STARKVILLE, Miss. — PJ Washington scored 23 points, Keldon Johnson added 13 and No. 5 Kentucky held on to beat Mississippi State 71-67 on Saturday.
Kentucky (20-3, 9-1 Southeastern Conference) has won 10 straight games since losing to Alabama in its conference opener on Jan. 5. The Wildcats had to work for this one after an 18-point lead dwindled to one possession with 1:18 left, but the Bulldogs weren’t able to score again.
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.
After Washington and Ashton Hagans hit back-to-back layups to squash the Bulldogs’ momentum, but Weatherspoon made a free throw to cut Kentucky’s advantage to 70-67 with 1:18 left.
Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6) led 17-15 midway through the first half, but Tyler 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.
Lamar Peters led the Bulldogs with 16 points. Weatherspoon added 14.
Kentucky: The Wildcats’ defense has been phenomenal over the past few weeks, but they gave up 42 points in the second half. Washington scored at least 20 points for the fifth time in six games.
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.