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Kentucky Wildcats 81, Mississippi State, 75: Postmortem

Kentucky won the game, but with the continued misbehavior of college basketball fans in general and the Mississippi St. fans in particular throwing bottles of water and other objects onto the floor, we all lost.

Notwithstanding the above, the Mississippi St. Bulldogs played an incredible game despite some serious adversity, much of it self-inflicted.  Ravern Johnson's suspension was not Kentucky's fault.  Jarvis Varnado's frustrated foul-out was not Kentucky's fault.  But to be very fair, MSU had a couple of calls, a block/charge and a goal-tending call go against them at the end of the game.  The block could have gone either way, and to be fair to the officials, the goal-tending was only visible on replay -- no way they could have got that call right live except by flipping a coin.  Still, those two calls ought to have given Bulldog fans a reason for some frustration.  It did not justify flinging debris at the players and officials on the floor.

But one thing is for sure -- the Bulldogs left it all on the floor tonight.  Despite being out-sized, out-talented and having one of their main impact players out with a bad attitude, the Bulldogs very nearly undid the Wildcats in front of a packed house in Starkville.  Kudos to the team, players and coaching staff of Mississippi State for a truly memorable effort.  Razzies to the MSU fans for their unethical behavior, both in the phone-calling incident with DeMarcus Cousins and the fusillade of projectiles at the end of what was otherwise a great game.

My observations follow the jump.

  • Jarvis Varnado has vexed Kentucky for years, but this time, DeMarcus Cousins showed that he is far too much for Varnado -- and that's the name of that tune.  Do you remember when I took issue with Cousins' post passing?  He is getting that down pretty good.  Not perfect, but pretty good.
  • Awesome game by Patrick Patterson.  He was the Patrick Patterson I remember from the last two years.  How huge was that 11-foot baseline jumper to tie the game?  Monstrous.
  • DeAndre Liggins has earned most of the playing time at the three spot.  You saw who was in the game at the end.  How big was that three-ball when UK was down seven with about 3 minutes to go?
  • Darius Miller, nonetheless, had a very good game.  Very encouraging for the future.
  • Eric Bledsoe was abused on defense tonight.  I lost count of the times he got beat.  He'll get better, but tonight, he struggled on defense and he struggled offensively except for a little burst late in the second half.
  • Daniel Orton again had a strong game, but he really needs to get better offensively.
  • Darnell Dodson had one very good play stopping a layup, but other than that, had little impact on the game.
  • John Wall re-established his bona fides for SEC and even NCAA Player of the Year.  Two assists away from a triple-double.
  • There was a Ramon Harris sighting tonight.  Did you see Calipari applaud him taking that open three?  He missed it, but it was a good look.
  • John Calipari did a great job of coaching.  He used the time-outs at the end of the game exactly right.  UK did not execute, but Calipari handled the end-of-game scenario perfectly.  How many times have we scratched our head with previous coaches on that?  We may do that with Cal sometimes too, but not tonight.
  • Kentucky could not shoot free throws.  It could not shoot three pointers.  About the only thing the 'Cats shot well were layups and tip-ins.  Fortunately, they made a lot of those.

That was a big win, and takes a lot of pressure off the 'Cats in Nashville.  I didn't want to be going into Memorial Gym in a must-win situation, and now I think the team will be much more relaxed versus the Commodores.

Overall, I am happy.  I know you are too.  Go, Cats!