"You have to take your hat off to him," said Ramel Bradley, who added 11 points tonight, "The big fellow did his job tonight. He capitalized on his opportunities and we road him down the stretch."
"It happens sometimes that one guy steps up late," said senior Bobby Perry, who finished with seven points and four rebounds, "He's a great player and he always steps up when it counts. We finished the game the right way tonight."
Morris finished with 17 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots to lead the way for Kentucky. Joe Crawford chipped in with 14 points, and Ramel Bradley iced the game with three of four free throws in the final minute of play.
The game was tight through out the contest, featuring a number of mini-runs and comebacks by both ball clubs, resulting in multiple lead changes and tie scores. Early in the game, with the Cats leading by just two, the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run behind three pointers by Ben Hansbrough and Richard Delk and a layup from Dietric Slater. Kentucky responded with its own 11-0 run on three-point shots by Michael Porter, Bobby Perry and Crawford and a layup by Crawford. The game would go like this throughout the contest.
The Wildcats held the Bulldogs to 39.7% field goal shooting despite allowing coach Rick Stansbury's club 9-19 shooting from three point range. Mississippi State likewise played solid defense, restricting Kentucky to just 36% shooting. The Wildcats, badly outrebounded in the first half, won the battle of the boards by a single rebound. Kentucky committed just nine turnovers and blocked eight big shots.
"Kentucky is a good team," said Bulldog's center Charles Rhodes, "When it comes down to the wire, you got to expect that from Kentucky. Kentucky's going to bring their best when it comes down to the wire because that's the type of team they are."
Leading by a single point at the break, senior Bobby Perry stepped up with two big back to back shots to give the Cats a four-point lead at 34-30 at the 16-minute mark in this low-scoring contest. Near the midway point of the second half, consecutive three pointers by Barry Stewart and Reginald Delk deadlocked the game once again at 40.
The Bulldogs would take a 48-47 lead on a Delk jumper at the 7:30 mark and then extend the lead to three on a Charles Rhodes dunk 25 seconds later. But freshman Derrick Jasper and Morris would combine for ten points as the Cats went on a 10-3 run to reclaim the lead 57-53, and the Bulldogs would draw no closer than one point the rest of the way.
"Number one, give Kentucky a lot of credit," said Mississppi State coach Rick Stansbury after the game, "They did the things they had to do to finish up the basketball game. Mainly, step to the free throw line and make free throws, probably some guys that you may not want up there so much. I know Randolph Morris stepped to the line and made all those free throws, which was big. A big stat at halftime was they had zero offensive rebounds, in the second half they had 10. I haven't seen the film but I would be sure to say that at least three or four of those were putbacks and that is a huge stat."
The Wildcats, a perfect 3-0 in SEC play, will now travel to Columbia, South Carolina for a game with the Gamecocks on Tuesday. The Gamecocks (10-5, 0-2 SEC) are losers of their last three in a row, two of those games were to top ten ranked Kansas and Florida. South Carolina has won two of the last four meetings with Kentucky.