LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky basketball is coming off its two closest calls so far in SEC play, and Mississippi State is surging. So will the Wildcats run into an unexpected challenge in Starkville on Tuesday night?
Fifth-ranked Kentucky led by just a point with 1:36 to go against Vanderbilt and by only six with eight minutes to go against Auburn. Sure, they still beat the Tigers by 20, the fourth time in five league games they’ve won by at least that much, but we’re looking for tiny flaws in a great team here.
Plus, the Bulldogs have won three straight SEC games – at LSU and Arkansas, at home against Texas A&M – and will be looking to make a statement in front of a reenergized fan base.
“We are playing the very best team in our league. That is without a doubt. I think they are one of the top two or three teams in the country and are going to have the chance to win the national championship,” MSU coach Ben Howland said. “It is a great opportunity to play against great players. We are going to have a phenomenal environment. I think our fans are fired up.”
The good news for Kentucky: It leads the all-time series 93-20, including 34-12 in Starkville, and coach John Calipari is 9-0 against the Bulldogs.
Kentucky basketball vs. Mississippi State game time, details
Date: Tuesday, Jan. 17
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Humphrey Coliseum (10,500), Starkville, Miss.
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 14
What TV channel is Kentucky basketball vs. Mississippi State on?
The game will be broadcast on ESPN (DirecTV channel 206, DISH channel 140, Time Warner channel 27/753 HD).
How can I watch Kentucky basketball vs. Mississippi State online?
Who is calling the Kentucky basketball game vs. Mississippi State?
Play-by-play by Brent Musberger, analysis by Sean Farnham, sideline reporting by Kaylee Hartung.
How can I listen to Kentucky basketball vs. Mississippi State?
Play-by-play by Tom Leach, analysis by Mike Pratt on Sirius 134, XM 191 and AM-630 (in Lexington).
No. 5 Kentucky (15-2, 5-0 SEC)
G-De’Aaron Fox (6-3, Fr.): 16.5 ppg, 6.4 apg, 5.0
G-Malik Monk (6-3, Fr.): 21.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.2
G-Isaiah Briscoe (6-3, So.): 15.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.3 apg
F-Wenyen Gabriel (6-9, Fr.): 5.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg
F-Bam Adebayo (6-10, Fr.): 13.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg
TOP RESERVES – F Derek Willis, 6-9, Sr., 6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg; C Isaac Humphries, 7-0, So., 3.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg; G Mychal Mulder, 6-4, Sr., 6.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg; G Dominique Hawkins, 6-0, Sr., 3.0 ppg, 2.1 apg, 1.5 rpg.
Mississippi State (12-4, 3-1 SEC)
G-Lamar Peters (6-0, Fr.): 10.4 ppg, 2.9 apg, 1.8 rpg
G-Quinndary Weatherspoon (6-4, So.): 17.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.2 apg
G-Mario Kegler (6-7, Fr.): 9.2 pg, 5.5 rpg, 0.8 apg
F-Aric Holman (6-10, So.): 10.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.3 bpg
F-Schnider Herard (6-10, Fr.): 4.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.3 bpg
TOP RESERVES – G I.J. Ready, 5-11, Sr., 10.1 ppg, 5.1 apg, 2.0 spg; G Xavian Stapleton, 6-6, So., 6.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.3 spg; G Tyson Carter, 6-4, Fr., 8.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg.
* Kentucky boys at MSU: Holman, who ranks third in the SEC in blocked shots per game (2.3), led Owensboro (Ky.) High School to its first state championship since 1980 two years ago at Rupp Arena. He had 20 points, 14 rebounds and 8 blocked shots in the title game. Holman was a top-100 recruit and finalist for Kentucky Mr. Basketball but was not seriously recruited by the Wildcats. But he’ll have their full attention on Tuesday night. MSU freshman guard Eli Wright is also from Owensboro.
* Bulldogs have talent: Howland has recruited well and it’s starting to show up. Ready is second in the SEC in assists per game (5.1) and third in steals per game (2.0). Holman third in the SEC in blocks per game (2.3). Weatherspoon fourth in the league in points per game (17.9). Ready, a senior and former starter, now comes off the bench, while MSU starts three freshmen and two sophomores. “They’re a team that’s very similar to us,” UK assistant Joel Justus said. “They’re a team that plays extremely hard on both ends of the floor. They’re a group that puts pressure on you. It’s going to be a hostile environment and I think our guys are excited for the challenge.”
* Mychal Mulder fighting for time: The senior guard scored a dozen points Saturday against Auburn, one off his career high. He sank his 23rd 3-pointer of the season (he’s shooting 41.1 percent) and hit 5 of 5 free throws (he’s made all nine attempts this year). Mulder is averaging 6.9 points per game but an impressive 23 points per 40 minutes.
“Mychal had a tremendous Camp Cal,” Justus said of the between-semesters boot camp. “Mychal was more competitive. He was one of the most competitive guys in practice during that time, and it’s paying off. I believe that Mike is playing maybe a little desperate with his career coming to an end here in the next couple of months. I’m happy for him personally, with what he’s done, because you see him putting in time and you see him getting to practice a little bit earlier, staying a little bit later. And by Mychal being better, he’s making our team better.”