Experience helps Kentucky basketball outlast Mississippi State

After a recent home game, TyTy Washington referred to Kellan Grady as “Granddad.”

“I’ve been Granddad since June,” Grady said late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning. “And I embrace it.”

Granddad in terms of the wisdom that comes with experience was certainly embraceable in Kentucky’s 82-74 overtime victory over Mississippi State at Rupp Arena.

Grady credited the experience that comes with being a 2,000-point scorer for Davidson for helping him come through in the clutch. He scored his team’s first eight points in overtime as Kentucky improved to 16-4 overall and 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference.

“I’ve played in a lot of close games,” said Grady, who finished with 18 points. “Having experience doing it, that’s a good thing about being a granddad.”

Kentucky’s Kellan Grady (31) hits a three-pointer while guarded by Mississippi State’s D.J. Jeffries (13) to give the Cats the advantage in overtime Tuesday. Silas Walker

UK Coach John Calipari suggested Kentucky’s play in a possession-by-possession test of nerves had implications in the future. Perhaps that can be true in the near future.

“Look, we’re going to Kansas,” he said in reference to Kentucky playing the Jayhawks on Saturday. “They’ve been in a bunch of close games. We had to be in this kind of game to understand, OK, how do we finish it out?”

Although a comfortable victory seemed in the offing midway through the second half, Kentucky’s win was not seamless. For starters, UK had to play without Washington. Calipari said the freshman was missed.

“We struggled to get some baskets when we needed to,” the UK coach said. “TyTy being out probably affected that.”

The team’s twin pillars — Oscar Tshiebwe and Sahvir Wheeler — combined on a 6-0 run that put UK ahead 53-38 and prompted a State timeout with 12:23 left. Tshiebwe contributed two putbacks while Wheeler scored on his signature drive to the basket.

Then Mississippi State, 13-6 overall and 4-3 in the SEC, ended thoughts of a joyride with a 19-6 run.

Tshiebwe and Wheeler combined to score UK’s final 11 points of the second half. But it wasn’t enough to outdo Iverson Molinar. He scored State’s final 10 points with two free throws tying it at 72-72. He finished a career-high 30 points.

“The last 10 minutes of that game was atrocious,” Grady said. Then he added, “I think the overtime was a reset.”

Later, Grady had second thoughts about his description of the second half.

“Atrocious may be a little too harsh,” he said. “But we did not play well in the final 10 minutes. We didn’t put our foot on their throats and finish the game.”

After Grady missed a long three-point shot in the final seconds, it was on to overtime. Calipari said Grady was not the shooter UK intended on the last play of regulation.

Grady more than made up for the miss. He scored UK’s first eight points of overtime: a driving layup from the right side finished with the left hand, then back-to-back three-pointers. The second put UK ahead 80-74 and prompted a State timeout with 1:12 left.

Grady credited the driving layup as key in turning on a metaphorical switch. He thanked staffers Jai Lucas, Riley Welch and Brad Calipari for helping him work on his shot.

When asked if his overtime scoring was a product of called plays or teammates simply recognizing a hot hand, Grady said, “probably a combination. This team does an awesome job of recognizing when I’m hot and finding me.”

Like his coach, Grady spoke of UK’s poise under pressure as a positive going forward.

“It shows that we’ve got some resilience,” he said. “And we’re able to stay poised.”

Next game

No. 12 Kentucky at No. 5 Kansas

What: SEC/Big 12 Challenge

When: 6 p.m. Saturday


Jerry Tipton has covered Kentucky basketball beginning with the 1981-82 season to the present. He is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame.
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