Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Bulldogs Fall In Overtime At Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky duo of Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps proved too much for the Mississippi State women's basketball team to overcome Thursday night. On senior night, that duo helped lead the No. 22 Wildcats to a thrilling 78-75 overtime win over No. 2 Bulldogs in Southeastern Conference play at Memorial Coliseum.

MSU was denied in its chance to claim at a least a share of the school's first conference championship in women's basketball. The Bulldogs will get another chance to do just that Sunday on their Senior Day against Tennessee at Humphrey Coliseum.

"Really want to compliment Kentucky; they played an outstanding game," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "They played harder than we did tonight. We had 22 turnovers and only forced nine. This is disappointing. Kentucky really willed themselves to victory. In the first half, we had a lot of issues. We really struggled offensively and defensively there in that first half.

"It was a great basketball game. I don't like getting outplayed or outhustled. That is my responsibility. You have to give credit to Kentucky. They played extremely hard. We have to go home and win one at home."

Kentucky improved to 20-8 overall and 11- 4 in league play, while MSU fell to 27-2 and 13-2. The Bulldogs saw a seven-game winning streak come to an end. The Wildcats have won 11-straight in the series.

After winning in double overtime on this floor a year ago, the Wildcats did it again with 27 points and 16 rebounds from Akhator, as well as 22 points and five assists from Epps.

Victoria Vivians led the Bulldogs with 27 points. Her mid-court 3-point shot fell short as time expired. Morgan William added 20 points. The Bulldogs battled foul trouble all night, with both William and Dominique Dillingham fouling out and three other Bulldogs finishing with four fouls.

The Bulldogs scored the game's first five points and quickly led 10-2. MSU held the lead throughout the quarter with a 19-18 lead after one quarter.

In the second quarter, the Bulldogs went better than three minutes without scoring. The lead changed hands a couple of times before a 3-pointer by Blair Schaefer gave the Bulldogs a 31-30 halftime lead.

Kentucky built a 38-31 lead in the early stages of the third quarter. The Bulldogs would follow with an 11-2 run for a 42-40 lead on a layup by William. Again, the Bulldogs ended the third quarter with another one-point lead (44-43).

In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs had to battle back from a four-point deficit in the final 1:12. William tied the game with a layup. The Bulldogs then got a block from Teaira McCowan to run out regulation time.

The Bulldogs grabbed a 75-73 lead with 1:23 left in overtime. Kentucky tied the contest on a basket by Akhator and took the lead on a tip-in by Epps with eight seconds left.

Down two, the Bulldogs were called for a traveling violation. The Wildcats hit one of two free throws to close out the win.

For the contest, MSU hit 26 of 55 shots from the field (47.3 percent), 7 of 18 shots from 3-point range (38.9 percent) and 16 of 22 shots from the foul line (72.7 percent). Kentucky hit 28 of 68 shots from the field (41.2 percent), 2 of 9 shots from 3-point range (22.2 percent) and 20 of 28 shots from the foul line (71.4 percent).

MSU held a 36-32 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 18 assists and 22 turnovers, while the Wildcats had 10 assists and nine turnovers.

MSU returns home for a Sunday contest with Tennessee. The Bulldogs look for a fourth-straight win against the Lady Vols in a 4 p.m. tip at the Humphrey Coliseum. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2. The all-time winningest senior class in program history will be recognized pregame Sunday.

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