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No. 5 Kentucky escapes with 71-67 win over Mississippi St

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Kentucky coach John Calipari said he took a few moments following Saturday's game to praise his team for winning its 10th straight game thanks to some gritty plays in a difficult road environment.

Then the compliments ended. It was time for the truth.

''If you want me to tell you everything's all good, it isn't,'' Calipari said. ''I went right down to each guy. Not mean, screaming or cussing. I wasn't.

''But you're here because you want me to keep it real. Well, this is real.''

And the truth is that No. 5 Kentucky was fortunate to escape Humphrey Coliseum with a 71-67 victory over Mississippi State. The Wildcats let an 18-point lead early in the second half dwindle to just one possession with 1:18 remaining before a defensive stop in the final seconds sealed the win.

PJ Washington scored 23 points, Keldon Johnson added 13 and Tyler Herro had 12, including a crucial 3-pointer with three minutes left. Kentucky (20-3, 9-1 Southeastern Conference) hasn't lost since its conference opener against Alabama on Jan. 5.

The Wildcats looked like they might cruise to the win after Washington hit a 3-pointer early in the second half to give them a 49-31 lead. But Mississippi State responded with a huge run to pull within 51-50 on a pair of free throws by Quinndary Weatherspoon with 8:41 left.

Washington and Ashton Hagans hit back-to-back layups to squash the Bulldogs' momentum, but Mississippi State kept fighting and Weatherspoon made a free throw to cut Kentucky's advantage to 70-67 with 1:18 left.

''Once we turned the defense up, I feel like that's when we're better offensively,'' Mississippi State guard Nick Weatherspoon said. ''We got going, started getting points in transition and felt like we got them on their heels.''

But Mississippi State came up empty on its final possession when Quinndary Weatherspoon lost possession and Kentucky's Johnson came up with the loose ball.

''Once they made that run, we just had to come together even more, stay focused and stay together,'' Johnson said.

Lamar Peters led the Bulldogs with 16 points while Quinndary Weatherspoon added 14, all in the second half. The Bulldogs have lost four of their last six.

Kentucky's Washington scored at least 20 points for the fifth time in six games. The 6-foot-8 sophomore shot 9 of 13 from the field, but Calipari wasn't particularly impressed. The veteran coach made it clear he has high standards.

''I think he's the best player in the country, but not like he played today,'' Calipari said. ''He doesn't go get rebounds, doesn't get loose balls, missed one-footers, missed free throws. What? If you're the best, play that way. Come out with great energy. A motor.''

''It's not about making shots. It's the way you play.''

Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6) led 17-15 midway through the first half, but Herro nailed a contested 3-pointer to give Kentucky the lead. The Wildcats never trailed again, outscoring the Bulldogs 25-8 over the rest of the first half for a 40-25 halftime advantage.

EARLY MORNING

Calipari wasn't happy with the way his team had played during games with early tipoffs this season, so at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, barely four hours before the noon tipoff, he brought his team to Humphrey Coliseum for a shootaround.

He said that might have been part of the reason for the rocky second half.

''I never do that, but I knew how hard this game was going to be,'' Calipari said. ''We may have run out of gas because I did that.''

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats' defense has been phenomenal over the past few weeks, but they gave up 42 points in the second half. They'll have some things to get fixed on that end as they prepare to host LSU and Tennessee over the next week.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have now lost 13 straight games to Kentucky dating to 2009. Mississippi State still has a legitimate path to the NCAA Tournament thanks to good wins during nonconference play, but the Bulldogs need some conference wins in a hurry. Tuesday's home game against Alabama is a big one.

UP NEXT

Kentucky returns home to face LSU on Tuesday.

Mississippi State wraps up a three-game homestand against Alabama on Tuesday.

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Key Players
P. Washington
25 F
Q. Weatherspoon
11 G
33.8 Min. Per Game 33.8
18.0 Pts. Per Game 18.0
2.6 Ast. Per Game 2.6
5.5 Reb. Per Game 5.5
51.3 Field Goal % 49.5
44.9 Three Point % 37.9
69.2 Free Throw % 84.2
  Defensive rebound by Keldon Johnson 0.0
  Nick Weatherspoon missed jump shot 2.0
+ 1 Ashton Hagans made 2nd of 2 free throws 8.0
+ 1 Ashton Hagans made 2nd of 2 free throws 8.0
  Ashton Hagans missed 1st of 2 free throws 8.0
  Personal foul on Lamar Peters 8.0
  Lost ball turnover on Quinndary Weatherspoon, stolen by Keldon Johnson 10.0
  Defensive rebound by Nick Weatherspoon 20.0
  Ashton Hagans missed 3-pt. jump shot 22.0
  Offensive rebound by EJ Montgomery 52.0
  Keldon Johnson missed layup 54.0
Team Stats
Points 71 67
Field Goals 27-57 (47.4%) 23-53 (43.4%)
3-Pointers 7-18 (38.9%) 7-16 (43.8%)
Free Throws 10-17 (58.8%) 14-18 (77.8%)
Total Rebounds 35 28
Offensive 10 7
Defensive 23 20
Team 2 1
Assists 13 7
Steals 4 7
Blocks 4 6
Turnovers 9 9
Fouls 18 19
Technicals 1 1
23 PTS, 3 REB, 1 AST
16 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST
12T
away team logo 5 Kentucky 20-3 403171
home team logo Miss. State 16-7 254267
Team Stats
away team logo 5 Kentucky 20-3 78.7 PPG 41.6 RPG 14.2 APG
home team logo Miss. State 16-7 78.5 PPG 38.6 RPG 14.8 APG
Key Players
25
P. Washington F 14.8 PPG 8.0 RPG 1.8 APG 52.6 FG%
2
L. Peters G 12.5 PPG 1.8 RPG 5.4 APG 40.3 FG%
Top Scorers
P. Washington F 23 PTS 3 REB 1 AST
L. Peters G 16 PTS 3 REB 2 AST
47.4 FG% 43.4
38.9 3PT FG% 43.8
58.8 FT% 77.8
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
P. Washington 23 3 1 9/13 3/3 2/4 5 24 0 1 1 1 2
K. Johnson 13 7 0 4/10 1/3 4/4 3 28 1 0 1 0 7
T. Herro 12 2 1 5/9 2/4 0/0 0 33 0 0 1 0 2
R. Travis 8 8 1 4/9 0/1 0/0 4 33 1 2 1 2 6
A. Hagans 8 4 9 2/5 1/3 3/5 1 35 1 0 3 2 2
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
P. Washington 23 3 1 9/13 3/3 2/4 5 24 0 1 1 1 2
K. Johnson 13 7 0 4/10 1/3 4/4 3 28 1 0 1 0 7
T. Herro 12 2 1 5/9 2/4 0/0 0 33 0 0 1 0 2
R. Travis 8 8 1 4/9 0/1 0/0 4 33 1 2 1 2 6
A. Hagans 8 4 9 2/5 1/3 3/5 1 35 1 0 3 2 2
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
J. Baker Jr. 3 0 1 1/3 0/2 1/2 0 12 1 0 0 0 0
N. Richards 2 1 0 1/3 0/0 0/0 2 7 0 1 1 1 0
E. Montgomery 2 7 0 1/3 0/1 0/2 3 16 0 0 1 4 3
I. Quickley 0 1 0 0/2 0/1 0/0 0 12 0 0 0 0 1
J. David - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B. Calipari - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Z. Payne - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 71 33 13 27/57 7/18 10/17 18 200 4 4 9 10 23
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
L. Peters 16 3 2 6/13 4/6 0/0 3 34 2 0 2 1 2
Q. Weatherspoon 14 4 1 4/12 3/6 3/4 1 35 3 0 3 2 2
N. Weatherspoon 9 2 3 4/8 0/0 1/2 4 26 0 1 1 0 2
A. Ado 6 4 0 1/2 0/0 4/5 4 26 0 2 1 1 3
R. Perry 4 6 0 1/3 0/1 2/2 4 23 1 1 1 3 3
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
L. Peters 16 3 2 6/13 4/6 0/0 3 34 2 0 2 1 2
Q. Weatherspoon 14 4 1 4/12 3/6 3/4 1 35 3 0 3 2 2
N. Weatherspoon 9 2 3 4/8 0/0 1/2 4 26 0 1 1 0 2
A. Ado 6 4 0 1/2 0/0 4/5 4 26 0 2 1 1 3
R. Perry 4 6 0 1/3 0/1 2/2 4 23 1 1 1 3 3
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
R. Woodard II 9 5 1 3/6 0/1 3/4 2 24 1 2 0 0 5
T. Carter 6 0 0 3/6 0/1 0/0 0 20 0 0 1 0 0
A. Holman 3 3 0 1/3 0/1 1/1 1 12 0 0 0 0 3
J. Tshisumpa - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E. Datcher - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Clayton - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Feazell - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Gray - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Storm - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P. Oduro - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Junkin - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Stewart - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 67 27 7 23/53 7/16 14/18 19 200 7 6 9 7 20