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Mississippi State men’s basketball survives Kentucky comeback for 74-73 win

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Bulldogs improve to 15-13.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Mississippi State vs Kentucky Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The No. 9 seed Mississippi State men’s basketball team survived a Kentucky comeback to win 74-73 Thursday afternoon in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

The Bulldogs (15-13, 8-10 SEC) advance to play No. 1 seed and sixth-ranked Alabama (21-6, 16-2 SEC) in the tournament quarterfinals Friday at 11 a.m. CT on ESPN.

The win marks the first MSU win over Kentucky since 2009 and the first against head coach John Calipari.

Sophomore guard Iverson Molinar led the Bulldogs with 21 points, including eight points in the final 3:07 to erase a five-point deficit, while redshirt sophomore forward Tolu Smith and redshirt senior forward Abdul Ado added 13 and 12 points, respectively. Smith led MSU with 11 rebounds and Ado had nine. Redshirt sophomore guard D.J. Stewart Jr. finished with nine points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.

MSU shot 30-for-61 (49.2%) from the field, including 5-for-17 (29.4%) on 3-pointers. The Bulldogs dominated the paint and outscored the Wildcats 46-22 in that category.

Kentucky (9-16, 8-9 SEC) was led by redshirt freshman guard Dontaie Allen with 23 points, 20 of which came in the second half. He was 6-for-13 from 3-point range and had a chance to win it for the Wildcats, but his last-second 3-pointer was long.

Graduate student guard Davion Mintz added 16 points with four 3-pointers, while senior forward Olivier Sarr and sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. added 14 and 10 points.

The Wildcats shot 26-for-63 (41.3%) from the field, including 11-for-27 (40.7%) on 3-pointers.

The Bulldogs started the game out hot on their way to leading 11-5 with 13:39 left in the first stanza.

MSU stretched its lead to 10 at 30-20 with 5:46 left in the half before heading to the halftime break with a 14-point lead at 44-30.

The Bulldogs started out hot again in the second half and increased the lead to 51-36 with 17:44 left in the game.

The Wildcats then worked their way back with the help of a 9-0 run to tie things up at 62-62 with 7:20 to play.

A barrage of 3-pointers from Allen and a Sarr jumper and free throw gave Kentucky a 71-66 lead with 4:30 left. Molinar then made back-to-back 3-pointers to give MSU a 72-71 lead 2:17 to go.

Sarr made a layup to put Kentucky back up 73-72 before a pair of free throws by Molinar gave the Bulldogs a 74-73 lead with 7.1 seconds left.

Calipari called a timeout, and the Wildcats got the look they wanted, but Allen’s shot bounced off the rim and the Bulldogs survived for the victory.