The Wildcats closed the year at 9-16 overall, the first time a Kentucky team has failed to reach double figures in wins since the 1926-27 team finished 3-13. It’s also Kentucky’s first losing season since Eddie Sutton’s 1988-89 team finished at 13-19.
Kentucky trailed by 14 points at the half (44-30) before freshman Dontaie Allen caught fire, scoring a team-high 23 points on 6-of-13 from three-point range. Davion Mintz finished with 16 points and Olivier Sarr and Keion Brooks added 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Trailing 55-45 in the second half, Allen hit back-to-back three pointers as the Wildcats cut the lead to 55-48 with 14:22 remaining. A Mississippi State turnover resulted in an alley-oop dunk from Terrence Clarke to Jackson in transition followed by an Allen floater before the former Pendleton County star nailed his fifth three-pointer to cut the lead to 62-60 with 8:47 remaining.
Brooks connected on two free throws to tie the game at 62-all and another Allen three gave Kentucky its first lead of the game at 65-64 with 6:20 left. A Mintz three-pointer extended the lead to 71-66 before the Bulldogs hit back-to-back three of their own to retake the lead at 72-71 at the 2:19 mark.
Olivier Sarr scored in the paint at the one minute mark before the Bulldogs hit two free throws with 7.1 seconds remaining to close out the scoring. Allen’s three-point attempt at the buzzer was off the mark to end Kentucky’s season.
Thursday’s loss was the first for UK Coach John Calipari in 16 meetings against Mississippi State.
Once again, Dontaie Allen was the star of the show against a Mississippi State team that didn’t learn its lesson from earlier in the season.
In January, Allen had a career-high 23 points on seven three pointers in a double overtime win over the Bulldogs. This time around, Allen did most of his damage in the second half, hitting shots from all over the court and torching the nets with six deep threes.
Allen, a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball, has played sparingly of late and had struggled offensively prior to Thursday’s rematch. The 6-foot-6 guard will be a key piece to next year’s roster as Kentucky has struggled all season at the guard spot. In Thursday’s loss, freshman guards BJ Boston and Devin Askew went scoreless over a combined 44 minutes of action.
Prior to this season, Kentucky has played in all but two NCAA Tournaments during the 2000s, missing the Big Dance in 2009 and 2013. The Wildcats will now have to wait on a possible NIT bid.