Now that was pretty exciting, wasn't it? Kentucky snatches victory from the yawning maw of defeat. Priceless.
Outstanding effort by the Mississippi St. Bulldogs. They just would not go away, and the Kentucky Wildcats absolutely could not put the basketball into the basket from point-blank range, let alone from the perimeter. I cannot recall the last time I watched a basketball team miss that many layups, and Jarvis Varnado certainly deserves credit for affecting a good number of them. But in this game, UK could not even make wide-open looks, let alone challenged shots. It was a loathsome offensive performance by Kentucky, and the Bulldogs did almost everything necessary to make us pay the price.
But almost is not enough in basketball, and with spectacular heroics from freshman phenoms DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall, the Wildcats pull out a game in the most unlikely fashion. First, it was a deliberately missed free throw by Eric Bledsoe that bounced perfectly to Kentucky, got Wall a wide-open 14-footer which he left woefully short, but which Cousins tracked down and stuck back in just as time expired.
Then, in overtime, Wall made a spectacular, "Hail Mary" three from the left corner as the shot clock ran out. Combined with a Cousins free throw a few seconds later that hit the perfect spot between the backboard and rim that killed it dead as a stone and let it trickle in, these two unlikely shots provided the decisive margin in a hotly contested game that could not have been any closer.
More after the jump.
I must admit, I am still in a bit of shock. Kentucky was surely as bad as they have been all year on offense, but their defense was outstanding. Credit Mississippi State with making not only the open shots they got, but hitting many challenged shots that had UK fans shaking their head. Rarely does a team make that many shots with people hanging all over them, but MSU did anyway, and it was almost enough to undo the Wildcats' storybook season so far.
Observations and superlatives:
- Patrick Patterson had a good game, but he seemed to disappear late.
- John Wall is, as we speak, getting fitted for a blue cape with a stylized "S" on it.
- DeMarcus Cousins also deserves a superhero uniform. I'll leave it to the reader to figure out which one, because I don't know many that he could fit into. Maybe we'll just put a blue mask on him and call him Captain Cuztastic. Yet another double double, and the game-saving rebound and stick-back.
- Eric Bledsoe and John Wall gets both get a bit of criticism, because they missed three critical front-ends between them that could have won the game in regulation. Bledsoe was very important today, though. He made a couple of big threes and tough plays that helped make the difference, and that missed free throw could not have been any more perfect.
- Darius Miller simply never got untracked today.
- DeAndre Liggins gave Kentucky some terrific minutes in the first half, but I don't know if he even got in in the second half.
- I took Patterson's name in vain after he failed to close out on Ravern Johnson in the right corner that allowed him to make a three that put UK down 5. You must force MSU to put the ball on the floor. For the most part, we did that well today, but Patterson made two really bad mistakes that resulted in six points -- he ran away from Barry Stewart on a fast break in the first half, allowing him to shoot an uncontested three, and the aforementioned failure to close out Johnson.
- Daniel Orton once again was a big contributor, with lots of rebounds and several points.
- Since when did free throw shooting become so difficult for this team?
- Ramon Harris was in the game very late, and validated that Calipari decision with maybe the biggest rebound of the game.
- Perry Stevenson once again gave us some valuable minutes in reserve of the foul-hampered DeMarcus Cousins.
- I do hope MSU gets into the dance. They definitely earned it today, in my opinion.
- Rick Stansbury and John Calipari were having a contest to see who could get closest to half-court without being chased back into the box.
- How about that Big Blue crowd? Represent, Big Blue Nation!!
- Congratulations to the Kentucky Wildcats and the Big Blue Nation for sweeping the SEC titles for the first time since 2002-03!
That's all I've got. I'll have an open thread later for the selection show. There won't be much drama for Kentucky (How nice is that, for a change?), but it will be interesting to see what happens to Florida and MSU.