The last thing Mississippi State wanted to do was go to overtime and lose to LSU on Wednesday, a few days before hosting Kentucky. But that’s exactly what happened to the Bulldogs and now they could be looking at back-to-back losses and a 4-6 SEC record. That’s because Kentucky is playing how everyone thought it should’ve started the season, dominating opposition. The Wildcats have won seven of their last eight Conference Games by at least nine points and one of those includes the 76-55 beat down of Miss. State.
The Scorelooks a bit worse than it was, but UK led by around 10 points for the majority of the Game before really pulling away. Looking at those numbers, there will be opportunities for the Bulldogs to steal this Game. Tyler Herro and PJ Washington were the only UK players to Scoremore than nine points and they combined for 39, going 6-for-8 from distance. Those two can shoot, but expecting the Wildcats to go 8-for-16 from three on the road is a stretch. Then again, Washington is playing the best basketball of his career with at least 20 points in Four of the last five Games and 12 rebounds in three of those. MSU couldn’t stop him in that first Game and not many numbers point to them having more success, since its defense has been questionable, ranking ninth in terms of efficiency in the SEC.
Everything is working for the Wildcats at the moment and that includes point guard Ashton Hagans and big Reid Travis, who combined for only 10 points in the first meeting. Throw in leading scorer Keldon Johnson who only had nine, and there’s a path to see UK grabbing a road win if the rest of the team steps up. The issue for Mississippi State will be scoring consistently against a defense that ranks first in numerous categories in the Conference from efficiency to rebounding. The Bulldogs scored just .79 points per possession last matchup and something has to change.
Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 19 points in the loss and a similar effort will be needed to win this Game. The question is what other players will step up. Big men Reggie Perry and Aric Holman fouled out while second-leading scorer LAmar Peters had just five points in 30 minutes. The best chance MSU has of winning is through the bigs of Perry, Holman and Abdul Ado, limiting what Washington and Travis can do offensively. If they can stay out of foul trouble, and in turn do work on the other end, that’d be a huge help. While Holman has been unreliable offensively, Perry has been a beast scoring double digits in the last Four Games to go with almost 10 boards per Game in that period. He played 29 minutes in the first meeting, but that was the most he’s played all season and it kind of felt like his coronation into the conference, which he’s built off of in recent Games. To win, LAmar Peters and Nick Weatherspoon also have to do more offensively and shoot better from distance. The Bulldogs went just 3-for-20 from deep in that first meeting and can’t replicate that performance.
Already with a couple home losses on its resume, there’s no reason Mississippi State can’t lose again. Kentucky is playing great and it will take a complete performance to take them down. Quinndary Weatherspoon will get his, but it’s up to the rest of the Bulldogs to have a chance for the upset.
Our Pick – Kentucky -4