UK Men's Basketball

State's avalanche of threes buries UK

Kentucky fans saw history Tuesday night. So did people in Lakehurst, N.J., when the Hindenburg came in for a landing.

Mississippi State won at Kentucky for only the second time since 1967. And the 66-57 score easily set a State record for victory margin at UK. Leading by 16 with less than three minutes to go, the Bulldogs threatened to surpass the combined difference (16 points) in the program's four victories at Kentucky.

"We probably played better than we are," Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury said. "And Kentucky probably didn't play as well as they are."

Before the game, Stansbury said his team had to make shots to beat Kentucky. State equaled a season-high with 14 three-point baskets.

Ravern Johnson, who came into the game leading the nation in three-point accuracy (48.1 percent), made five of eight shots from beyond the arc. He scored 17 points.

Phil Turner equaled a career high of four three-pointers in leading State with 18 points.

While noting his team's sharpshooting, Stansbury added, "At the same time, we kept them from making shots. That was a correlation."

Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks led Kentucky with 15 points each. But UK's dynamic duo had to take 27 shots (making 12) to do it.

Stansbury acknowledged Meeks' 15 points. "But if you watched the game, he basically was no factor," the State coach said. "I mean as a guy to take over."

Ditto for Patterseon. "He had 15," Stansbury said. "But you never noticed in as a factor in the game."

State, which improved to 15-7 overall and 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference, invited other UK players to be big factors. None met the challenge.

"We were just daring someone else to step up and beat us," Turner said. "If they could, then we would live with that."

Kentucky, which lost a third straight SEC game for only the third time since Eddie Sutton's last season of 1988-89, fell to 16-7 overall and 5-3 in the league.

Kentucky left the floor at halftime to a chorus of boos. That summed up the fans' frustrations with the first 20 minutes.

"We got beat," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said of the boos. "That's OK. I wasn't all that happy with us either."

As in earlier games this season, the crowd grew anxious when players like Michael Porter and Darius Miller passed up open — make that wide open — three-point opportunities.

The frustration had to only grow worse as Mississippi State made nine of 16 first-half shots from beyond the three-point arc. With Johnson hitting two three-pointers in the final 47 seconds, State held a 37-24 lead at intermission.

That represented the third largest halftime deficit of the season for Kentucky. The Cats trailed Miami 46-26 and North Carolina 41-25 at halftime. Of course, UK lost both games.

Meanwhile, Kentucky struggled to hit a shot from beyond the arc. Meeks equaled a season-low of one three-point basket. In all, the Cats made four of 14, meaning State had an advantage of 30 points from three-point range.

"Oh, that's huge," UK forward Perry Stevenson said of that gap. "That's a really big mountain. We just need to have our hiking boots on."

Only good defense prevented an early knockout. State made only six of its first 20 shots. Then the Bulldogs blitzed UK by making seven of its last eight shots, five coming from three-point range.

That spree enabled State to widen a 20-16 lead to 37-24 at the break.

By contrast, Kentucky made only nine shots the entire half, a big reason why the Cats never led.

UK missed its first 10 shots (two blocked by Jarvis Varnado) before Miller drove and hit a short floater in the lane with 13:57 left.

UK's 33.3 percent shooting allowed State to survive and even thrive without Varnado, who went to the bench with his second foul at the 7:20 mark. "That was huge," Stansbury said.

Nothing early in the second half suggested a UK comeback.

Freshman walk-on Landon Slone, a surefire ploy to ignite crowd enthusiasm, fizzled. MSU freshman Dee Bost drove by him for layup. Then Johnson blocked his three-point attempt.

Kentucky got as close as 45-43 with 10:28 left when Liggins drove and fed Stevenson for a dunk.

Then Bost did the same thing for Varnado to slow the rally.

Three-point shooting propelled Mississippi State into a 61-45 lead with three minutes left. The Bulldogs hit four in the next six minutes.

Varnado made that stick by making five of his seven blocks (a high against a SEC opponent this season) down the stretch.

"He's the man in that defense," Stevenson said after UK shot a season-low 35.6 percent. "When you get past the guards, you still have to deal with him."

When UK called time with 3:01 left, many fans headed for the exit.