Coming into the season, this Kentucky Wildcats versus Missouri Tigers basketball game was selected by ESPN as worthy of the Game Day experience. Many thought it could be for the SEC Title as both teams were ranked in the top fifteen in the preseason. Neither team has lived up to the hype this season and the teams shared fifteen losses coming into tonight’s game at Rupp Arena. Despite all that, this was a huge game for both the SEC race and the teams NCAA chances. And records be damned, Kentucky and Missouri turned in one of the best SEC games of the season as the Wildcats defeated the Tigers in overtime 90-83 in a true gut check type of game.
Kentucky came out with a fire that really has not been seen all season. The heart and hustle were back, but the shots were not falling and Missouri took an early 9-4 lead. The Tigers took advantage of some weak Kentucky interior defense and stretched the lead to 17-8 at the 11:19 mark. At this point, 14 of the Tiger points were scored in the paint and most of those were on blow by layups. Things just got worse as a pair of Keion Bell FT’s made it 28-15 Missouri with 4;54 left in the half. With both the Kentucky offense and defense misfiring on almost every possession, it looked like these Wildcats had lost their fight.
Then Ryan Harrow found Alex Poythress for a thunderous dunk and Harrow scored on a jumper assisted by Poythress. And if as on cue, Julius Mays connected on a trey that made it 28-22 and woke up the Rupp crowd. The Mays trey was notable as it was the only FG Kentucky had the first half not scored by Harrow or Poythress. Yet Kentucky was in the game. A pair of Harrow FT’s made it a 9-0 run. Missouri finally scored, but a Poythress trey made it 30-27. The Tigers regrouped and a Pressey trey put the Tigers back up by six 31 but Harrow found Cauley-Stein on a great hustle play right at the half to cut the deficit to 35-31.
You had to think that Missouri was kicking themselves at the half. They had Kentucky down and had their foot on their neck but let them back up. Missouri missed a lot of easy shots up close which let Kentucky back in the game, but 11 of Missouri’s 14 FG’s were scored within three feet of the basket as Kentucky’s defense was their Achilles heel.
The second half started with the Archie Goodwin show. Scoreless in the first half, Goodwin drained his first trey in 14 games and then followed that with a dunk off a steal that gave Kentucky a quick 36-35 lead. Julius Mays added a three pointer at the 16:51 mark which put Kentucky up 45-41. Phil Pressey picked up his third foul at that point and it looked as if Kentucky may pull away. But Missouri needed this game as much as Kentucky. Alex Oriakhi got a three pointer of the “and one variety” to knot the game at 49 with 13:52 and ensure that Missouri was going nowhere.