Quick links:
 Latest Team Rankings
 Free Rivals Alerts
 Member Services
ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports

February 7, 2014

UK takes us-vs.-them approach to Mississippi State

It's taken him months, coach John Calipari said, but he's finally done it.

He's convinced his team that "everybody" is against them.

"They now believe it," Calipari said. "And it's made them play better."

Calipari's comments came at the end of a long answer about whether he truly believes, as he said last week, that Kentucky is the most overanalyzed team in any sport, anywhere.

Regardless of the answer, the result, if true -- that it's made Kentucky play better -- is really what matters to Calipari.

Especially when the Wildcats are about to embark on another two-game road trip, where it's obvious everybody in the arena is against them.

That starts Saturday with a game at Mississippi State (13-9, 3-6 SEC).

"Honestly, we kind of like to play on the road," senior guard Jarrod Polson said. "Us against the world."

It will be the teams' second matchup this year (and the first time since 1991 these two teams have met twice in the regular season), following a 85-64 win in Kentucky's opening league game.

But in that eventual win, Mississippi State held a three-point halftime lead.

"They left our building saying, 'we can beat these guys,'" Calipari said.

That's why, despite the Bulldogs' losing conference record, Kentucky's players are ensuring they don't overlook them.

"We definitely don't want to do that," freshman guard Dominique Hawkins said. "We know playing in the SEC, anything can happen."

"I think (we've) already learned that any road game in the SEC is tough," Polson said.

One player who can provide the steadiest hand is freshman guard Andrew Harrison, who has drawn consistent praise from Calipari recently.

That's a change from the consistent ups-and-downs he experienced earlier in the season, which included that first game against Mississippi State in which he scored eight points on 2-of-7 shooting with two assists and four turnovers.

"What I've seen him develop is just taking the ball, being a leader and controlling the game," Hawkins said. "Earlier in the season, he wasn't talking as much. But now he's talking to the whole team. He's basically the leader of our team, I feel like."

Kentucky needs a leader, both for the season as it pushes forward through outside criticism and more road tests, beginning with the Bulldogs and their white-out game.

"They're not going to walk away from us," Calipari said. "This is a great challenge."

No. 18 KENTUCKY (17-5, 7-2 SEC)
Coach: John Calipari (140-31 in fifth season at Kentucky; 543-169 in 22nd season overall)
Last game: Beat Ole Miss 80-64
Roster | Stats
Coach: Rick Ray (23-31 in second season at Mississippi State and overall)
Last game: Lost to Texas A&M 72-52
Roster | Stats
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Andrew Harrison Fr. 6-6/215 11.0 2.8
G Aaron Harrison Fr. 6-6/218 14.2 3.1
C Dakari Johnson Fr. 7-0/265 4.5 3.1
F James Young Fr. 6-6/215 14.7 4.3
F Julius Randle Fr. 6-9/250 16.0 9.9
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G I.J. Ready Fr. 5-11/170 6.4 1.6
G Craig Sword S0. 6-3/194 13.2 3.5
G Fred Thomas So. 6-5/206 8.5 3.0
F Colin Borchert Sr. 6-8/231 10.2 4.5
F Gavin Ware So. 6-9/268 10.5 7.9
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Humphrey Coliseum (10,575), Starkville, Miss.
TV: SEC Network (Joe Davis play-by play, Joe Dean Jr. analyst)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst, Matt Jones sideline); XM 199/Sirius 93
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: TBA

Series Information
Series record: Kentucky leads 90-20
At Starkville: Kentucky leads 32-12
Coaches' records: Calipari 6-0 vs. Mississippi State; Ray 0-2 vs. Kentucky

Last meeting: Kentucky 85, Mississippi State 63 (Jan. 8, Lexington, Ky.)
The Bulldogs led 40-37 at halftime before the Wildcats erupted in the second half, outscoring MSU 48-23 to pull away for an easy win. James Young kept the Cats close in the first half, scoring 15 of his 26 points before halftime, and Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 points each for Kentucky. UK, which was playing for the first time in 11 days, blew the game open with a 27-6 second-half run and outrebounded the Bulldogs 44-28.

Game Storylines
1. Hitting the Skids? After a 10-3 start to the season -- boosted by a weak nonconference schedule -- Mississippi State is struggling in SEC play. Though the Bulldogs are one win away from last season's total in league play, they've lost four straight, by an average of 14 points per game. Still, Mississippi State is no pushover at home. Three of the Bulldogs' four straight losses have been on the road, and they gave a strong effort at Humphrey Coliseum against Florida before losing 62-51. Mississippi State is 11-2 at home this season, including 3-1 in SEC play. Away from home, the Bulldogs are 2-7, 0-5 in the SEC.

2. Sword Struggles: Part of the reason Mississippi State has seemingly hit a wall: guard Craig Sword hasn't matched his early season production. Sword scored in double figures in 15 of the Bulldogs' first 17 games. In the last five, he's failed to hit double digits three times. Over that five-game span, Sword is averaging 7.5 points per game. During that five-game slump, Sword is shooting 29.7 percent from the floor (14 of 47) and 22.2 percent from three-point range (2 of 9). And Sword, who leads Mississippi State with 126 free-throw attempts, hasn't been able to get himself going at the foul line. In those five games, he's just 6 for 9 from the free-throw line. Prior to the slump, Sword was averaging 6.9 free-throw attempts per game. During it, he's been to the line just 1.8 times per game.

3. Half Right: As a rule, it's best to avoid slow starts against Mississippi State this season, though the Wildcats are the exception to that rule. UK trailed the Bulldogs 40-37 at halftime when the two teams met last month at Rupp Arena before rallying to win 85-63. That's the only game this season Mississippi State has lost when leading at the half. The Bulldogs are 10-1 when they're in front at halftime. They're 2-7 when trailing at the half and 1-1 when the game is tied after one half. That's not the only key indicator for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 9-2 this season when they win or tie in the rebounding battle, 4-7 when they don't.

Kentucky NEWS


Latest Headlines:

Rivals.com is your source for: College Football | Football Recruiting | College Basketball | Basketball Recruiting | College Baseball | High School | College Merchandise
Site-specific editorial/photos CatsIllustrated.com. All rights reserved. This website is an officially and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school or team.
About | Advertise with Us | Contact | Privacy Policy | About our Ads | Terms of Service | Copyright/IP policy | Yahoo! Sports - NBC Sports Network

Statistical information 2014 STATS LLC All Rights Reserved.