(18) Kentucky (17-5) at Mississippi State (13-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 8, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Humphrey Coliseum (10,575) -- Starkville, Mississippi.
Television: SEC Network. Home Record: UK 14-0, MSU 11-2. Away Record: UK 2-3,
MSU 0-6. Neutral Record: UK 1-2, MSU 2-1. Conference Record: UK 7-2, MSU 3-6.
Series Record: Kentucky leads, 90-20.
GAME NOTES: The 18th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will embark on a two-game road
swing starting on Saturday afternoon when they venture to Humphrey Coliseum
for a date with the slumping Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Since losing at LSU on Jan. 28 (87-82), Kentucky has claimed back-to-back
wins over Missouri (84-79) and most recently at home versus Ole Miss on
Tuesday (80-64), to improve to 7-2 in the SEC, good for second place in the
league standings behind unbeaten Florida. The Wildcats are a stellar 17-5
overall, but that includes just a 2-3 mark on the road.
Mississippi State started the campaign an impressive 13-5 but has since come
crashing back down to earth with a season-high four-game losing streak. The
Bulldogs' latest bout ended in a lopsided 72-52 loss at Texas A&M on Wednesday
to fall to 13-9 overall and 3-6 in the league, but now they return home to
Starkville, where they've won 11 of 13.
The Wildcats made easy work of the Bulldogs in Lexington in the first meeting
this season on Jan. 8, 85-63. Kentucky has won seven straight against
Mississippi State and has dominated the all-time series, 90-20.
Although Kentucky held just a one-point lead at the half of its most recent
matchup, it never relinquished that advantage in the second stanza and pulled
away down the stretch for the 16-point victory. It outshot Ole Miss from the
field, 51 percent to 38.5 percent, and held a commanding scoring advantage at
the free-throw line, 26-8. Willie Cauley-Stein shined in reserve minutes,
shooting 7-of-8 from the field for 18 points, while adding 11 rebounds and six
blocks. Aaron Harrison netted 16 points, Julius Randle had 12 points and James
Young and Alex Poythress scored 10 points apiece.
The Wildcats have grown accustomed to well-rounded efforts on both ends of the
floor this season, as they rank second in the SEC in scoring offense (80.0
ppg) and fifth in scoring defense (67.0 ppg), while their field-goal
percentage (.476), rebounding margin (+10.4) and blocks per game (6.9) are all
tops in the league. Their biggest weakness comes at the free-throw line, where
they drain just 67.8 percent of their attempts. Randle (16.0 ppg, 9.9 rpg) has
been as advertised in pacing the team's outstanding freshman class. Fellow
first-year players Young (14.7 ppg), Aaron Harrison (14.2 ppg) and Andrew
Harrison (11.0 ppg, 3.5 apg) are also in the midst of stellar seasons, and
Cauley-Stein (7.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is an elite defender with 3.2 bpg and 1.2 spg.
Mississippi State hung tough with Texas A&M for much of its latest contest and
even claimed a one-point lead early in the second half, but it quickly lost
control following a 20-2 run by the Aggies and eventually fell in blowout
fashion. It shot a disappointing 37.5 percent from the field on the evening,
and its game-high 17 turnovers resulted in 22 Texas A&M points. The low-
scoring performance was paced by Fred Thomas and Craig Sword with 10 points
apiece, while Colin Borchert and Gavin Ware both had seven points and seven
Although the Bulldogs own an above-.500 overall record this season, they still
score fewer points (68.1 ppg) than they allow (68.5 ppg), and their lackluster
showings from 3-point range (4.8 per game at a 31.6 percent clip) and the foul
line (.649) rank among the SEC's worst. Sword leads the team with 13.2 ppg on
48.3 percent shooting, although he has more turnovers (65) than assists (59).
Ware is a mainstay in the paint with 10.5 ppg (on 60.1 percent shooting) and
7.9 rpg, while Borchert (10.2 ppg), Roquez Johnson (9.0 ppg) and Thomas (8.5
ppg) have also been solid.
While Mississippi State has impressed on its home floor this season, it is
simply nowhere near as talented as Kentucky. The Wildcats should have no
problem overcoming their road surroundings to knock off the struggling
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 76, Mississippi State 66
02/08 10:26:54 ET
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