Lexington — Julius Mays' eight points in overtime, including four clinching free throws in the final 33 seconds, helped Kentucky get the important victory it needed to bolster its NCAA tournament chances, beating Missouri 90-83 Saturday night.
Mays made six free throws in overtime and scored 21 of his 24 points after halftime for the Wildcats (19-8, 10-4 Southeastern Conference), who needed a 'quality' win to go along with their triumph over then-No. 16 Mississippi last month. Kentucky got it by holding serve at Rupp Arena over Missouri (19-8, 8-6) in the marquee game on ESPN College Game Day, and the Wildcats' backcourt was key in beating the Tigers.
Archie Goodwin scored all 18 of his points after intermission while Ryan Harrow added 16 with eight rebounds and six assists. That helped offset Phil Pressey's 27 points and Missouri's determined effort that forced overtime.
Instead, the Tigers saw their road woes continue in falling to 1-7.
Alex Poythress added 21 points for the Wildcats, who improved to 2-1 since losing freshman center Nerlens Noel to a season-ending knee injury.
Kentucky shot 30 of 59 from the field (51 percent). Missouri finished 33 of 76 (43.4 percent).
Alex Oriakhi added 16 points and Laurence Bowers 13 for the Tigers.
The tight ending typified the game's importance for both teams hoping for at-large tournament bids. Though Missouri seemed to be in better shape than Kentucky, Tigers coach Frank Haith said there were many teams "in the same boat," needing a substantive win.
Thanks to Kentucky's guards, the Wildcats' postseason hopes remain afloat.
Out of sorts midway through the first half, the Wildcats regrouped to trail by 35-31 at the half before mounting a 31-20 run over the first 10-plus minutes of the second half for a 62-55 lead. Missouri fought back and forced overtime and led twice in the extra period but couldn't hold off determined Kentucky.
Mays converted a 1-and-1 then added a follow basket to keep Kentucky tied at 79. Goodwin made a reverse layup before Poythress and Harrow both made two free throws. Mays' four sealed the game.