametracker: Kentucky at Kansas, 6 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.