STARKVILLE, Mississippi (Ticker) -- Erik Daniels was in the perfect place at the perfect time.
Daniels scored off a loose ball as time expired to lift No. 5 Kentucky to a 67-66 victory over No. 24 Mississippi State in a Southeastern Conference thriller.
Mississippi State (13-1, 2-1 SEC West) took its final lead, 66-65, in unconventional fashion with a minute left. Timmy Bowers missed a 3-pointer, but Kelenna Azubuike tipped it into his own net. The basket was credited to Branden Vincent.
The Bulldogs had chances to extend the lead, but Winsome Frazier and Bowers each missed 1-and-1 chances, the last by Bowers with 21 seconds left. Kentucky set up for the last shot, but Gerald Fitch had it knocked loose for a jump ball with 2.5 seconds to go.
The Wildcats (11-1, 2-0 East) had the possession arrow and Cliff Hawkins' inbounds pass intended for Chuck Hayes in the lane was knocked away by Lawrence Roberts. The loose ball came right into the hands of Daniels, who banked in a layup as time expired and was mobbed by his teammates.
"We were trying to get Gerald Fitch the ball," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "I think somebody made a deflection and Erik had the presence of mind to grab the ball and put it back in the basket. Erik's such a smart and intelligent player."
After the officials used video replay to confirm the basket was good, Kentucky was awarded its 19th straight SEC regular-season triumph.
"It is just one of those things you know is going to happen, but you hope it doesn't happen to you," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "It is just one of freak things that happen. I just know that Daniels ended up with it in his hands."
Kentucky bolted to a 12-2 lead just over five minutes into the game and never trailed in building a 33-15 lead with 5:23 left before halftime. Mississippi State freshman Gary Ervin sparked an 11-2 run that closed the gap to 37-28 at halftime.
Fitch, who scored 23 points, nailed a 3-pointer made it 44-30 with 16:47 remaining before Mississippi State slowly crept back. The Wildcats still held a 63-55 edge on Daniels' basket with just over five minutes remaining.
"Gerald carried us for most of the game with his outside shooting," Smith said.
The Bulldogs scored the next nine points taking their first lead on Roberts' follow shot for a 64-63 edge with 1:58 to go. But they were left lamenting botched 1-and-1 chances by Frazier and Bowers in the final 30 seconds.
"A lot of you have wondered if we were a 'for real' team," Stansbury said. "That question has been asked a lot. I think we came out and proved that tonight against a great Kentucky team. Our guys never gave up."
Bowers scored 20 points to lead the Bulldogs, whose 13-0 start was the best in school history. Roberts, a Baylor transfer, added 15 and 14 boards.