Flash column: UK-Mississippi State

I wasn’t at the Kentucky-Mississippi State game tonight. Travel and weather concerns played into that decision when it was made on Monday. Frankly, after an overtime game in a 9 p.m. start, I probably saved a few blood-pressure points by not having to pound that one out. Still, it might have looked something like this …

Think they can hear him now?

You know those cell phone commercials where a guy is standing there with this throng of people behind him in his network? Tonight, University of Kentucky freshman DeMarcus Cousins could star in one of those — with the entire state of Mississippi behind him.

But he’d need someone to watch his back.

Flashing the “call me” sign during the game and smiling wide after scoring 19 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in a 91-85 overtime win at Mississippi State, Cousins left Mississippi burning.

And the Wildcats left with yet a little more grit added to their record.

No, contrary to what UK coach John Calipari said on his postgame radio show, Mississippi State is not a top-25 caliber team. But last night, the Bulldogs were loaded for bear.

You’ve heard of teams throwing the kitchen sink at the opponent? Mississippi State threw the fridge. Or, at least, the contents of the fridge.

Some Aquafina bombers fired a few water bottles at the Wildcats near the end of the overtime game in Starkville, having apparently long since drained their supply of harder beverages. It was a shameful situation that had Calipari scrambling to get his team off the floor after the postgame handshakes.

[HISTORICAL ASIDE: Starkville, Miss., is located in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi. Little-known fact. “Oktibbeha” is a Native American word meaning either, “bloody water,” “icy creek,” or “Aw hell, go ahead and chuck it.”]

The Wildcats brought a watered-down attack early on, but with the game on the line, executed nearly flawlessly. John Wall drove and scored in the lane. DeMarcus Cousins scored on a tip-in. Patrick Patterson hit a wide-open jumper from the short corner to force the overtime.

Earlier Tuesday, I think I rankled some UK fans when I suggested that they’d better brace themselves for a round of national skepticism. The Wildcats’ schedule will come under fire. They’ll be tabbed “most likely high seed to get bounced.” I’m not saying I espouse those positions, but it’s coming.

Showing the type of toughness that UK showed last night is going to make such skepticism more difficult.

Calipari knows his team has some work to do. Addressing the DeMarcus Cousins “call me” gestures — in response to Mississippi State students who flooded Cousins’ cell phone with calls after publicizing his number on campus — Calipari said, “We’ve got to rein that in.”

Still, don’t underestimate what it took for a young UK team to win in that environment.

Finally, the episode that happened near the end of the game, with fans throwing objects onto the floor, needs to be dealt with swiftly and decisively by Mississippi State and the Southeastern Conference.

As for UK, when it was thrown into a new and hostile situation tonight, it managed to keep cool in a win that will undoubtedly help prepare it for some tough road tests ahead.

More to come …


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