By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
If you weren't fortunate enough to be in the fine city of Starkville, Miss., Tuesday night, I hope you were at least able to watch on television the Mississippi State Bulldogs take No. 2 Kentucky to overtime before letting the Wildcats escape with the win.
And as if the pain of losing a nailbiter wasn't difficult enough, MSU suffered some national-television embarrassment after fans, already jacked about having UK star DeMarcus Cousins' cell-phone number, threw drinks on to the floor late in the game.
The bebubbled home team enjoyed a seven-point lead with less than three minutes left, but Kentucky scored the final seven points of regulation to tie the game, 67-67.
After a Mississippi State timeout during which coach Rick Stansbury drew up a play that clearly didn't get run, Barry Stewart launched what Scott Van Pelt described on the "SportsCenter" that followed the game as "a contested double-pump that misses everything but the floor." It really was ugly.
Kentucky would call back-to-back-to-back 30-second timeouts, but they weren't enough to produce a game-winning play.
It was an easy call at that point to think the visitors would survive. First of all, they're better, and secondly, MSU was playing without its top interior player, Jarvis Varnado, who fouled out late in regulation.
It wasn't just the obnoxious student section that thought ill of a few late calls or no-calls by the officials, but the Bulldogs themselves deserve the blame for this loss. Poor shot selection on at least a pair of possessions in the last five minutes didn't help the home team's effort to protect that seven-point cushion. MSU lost this game, as well as a huge chance for a resume win.
Outside of their season finale at home against No. 18 Tennessee, the Bulldogs (18-8, 6-5 SEC) play an easy remaining schedule against four SEC foes with a combined league record of 12-30. They might want to win those games. Losing one of them will do far more harm than the good that would come with winning all four of them.
TREND WATCH: Cousins, who's earned a reputation in his freshman season as a great player with a bad attitude, had his number plastered all over the MSU student community the last couple of days. Trash-talking phone calls and text messages didn't seem to bother him, though, as he finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds in 30 minutes.
After a first-half dunk, Cousins turned toward the seats as he began to run back down the court, lifted his hand to his head and made a kind of "call me" gesture that I think just might become a new trend among the drama-craving athletes.
BIG TEN BRAWL: Purdue visits Ohio State Wednesday night and while you all know I'm an Ohio guy, an informed opinion and not home-state bias is what leads me to believe the Buckeyes will win this one. I'm not as confident about OSU's chances at Michigan State Sunday, but I think the Bucks keep pace with those Spartans with a win over the Boilermakers.
Ohio State is unbeaten in Columbus this year and hasn't lost at home to Purdue in 12 years. I don't know if there's a team -- particularly a starting five -- that's playing better than OSU is right now, and it would be irresponsible not to mention that Evan Turner might be the best player in the country.
Purdue is solid and it still might eventually earn a No. 2 seed next month, but as long as the Buckeyes are playing this way, a Michigan State team in East Lansing seems the only threat to derail OSU's current hot trend.
CINCINNATI UPDATE: ESPN's Andy Katz Tweeted Tuesday night that UC's loss at South Florida won't cause too much harm to the Bearcats' NCAA chances.
Perhaps he's of the logic that Cincinnati's closing schedule of West Virginia, Villanova and Georgetown offers ample opportunities for resume wins. True as it may be, but if Cincinnati can't beat South Florida -- or Seton Hall or St. John's -- I can't imagine it can win two of those other three, let alone all of them, against Big East powers currently ranked among the top 10 in the country.
The Bearcats are headed to the NIT. Still.