As the game wore on, it took on the feel of a heavyweight fight with two boxers standing in the middle of the ring just unloading punches on each other, but no one was falling. Alex Poythress put Kentucky up by five at 57-52 with 10:30 left, but that was immediately answered by a Pressey three pointer. A Julius Mays trey at 9:14 put Kentucky up 62-55 but Missouri refused to fold. Another Pressey trey at the 5:07 mark cut the Kentucky lead to 66-63. Alex Oriakhi made it 67-65 with 4:09 left, but Mays responded immediately with another three pointer and so it went.
With the score knotted at 71 with, Mays made a great veteran move by getting Bowers into the air and leaning on him, fouling him out and earning three free throws with 1:31 left. Mays hit two of the three. But once again, the Tigers did not go away. Phil Pressey’s layup off a steal gave Missouri the 75-73 lead with :54 left. Mays found Cauley-Stein for a layup to knot the score and that ended the scoring in regulation. Missouri had almost a full shot clock to win the game, but Poythress swatted away a Pressey attempt and Mays heaved a desperation shot as the game went into overtime.
Mays answered two Pressey baskets to start the extra period and then the rest of the Wildcats got involved. Archie Goodwin hit a layup and Poythress drilled two free throws to put UK up 83-79 with :47 left. Pressey answered with a jumper to close it to 83-81 and then finally, there were no more Missouri answers. Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays went 6-6 from the line and sealed the deal to put UK up 89-81 with just :22 left and Kentucky had their biggest win of the season.
And it took Kentucky’s most complete game of the season to do so. It seems that every Julius Mays basket had an exclamation point attached to it. Mays had four big treys and finished with 24 points. Alex Poythress was a different player with 21 points and 7 rebounds. Poythress hit 8-10 shots and attacked the basket with a new-found confidence and authority. Ryan Harrow kept Kentucky in the game early and had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Archie Goodwin had a 18 point second half and hit his first two three pointers in 14 games. Willie Cauley- Stein was the only starter not in double digits with 7 points, but channeled his inner Nerlens Noel with 12 rebounds and 7 blocks. It was pretty telling that Kentucky outrebounded the Tigers, who came into the game the nation’s top rebounding team, 23-12 in the second half and overtime.
I can’t get over the improvement of Poythress and Harrow enough and it appears that this team has finally gotten over the loss of Nerlens Noel and discovered their true identity in the process. This win does not guarantee them anything in the post season, but for the first time in a long time, I think John Calipari is telling the truth when he says “I like my team”