COLUMBIA, Mo. — The University of Kentucky men's basketball team is now nine games into the SEC schedule, and the Wildcats still have yet to beat a ranked opponent in the 2020-21 season.
The Wildcats' most recent opportunity to defeat a ranked opponent came on Tuesday night on the road against No. 18 Missouri, but the Wildcats never led and fell 75-70.
The loss drops the Wildcats to 5-11 (4-5 SEC) on the year. Missouri improves to 12-3 (5-3 SEC) with the win.
Davion Mintz led the Wildcats with 18 points in the defeat. Brandon Boston and Keion Brooks (10 points each) also broke double figures for UK. Dru Smith led the Tigers with a game-high 26 points.
Missouri, who entered the game 12th in the SEC in 3-point percentage, shot 7-11 from 3-point land in the first half.
Xavier Pinson hit the first of those 3-pointers just 28 seconds into the game. An Olivier Sarr layup and an Isaiah Jackson free throw tied the game at 3 before Jeremiah Tilmon's layup gave Missouri a 5-3 lead, a lead the Tigers would never surrender. Missouri stretched its lead to double digits, 37-27, with 2:01 to play in the first half after a 3-pointer by Mark Smith. A Tilmon free throw and a layup by Dru Smith courtesy of a Wildcat turnover helped give the Tigers a 40-27 lead at halftime.
However, a much different Wildcat team showed up for the second half. Sarr, Mintz and Jackson all hit field goals as part of a 10-1 run to start the second half which cut Missouri's lead to four points, 41-37. After a pair of free throws from Mitchell Smith stretched Missouri's lead back to six, Lance Ware scored inside off an offensive rebound before Boston hit a 3-pointer on a fast break. All of a sudden, the Wildcats trailed by just one point with 14:39 to play.
For roughly the next ten minutes, The Wildcats and Tigers traded blows and Missouri clinged to a 68-65 lead with 4:53 to play. UK then went scoreless over the next 3:03 as Missouri went on a 6-0 run during that time period, stretching their lead to nine points, 74-65. A dunk from Jackson broke the scoreless drought and Mintz drilled a 3-pointer with 1:17 to play to cut the deficit to four points and give the Wildcats a grip of life. However, the Wildcats couldn't capitalize in the final minute and Missouri held for the five-point win.
The Wildcats will have another opportunity to beat a top 25 team on Saturday at 8 p.m. against No. 11 Tennessee. The game will air on ESPN.