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Split-second save for UK

Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins puts up the tying shot after rebounding John Wall’s airball, just before the buzzer. Jarvis Varnado (32) did not go for the rebound, thinking time would run out.

Associated Press

Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins puts up the tying shot after rebounding John Wall’s airball, just before the buzzer. Jarvis Varnado (32) did not go for the rebound, thinking time would run out.

NASHVILLE — John Calipari only had questions once he and his Kentucky Wildcats finished celebrating their SEC tournament championship Sunday.

"How did we win this game? How did we go to overtime? I don't know," Calipari said.

Credit his fantastic freshmen who scored to get them to overtime and then won the game.

John Wall scored seven of his 15 points in overtime, and No. 2 Kentucky rallied from five down with 2:28 left in regulation to beat Mississippi State 75-74. The Wildcats' 26th SEC tournament championship was the first title game decided by one point since 1952.

The Wildcats ran around the arena waving and yelling with their fans, but stayed away from the nets.

"We will cut down nets," Calipari said. "It's just not the SEC tournament nets. Maybe hopefully in the NCAA Tournament somewhere, but I think these guys they have a big picture."

The Wildcats (32-2) blew earlier chances with freshmen Wall and DeMarcus Cousins missing free throws and making youthful mistakes. But they came through over the defending tourney champs as Cousins' layup off Wall's missed 3-pointer from the right corner barely beat the buzzer to force overtime.

Wall thought the Wildcats had won on Cousins' shot and tackled the 6-foot-11, 270-pound forward, celebrating a bit early.

"I was so excited," Wall said. "When I went to the bench, Coach said, 'It's overtime.' I was like, 'Whew.' I was tired."

"So I got kind of beat up at the end thanks to John," Cousins said with a smile.

Mississippi State (23-11) lost for the second time to the Wildcats this season after leading late in regulation. The Bulldogs blew a seven-point lead on Feb. 16, and lost that game 81-75 in overtime.

"The Good Lord willing, He didn't want us to win," Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost said. "He's got a plan for everything.''

The Bulldogs led 62-57 on Ravern Johnson's 3 with 2:28 left. That set up a furious finish to a game that had gone back and forth from the opening tip.

Barry Stewart hit two free throws with 8.2 seconds left to make it 64-61, Bulldogs. Stewart then intentionally fouled Eric Bledsoe to prevent a 3-pointer, fouling out. Bledsoe hit the first free throw, missed the second and Wall's 3-pointer was a short airball. Mississippi State center Jarvis Varnado, saying he thought time would expire, did not try for the rebound and Cousins put it back, just beating the buzzer.

Wall and Cousins celebrated with their teammates piling on as if they had won. They finally went back to the bench while officials reviewed the play that ultimately cost the Bulldogs an NCAA Tournament bid that would have come with an SEC title.

"I thought we'd lost," Kentucky center Daniel Orton said. "I'm not going to lie to you. I was thinking of moving on, getting back and watching the Selection Show."

Kentucky 75

Miss. State 74

OVERTIME

Split-second save for UK 03/14/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 14, 2010 10:13pm]
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