By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – After a scoreless first half, Kentucky reserve Darius Miller exploded for 12 points, helping his team avoid the upset bug Tuesday night against Mississippi State.
At one point, coach John Calipari took him out for not taking a shot.
“I said, ‘Your job for this team, you’re that senior, you’re the glue of this team. They count on you to make those shots,’” Calipari said.
Miller made 3 of 6 from 3-point range, including a long one with 90 seconds left for a seven-point Kentucky edge.
“Darius Miller is the fiber that holds that whole team together. He’s the key to them,” said MSU coach Rick Stansbury.
Freshman Rodney Hood suffered a sprained knee late in the first half and did not return. That left MSU with just a six-man rotation the second half.
Hood had six points, making 2 of 4 from 3-point range in 12 minutes. Of how that injury impacted the game, Stansbury said, “We’ll never know the total effect of that.”
It certainly didn’t help State, which shot just 32 percent in the second half (40.7 percent for the game). Stansbury said Hood will get X-rays on his knee today.
MSU forward Renardo Sidney, a question mark for this game due to back spasms, started and turned in a strong defensive effort. He helped limit Kentucky’s interior offense.
Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, a post force all season, settled for several outside shots. He finished with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Sidney had three points and one board, while Arnett Moultrie had 13 and 11.
Stansbury thought using a 2-3 zone in the second half worked at times. UK shot 43.9 percent from the floor, nearly five points below its average.
“We took a lot of dunks away from them tonight,” Stansbury said.