NASHVILLE, Tn. (LEX 18) — Kentucky basketball's season has come to an end, following a heartbreaking 74-73 loss to Mississippi State in the second round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. The Cats finish the season with a 9-16 overall record, 8-10 in conference play.
Kentucky struggled to get into a rhythm offensively in the first half. At the first timeout, the Cats were shooting 1-6 from the floor after Davion Mintz got the Cats on the board with a three-pointer from the wing.
Terrence Clarke brought a spark off the bench when he checked in with 13:11 remaining in the first half. He quickly got on the box score with an assist to Dontaie Allen for Kentucky's second three-pointer of the game. The game marked Clarke's first appearance on the court since UK's loss to Louisville on December 26 due to an ankle injury suffered in late December.
Kentucky was getting out-manned around the basket for most of the first half. Mississippi State was leading the rebounding battle 29-15 at halftime, and 36 of the Bulldogs' 44 points came from inside the paint. Three of Kentucky's big men had already picked up two fouls in the first half - Isaiah Jackson, Olivier Sarr and Lance Ware. Sarr and Jackson only played eight minutes apiece in the first half, while Ware played 11.
Mississippi State led 44-30 at the break.
Allen got the second half started on a high note for the Cats when he sunk a jumper right out of the break, followed by another jumper from Sarr. Mintz drained his third three-pointer of the game to cut Mississippi State's lead to 51-39, but the Cats were struggling on the defensive end, as well. Both teams started the half 4-5 from the field.
The small (but mostly-blue) crowd inside Bridgestone Arena made some noise when Allen sank two consecutive three-pointers to force a Mississippi State timeout and bring the Cats within seven points with 14:22 remaining in the game.
Jackson picked up his third foul at the 12:15 mark and his fourth with 10:30 left on the game clock. He subbed out with 9:21 remaining, and he did not rejoin the action until there were only 2:00 left in the game. He fouled out with seven seconds left in the game.
But Dontaie Allen would not let the Cats out of the game. He continued to find the open shots and hit them from deep, connecting with another one with 8:49 left in the game to once again cut the lead... This time, to just two points. Mississippi State led 62-60. A pair of Keion Brooks free throws tied the game up. The score read 62 all with just over seven minutes remaining.
Another Allen three gave Kentucky its first lead of the game, 65-64. Sarr continued the momentum with a three-point play thanks to a beautiful jumper and a foul call. The Cats continued to roll, but the Bulldogs would not give up that easily. A pair of MSU free throws gave the Bulldogs a 74-73 lead with 7.1 seconds remaining. The Cats had a chance for the final bucket, but Allen did not connect. Kentucky falls 74-73 in Nashville.
Allen finished the game as Kentucky's leading scorer, adding 23 points on 8-15 shooting and 6-13 three-pointers.