State had a chance to tie the game in the final three seconds, but Keisha Stringfellow missed an off-balanced three-pointer after UK's Rita Adams connected on one-of-two free-throws. The Lady Bulldogs trailed by four with 23 seconds left, 73-69, before a Tan White three-pointer pulled MSU to within one.
After the two teams went into the break tied 36-36, State opened up an eight-point lead in the second half, at 55-47, with 11:03 to play. But the Lady Bulldogs couldn't put Kentucky away. The Lady Wildcats used a 15-4 run over a 4:25 span to turn a seven-point deficit into a four-point lead with 2:26 left.
"Give Kentucky credit," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning said. "They came in and played to win. They played really well down the stretch and deserved to win. We have to play to win, not playing not to lose. You can't play passive."
LaToya Thomas and Tan White combined to score 48 of Mississippi State's 72 points. White scored 25 points while dishing out five assists. The All-SEC shooting guard hit 9-of-21 shots from the field before fouling out in the final seconds. Thomas, who also garnered All-SEC honors for the third-straight season, added 23 points. She grabbed 11 boards to tally her 14th double-double of the season and her tenth in the last 15 games. Thomas was 10-of-17 from the floor. Keisha Stringfellow scored ten points and Jennifer Fambrough poured in nine before fouling out with three seconds left in the game.
Selia Helm led Kentucky with 19 points. Shambrica Jones and Danyelle Payne each recorded career-highs as they tallied 18 and 12 points, respectively. Rita Adams also contributed 12 points for Kentucky, which has now reached the second round of the SEC Tournament in three of the past four tournaments.
Kentucky forced 25 Mississippi State turnovers, including a costly one in the final seconds with State trailing by two points. The Lady Wildcats out-rebounded MSU 41-27, limiting the Lady Bulldogs to just five offensive boards and only two second-chance points. State shot 51 percent from the field (29-of-57) and 42 percent from long-range (5-of-12) while holding the Cats to 46-percent shooting.
"We didn't play mentally the way we needed to play to win," Fanning said. "We turned the ball over too much to win tonight."
Kentucky broke a five-game losing string to Mississippi State, including a 59-54 decision earlier this year in Lexington in the conference opener for both teams.