When Kentucky needed them most, senior Darius Miller and freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist delivered for the Wildcats in Tuesday's 73-64 win over Mississippi State that kept the Wildcats unbeaten in Southeastern Conference play.
Kentucky trailed 41-28 at halftime when Calipari moved Kidd-Gilchrist to guard State guard Dee Bost, who had 16 points at halftime. He also told Miller he wanted him to shoot more after he was 0-for-2 in the first half.
Bost scored just five points in the second half and Kidd-Gilchrist and Miller combined to score 17 points during a game-winning 20-4 run to close the game. Miller scored all 12 of his points in the final eight minutes and Kidd-Gilchrist had 12 of his 18 points in the second half. In the 20-4 run, Miller also had a steal and rebound while Kidd-Gilchrist had three rebounds, one assist and one steal.
Overall, Kidd-Gilchrist had 18 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, one steal and one assist in 36 minutes.
"I was thinking about starting the game that way (with Kidd-Gilchrist on Bost), and obviously I made a mistake not doing that. I wanted to try to press early and I did not want Michael to be on the wrong guy because he is the head of our press. So, that is the only reason I did not, but he did great," said Kentucky coach John Calipari.
Calipari joked that Kidd-Gilchrist told him "I got it" when he switched him to Bost.
"I love that challenge right there," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I love playing defense. That's my game right there."
Kidd-Gilchrist said he wanted to take away Bost's 3-point shooting so "I got my hands up, played good defense" because he knew Bost would keep making shots if he didn't "because it's that way with everybody" we play.
Bost didn't deny that he had more trouble scoring on Kidd-Gilchrist than he did Marquis Teague in the first half. He was 4-for-9 from the field and 6-for-6 at the foul line in the first half and 1-for-6 from the field and 2-for-2 at the foul line in the second half.
"Give him credit. He was long and athletic and kind of bothered me a little bit, but at the same time we got the ball where we wanted to and did not knock down shots," Bost said.
Calipari said he took Miller out "a couple of times" and once came out for not shooting.
"My coach never had to take me out because I would not shoot," Calipari said. "He passed up shots and he's out. He went back in and was bombing balls. I told him, ‘You are the glue to this team. They count on you to make shots and he did it."
Miller had three 3-point goals and three free throws when he was fouled on a 3-point shot in the final eight mintues after going scoreless the first 32 minutes.
"I just knew we had to make plays," Miller said. "Everybody else was making plays and I?had to step up. Doron (Lamb) got me look looks. Mike got me open looks. I?had to knock them down.
"Honestly, I just tried to stay focused. I know I had to make plays. I wasn't and tried to focus in and it worked out. The guys did a great job providing opportunities and I just knocked them down."
Miller said he was "talking back and forth" with Calipari during his hot streak.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury thought the foul on thte 3-point shot when State had a 60-53 lead and got the rebound on the miss was the game's key play.
"He just slapped my elbow and the ref was right behind me luckily and saw it and got the call," Miller said.
Stansbury praised Miller's play.
"Darius Miller is the fiber that holds that team together. He is the key to them and was the total difference in the game tonight. He stepped up and made plays when he had to make plays for that team," Stansbury said. "They look to him when the game is on the line. The game was on the line at Vanderbilt, who made shots? Miller. When the game was on the line tonight, who made shots? Miller.
"He is the only one with experience. He's a senior and has been through the wars. He is a terrific player and to me their most valuable player. Cal has done a great job getting him to accept his role. He has been a complementary player, but he plays starter's minutes. He is a high character kid."
Miller credited UK's defense more than his shooting for the comeback victory.
"When we started playing defense and locking down, that is what got us going again and provided opportunities to make shots,"?Miller said. "The shots really don't count if we don't stop them. Defense got us going and gave us a chance to win.
"It is a huge win for us. They are a great team, really experienced team. For us to come down here and win game after being down, it takes a lot."