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Kentucky nabs MASSIVE win at Mississippi State: 3 things to know and postgame banter

The Cats escaped with a massive road win in Starkville to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats escaped with a huge road win against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville on Tuesday night by a score of 71-68.

The Cats got off to a solid start offensively and the trend continued throughout the entirety of the first half. The issue was once again the defense. While the Cats shot 52% from the field and made four three-pointers, and doubled up the Bulldogs in the rebound department, they allowed one of the worst offensive teams in the country to shoot 50% and hit five deep balls on their way to a 36-35 halftime lead.

After the break, Kentucky came out a bit sluggish but quickly rebounded. The defense dug its heels in and the rebounding dominance continued. They appeared poised to pull away as they led by as many as thirteen with just eight and a half minutes to play, but a Mississippi State run cut the lead to just three with four minutes to go.

Despite the late push from MSU, Kentucky was able to hold on for a massive road victory to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

Next up, the Cats will return to Lexington to take on the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday afternoon.

Wheeler and Fredrick out again

For the second straight game, the Cats were without both Sahvir Wheeler and CJ Fredrick. Wheeler suffered an ankle injury and has missed three games in a row now. Fredrick suffered a cracked rib against the Florida Gators.

While Fredrick tried to tough it out against the Arkansas Razorbacks, the pain was clearly too much, and he’s now missed his second-straight game. Both players are considered day-to-day. It’s unknown the severity of either player’s injury, but at least we know the nature of Fredrick’s. Wheeler should be expected back any game now, while Fredrick’s injury seems based on pain tolerance.

While Wallace didn't provide much in the scoring column as Kentucky’s lead guard during Wheeler’s absence, he did rack up double-digit assists and protected the ball extremely well.

Reeves continues to impress

Antonio Reeves had back-to-back games poor games before putting up 20 against the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. In this one, he was once again a road dog and Kentucky’s lifeline offensively against an elite defensive team.

The Illinois State transfer always plays with such composure and can score in a variety of ways. You assume it’s going to drop every time he shoots a deep ball, but he isn't shy about putting the ball on the floor and taking it to the rim or showing off his nice floater game.

Reeves is simply your go-to guy when you need a basket.

Livingston and Thiero provide a much-needed spark

Chris Livingston and Adou Thiero have both shown flashes this season, but neither has exactly been the most reliable, especially Thiero who has been played sparingly (for whatever reason).

In this game, both guys played a pivotal role in the Cats’ victory. Livingston has been on and off this season, but tonight, he was aggressive at times that Kentucky needed it. He knocked down a deep ball and attacked the rim when the offense needed to get something going. He hit huge free throws late in the game and got an offensive rebound to seal the victory with less than 10 seconds to play.

Thiero always plays hard and there’s no question about his size and athleticism, but the Cats badly needed positive minutes with Wheeler and Fredrick out and Thiero provided that. The freshman is a big-bodied guard that’s a solid defender and rebounder, and he put those traits to use in this one. He makes plays, like a blocked shot he had tonight, that you don't see too often.

Bonus: Kentucky is back in the field

At least according to Joe Lunardi, for now.

Keep the good times rolling on Saturday! Go Cats!