He giveth, and he taketh away.
After giving Missouri a chance to win by making a lot of good decisions with the basketball, Phil Pressey once again made a series of bad decisions with the basketball in the game’s final minute-and-a-half.
With the score tied at 79-79, and with 1:32 remaining in overtime, Pressey took an ill-advised three that resulted in a lay-up on the other end by Kentucky’s 6’5” 198-pound freshman guard Archie Goodwin. Then, Pressey turned the ball over near mid-court, and Tony Criswell was forced to foul Kentucky’s 6’7” 239-pound freshman forward Alex Poythress, who made both free throws to put the Wildcats ahead 83-79, with 0:48 remaining.
Pressey came back down and hit a short jumper to cut Kentucky’s lead to 83-81, with 0:45 remaining. Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith quickly called a 30-second timeout. The Tigers needed a stop, but instead, Jabari Brown fouled Kentucky’s 6’2” 170-pound sophomore guard Ryan Harrow, and Harrow and the Wildcats made 6 straight free throws to salt the game away.
Meanwhile, Pressey hoisted up another desperation three, digging the Missouri hole even deeper.
To be fair, up until the final 1:32 of overtime, Pressey had played well, at times very, very well, and had the Tigers in position to pull out a tough road win. But in what has become an all-too-familiar scenario, Pressey lost his poise at the critical juncture.
“I thought we battled, but Kentucky out-scrapped us in the second half,” explained Coach Haith following his team’s sixth conference road loss. “At the beginning of the second half, we just didn’t defend. And, Kentucky got every loose ball. We got out-rebounded big in the second half, and every hustle play, they got to. We were fortunate to have a chance to take it to overtime.”
As the game got underway, Missouri was doing a good job on both ends of the floor. The Tigers were controlling the boards, and Laurence Bowers hit a three to put Missouri ahead 9-6, with 14:41 remaining in the first half.
Phil Pressey sat down for Missouri, and Keion Bell did a good job of running Missouri’s offense. The Tigers were playing decent defense, and they were controlling the boards. On the offensive end, Missouri was getting layups and put-backs. The Tigers led 17-8, with 11:04 remaining in the first half.
Missouri continued to get the ball to the basket. On the other end, Kentucky’s Ryan Harrow was taking advantage of Phil Pressey and getting to the basket for the Wildcats. Kentucky had 6’10” 239-pound sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjier in the game, and they were trying to get him going on the offensive end. Missouri led 21-14, with 7:51 remaining in the first half.
Missouri continued to get to the basket, and to the free throw line. On the other end, Kentucky continued to try to get the ball to the basket. A couple of turnovers by the Tigers led to easy transition baskets for the Wildcats, which cut Missouri’s lead to 28-19, with 3:28 remaining in the first half, and which seemed to get Kentucky going on the offensive end.
Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi were each sitting with 2 fouls, and Missouri had gotten lazy on defense. On the offensive end, the Tigers were settling for outside shots, and Kentucky cut into the Tigers’ lead. Missouri took a 35-31 lead into the locker room at the half.
In the first half, Missouri had won the battle of the boards by a 27-18 margin, and Mizzou had outscored Kentucky by a 24-14 margin in the paint.
Missouri had gotten balanced scoring throughout their lineup in the first half. Bowers had been especially effective on both ends, while Oriakhi had pulled down 9 first-half rebounds.
For Kentucky, Ryan Harrow finished the first half with 12 points, and Alex Poythress had scored 10 points in the first half.
As the second half began, Kentucky was energized, and Phil Pressey and Missouri appeared listless. Held scoreless throughout the first half, Goodwin got going on the offensive end, and Kentucky quickly grabbed a 47-46 lead, with 15:35 remaining in the game.
Pressey was on the bench, and except for lapses by Earnest Ross, Missouri was playing good defense. On the offensive end, the Tigers continued to go inside to Oriakhi and Bowers. Missouri briefly regained the lead, but Ross twice failed to block out on the defensive end, and Kentucky regained a 54-51 lead, with 11:49 remaining in the game.
Goodwin was beating Ross anytime he wanted to. Poythress had gotten off offensively, and he and Goodwin were taking it to the basket. Kentucky extended their lead to 64-57, with 7:25 remaining.
Coach Haith had gone back to his starting line-up, and Pressey was playing well on both ends of the floor. Missouri got some defensive stops, and Pressey was finding Bowers and Oriakhi near the basket. Then Bowers went to the bench with his 4th foul, and Tony Criswell took his place. Goodwin drove the lane and got fouled. Kentucky led 70-67, with 2:36 remaining.
Goodwin made 1 of 2 free throws. Then, Pressey pushed it up off of the missed free throw, and found Bowers cutting down the lane for a lay-up. On the other end, Pressey stole the basketball, and got it to Keion Bell for a fast break lay-up to tie the score at 71-71, with 2:04 remaining in regulation.
Thirty seconds later, Bowers switched onto Kentucky’s 6’2” 192-pound fifth-year senior guard Julius Mays, who shot-faked beyond the 3-PT line. Bowers went into the air to close out on Mays, who had been making some 3-PT shots. Mays went back up and into Bowers to draw the Missouri senior’s 5th foul. Mays made 2 of the 3 free throws.
Missouri got a pair of free throws from Tony Criswell, and another steal by Pressey turned into a fast break layup, which gave Missouri a 75-73 lead, with 0:57 remaining in regulation.
Kentucky worked it inside to 7’0” 244-pound freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein for a tying score.
Missouri took a time-out with 0:36 remaining, and after he ran the clock down, Pressey kept the basketball and missed a tough fall-away in the tall trees. The score was 75-75 at end of regulation.
Had Missouri come out of the halftime locker room and played with increased defensive intensity and focus, it probably wouldn’t have ever gotten to overtime.
Pressey led all scorers with 27 points, 10 assists against 4 turnovers, and 4 steals. Oriakhi finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Bowers had 13 points and 5 rebounds before he fouled out.
Mays led Kentucky with 24 points, while Poythrees finished with 21 points, Goodwin finished with 18 points, and Harrow finished with 16 points. Cauley-Stein had 7 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats.
For the game, Kentucky out-rebounded Missouri by a 41-39 margin.
“We’ve have some guys who are just going to have to pick up their play here, for us to be good,” said Coach Haith.