Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky hang on to beat Mississippi State
Oscar Tshiebwe posted his 55th career double-double and 15th of the season for Kentucky as the Wildcats hung on for a 71-68 victory over Mississippi State in a hotly contested Southeastern Conference battle Wednesday night in Starkville, Miss.
Tshiebwe scored 18 points and collected 11 rebounds as the Wildcats (17-9, 8-5 SEC) dominated the boards by a 38-22 margin overall and 18-7 on the offensive end to build an 18-8 advantage in second-chance points.
Jacob Toppin with 16 points, Antonio Reeves with 14, and Chris Livingston with 13 also were in double figures for Kentucky to make up for the absence of injured starters Sahvir Wheeler and CJ Fredrick, who sat out a second straight game.
Tolu Smith led the Bulldogs (17-9, 5-8) with a game-high 22 points. Shakeel Moore added 14, Dashawn Davis scored 13 before fouling out at the 2:26 mark, and Cameron Matthews tallied 11.
The Bulldogs opened the second half with a 6-2 run that gave them their first lead since the opening minutes at 41-38, but the Wildcats went on an 18-2 surge that included an 11-0 run and gave then a 56-43 cushion at the 8:33 mark.
But Mississippi State wasn't done.
After going over eight minutes without a field goal, the Bulldogs came alive and knocked in seven baskets in a row to move within 66-64 on Moore's jumper with 39 seconds to go, but Livingston hit two free throws with 8.1 seconds left to give Kentucky a four-point lead and Tshiebwe hit three free throws in the closing seconds to keep the Bulldogs at bay.
The Wildcats led for the final 16 minutes of the first half but never by more than six points. Their lead at the break was down to 36-35 when the two teams exchanged 3-pointers in the final four seconds with Mississippi State's Matthews answering Toppin's 3 at the buzzer.
The Wildcats only had an 8-5 advantage in second-chance points in the period.
--Field Level Media
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