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Kentucky barely survives Mississippi State for SEC title

NASHVILLE - John Calipari only had questions once he and his Kentucky Wildcats finished celebrating their Southeastern Conference Tournament championship.

"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 17 points in overtime, and No. 2 Kentucky rallied from five down with 2:28 left in regulation to beat Mississippi State, 75-74, Sunday. The Wildcats rewarded their faithful by adding their 26th SEC Tournament championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament to their 44th regular-season title.

Two down, one to go? That might be why the Wildcats ran around the arena waving and yelling with their fans without ever cutting down a net.

"We will cut down nets," Calipari promised. "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 . . . This is a game we should've lost."

The Wildcats (32-2) blew earlier chances with 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 three-pointer from the right corner beat the regulation buzzer to earn extra time.

Wall did miscalculate. He thought the Wildcats had won on Cousins' shot and tackled the 6-11, 270-pound forward to the court near the press table, celebrating a wee 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. I knew we fought hard. I didn't play a great game, but I did a great job of leading my team."

Cousins knew he had forced overtime even if his teammates didn't as they followed Wall's lead and swarmed him on the floor. "So I got kind of beat up at the end thanks to John," Cousins said.

Mississippi State (23-11), which did not receive an NCAA Tourament bid, lost for the second time to the Wildcats this season after leading late in regulation.

New York Sports