From Special Reports
LEXINGTON, Ky. – A putback by Kentucky’s Makayla Epps with 0.4 seconds left to play broke Mississippi State’s hearts Thursday night.
Rallying from down 14 points in the second half, No. 13/15 MSU gave everything it had in a 92-90 double overtime loss to No. 10/10 Kentucky in Southeastern Conference play at Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky improved to 19-5 overall and 8-3 in league play, while MSU fell to 23-4 and 8-4. The Bulldogs are in a two-way tie with LSU for fourth place in the conference standings with four league games remaining. UK has now won eight straight in the series, with the last two coming in overtime.
“We have lost back-to-back games to them in overtime on the same play,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I’m disappointed for my kids. We had some warriors out there. I couldn’t be prouder of them and prouder of my program. I was proud of how competitive we were. That game could have gone the other way.
“Our kids bowed their necks and competed. We competed in a tough environment against a great team. I think we had a hangover in the first half (from a 63-61 overtime win over Texas A&M).”
Victoria Vivians led the MSU offensive attack with a career-high 39 points. It tied for the 11th most points in a game by a Bulldog player and most by a freshman. It was also the most scored by an MSU player since Alexis Rack scored 43 against Maryland in 2009.
The freshman guard hit 13-of-29 shots from the field, including 5-of-10 shots from 3-point range.
“We played our hearts out in the second half and we should have won,” Vivians said.
Martha Alwal added 21 points and eight rebounds, while Morgan William had 13 points. Dominique Dillingham pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds.
Epps finished with a game-high 42 points for Kentucky on an 18-of-30 night from the field.
Kentucky scored the game’s first six points and held some type of lead until the closing minutes of the second half. The Bulldogs closed within one point twice before the Wildcats stretched the lead to 19-12 on a 6-0 run.
MSU closed within four points at 24-20 on a layup by Vivians and 26-24 on a layup by Jerica James. Kentucky held a 29-28 lead before a 19-6 run opened up a 14-point advantage.
Kentucky led 48-36 at halftime.
In the second half, the Bulldogs turned up the defensive pressure to get back in the game. The Wildcats were held to three field goals over the first 10 minutes of the final half.
Despite the improved play on defense, MSU still trailed by 12 at 66-54 with 6:02 left in regulation. The Maroon and White followed with an 11-0 run and finally took its first lead of the game at 69-68 on a jumper by Vivians with 2:19 left.
Kentucky then built a 72-69 lead before Vivians answered with game-tying 3-point basket. The teams were again tied when William went the length of the court to hit a layup with two seconds left in regulation.
MSU erased a five-point deficit in the first overtime but could not win when Epps extended the contest with a game-tying shot with 11 seconds left.
In the second overtime, the lead changed hands a couple of times before Epps hit the game-winner.
“Victoria put us on her back in the first half,” Schaefer said. “We ran some good stuff for her. The kids ran some really good screens for her. She is one of the best players in the county. She is a tough, fierce competitor. She isn’t scared.”
For the contest, MSU hit 30 of 74 shots from the field (40.5 percent), 6 of 14 shots from 3-point range (42.9 percent) and 24 of 36 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent). Kentucky hit 36 of 87 shots from the field (41.4 percent), 5 of 16 shots from 3-point range (31.3 percent) and 15 of 25 shots from the foul line (60.0 percent).
MSU held a 57-46 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 15 assists and 27 turnovers, while the Wildcats had 14 assists and 18 turnovers.
Bria Goss was also in double figures for UK with 16 points. Jelleah Sidney had a game-high 13 rebounds.
MSU returns home Sunday when Florida comes to the Humphrey Coliseum. The Bulldogs and Gators meet at 3 p.m. on the SEC Network in the team’s breast cancer awareness contest.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.