Reed Sheppard leads Kentucky to a win at Mississippi State


Game day: No. 16 Kentucky 91, Mississippi State 89

Click below for more of the Herald-Leader’s and’s coverage of Tuesday night’s men’s basketball game between Kentucky and Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.

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For the Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday night, it was better late than never.

Reed Sheppard hit a runner in the lane a half-second before time expired to give Kentucky a 91-89 victory over Mississippi State on Tuesday night in Humphrey Coliseum. The Cats trailed for most of the game.

Rob Dillingham’s 3-pointer with 4:24 left gave UK its first advantage of the night — a 72-71 lead. Other than a 3-3 tie that lasted just 28 seconds early in the first half, the Bulldogs had led every second of the game after the first points were scored.

Sheppard and Antonio Reeves had big scoring efforts in the second half. Sheppard finished with 32 points, five rebounds and seven assists, and Reeves scored 21 points.

Sheppard had 23 points in the second half and closed out the game for the Wildcats, who led 76-75 with less than two minutes left before Sheppard ran off five straight points to give the Cats a larger cushion down the stretch. Sheppard made 6 of 6 on free throws in the final 70 seconds of the game before his shot to win it.

The buzzer sounded after Sheppard’s shot went in, but the officials put 0.5 seconds back on the clock. Mississippi State’s inbounds pass ended up in Sheppard’s hands, and the game was over.

Sheppard was 11-for-14 from the field and made all seven of his 2-point attempts to go along with the six free throws.

Freshman guard Josh Hubbard led Mississippi State with 34 points, including a 3-pointer to tie the game with 10 seconds remaining.

John Calipari improved his record to 19-1 against Mississippi State over his 15 seasons as Kentucky’s head coach, and he is now 9-0 in The Hump. His only defeat against the Bulldogs came in the 2021 SEC Tournament, the final game of UK’s dreadful 2020-21 season that ended with a 9-16 record.

The Cats haven’t lost in Starkville since Jan. 15, 2008 — the program’s first season under Billy Gillispie.

UK is now 20-8 with a 10-5 record in the SEC.

Kentucky fell into a 14-3 hole in the opening minutes, with a 3-pointer from Wagner counting as the Cats’ only score until Zvonimir Ivisic streaked through the lane for a dunk with 14:13 left in the half to end an 11-0 Bulldogs run. That jam started a 7-0 run for the Wildcats, who cut Mississippi State’s lead to two later in the half but never managed to pull ahead before halftime.

The Bulldogs (19-9, 8-7 SEC) made 9 of 10 shots before a miss at the buzzer to close out the half. That flurry included three straight 3-pointers in the final 2:50 before halftime, two of those coming on shots by former UK commitment D.J. Jeffries just before the shot clock expired.

The final 3-pointer in that run gave Mississippi State another double-digit lead at 43-32 before Wagner nailed a long-range shot to cut the Bulldogs’ halftime advantage to eight points.

Kentucky played without starting forward Tre Mitchell, who remained sidelined with a shoulder injury for the fourth consecutive game. Mitchell has now missed six of UK’s last seven games due to injury, and Calipari said Tuesday night that he would not play Mitchell as much as he did earlier in the season when he does return to the lineup so the fifth-year player can work his way back into game shape.

Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard (15) drives the ball past Mississippi State guard Shawn Jones Jr. (5) during Tuesday’s game at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss.
Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard (15) drives the ball past Mississippi State guard Shawn Jones Jr. (5) during Tuesday’s game at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss. Ryan C. Hermens

Kentucky’s next game

The Wildcats will return to Lexington next for the final two home games of the season, starting with the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday (1:30 p.m. on CBS).

The Hogs have been a disappointment this season, starting the 2023-24 campaign at No. 14 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll before quickly dropping out of the rankings. They took a 14-13 record and 5-9 mark in the SEC into a late game with Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, and Arkansas entered that off of back-to-back victories over Texas A&M and Missouri.

Kentucky defeated the Razorbacks 63-57 in Fayetteville on Jan. 27, and Arkansas went into Tuesday at No. 118 in the KenPom ratings, putting them 12th in the SEC behind only Missouri and Vanderbilt.

This story was originally published February 27, 2024, 9:11 PM.

Ben Roberts is the University of Kentucky men’s basketball beat writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has previously specialized in UK basketball recruiting coverage and created and maintained the Next Cats blog. He is a Franklin County native and first joined the Herald-Leader in 2006.
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