Mississippi State Basketball: Bulldogs Lose at the Buzzer to Kentucky

Mississippi State basketball just suffered a heartbreaking loss at home against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Feb 27, 2024; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Reed Sheppard (15) scores on the
Feb 27, 2024; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Reed Sheppard (15) scores on the / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
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Mississippi State basketball fell to the Kentucky Wildcats 91-89 in a thrilling but heartbreaking game at Humphrey Coliseum on Tuesday night. After an improbable, last-minute comeback by the Bulldogs tied the game with just 10 seconds left, the Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard connected on a floater with under a second to go to give the Wildcats a stunning victory, dropping the Bulldogs to 19-9 on the season and 8-7 in SEC play.

It was another soul-crushing loss in a long line of soul-crushing losses for Mississippi State basketball against Kentucky. MSU had the upper-hand for much of the game. They got off to a hot start, leading the Cats 14-3 through the first 5:25 of game time. UK quickly got back into it, but State still controlled the first half, leading 43-35 at the break.

The Bulldogs once again came out on fire out of the locker room, pushing the lead out to 13. Scoring on either side stagnated for a bit over the next few minutes, but then Kentucky began their run. The Cats steadily chipped away at the MSU lead and with 4:24 to go in the game took their first lead at 72-71.

What initially followed was painfully predictable for many Mississippi State fans. Kentucky continued to build upon their lead with State floundering down the stretch, and with 57 seconds left, the Cats seemed to have closed the door on the Bulldogs with an 8-point lead. But then things suddenly shifted.

A quick Josh Hubbard three-pointer sparked an improbable run in a rare instance of last minute fouling working to perfection. A second three from Hubbard and an old-fashioned three-point play from Cam Matthews amongst UK free throws cut the UK lead to 87-84 with 28 seconds left. On the ensuing play, Tolu Smith got a steal and was fouled. The big man drained his two free throws to draw the Bulldogs within one.

A pair of Kentucky free throws put the Cats back up three with 16 seconds to play. Rather than go for a quick two, State put the ball in the hands of their best to tie the game. With 10 seconds left, Josh Hubbard drained yet another three, tying the game at 89. Jubilation.

Sports fandom can be cruel. That's something Mississippi State fans unfortunately know all too well. And sometimes sports will toy with your emotions in truly wicked ways. Following Hubbard's make, Kentucky quickly ran down the court, and the Wildcats own freshman superstar, Reed Sheppard, lobbed up a floater at the last second. He swished it home, and Kentucky defeated MSU 91-89.

Agony.

It's hard to compare this to most recent losses to Kentucky, because no recent Mississippi State teams would have ever gone on a final minute run to tie the game after blowing a lead. It's a testament to this team that they're capable of clawing back even when the odds aren't in their favor. But losing in this manner is undoubtedly far more brutal than if State had never made things interesting.

Josh Hubbard Continues to Dominate

There's a very obvious silver-lining in this loss, and it's that Josh Hubbard once again proved to be special. Just three days after posting a career high 32 points in State's win over LSU, Hubbard went out and one-upped that performance with 34 points on 11-24 shooting, going 7-14 beyond the arc.

The true freshman is unquestionably the best pure shooter to come through this program in a very long time. He's completely changed this team's ability on the offensive end, and the Bulldogs would never have had a chance in this game if not for him. Quite literally he was responsible for nine of State's final 14 points, with each of his makes coming on shots you wouldn't trust anyone else to take.

It's a shame that this performance didn't lead to a win and that it will overshadowed by Reed Shepard's remarkable night for UK, in which he singlehandedly won them the game. But Hubbard is a superstar that is already putting himself on a trajectory to go down as an all-time player at State.

The Humphrey Coliseum Crowd was Awesome

Again, it's tougher to celebrate these things in a loss, but the atmosphere at the Hump was fantastic. The Mississippi State fanbase is fully bought-in to basketball once again, and it's beautiful to see. The Hump was long one of the most intimidating places to play in the SEC but years of disappointment had seemingly killed the environment for good. But Bulldog fans have rallied behind the program, and we're seeing the Hump get back to what it once was.

Mississippi State Basketball is Still a Tournament Team

For as crushing as this loss may be to our emotions, it did nothing to hurt Mississippi State's chances at returning to the Big Dance. It certainly would've been nice to add another marquee win to the resume and officially lock in a bid, but the loss doesn't damage that resume in any way. In fact, MSU actually moved up in KenPom following the game. State remains in good position to make the tournament.

It's frustrating that Mississippi State basketball once again came just short against Kentucky. For whatever reason, they cannot seem to get over the hump against the Cats. But this is still a very good team that's more than capable of closing out the regular season strong heading into the postseason. They cannot, however, afford to fall victim to the infamous "Kentucky hangover". The Bulldogs must quickly regroup as they head to Auburn Saturday for a difficult road trip.