Kentucky preview

Sophomore guard Blair Schaefer is second on the team in made 3-pointers with 21. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Sophomore guard Blair Schaefer is second on the team in made 3-pointers with 21. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

No. 14/13 Mississippi State returns home to raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer Thursday night as the Bulldogs face No. 16 Kentucky at 6 p.m. in Humphrey Coliseum.

Thursday’s contest will be broadcast nationally on SEC Network with Tom Hart, Carolyn Peck and Steffi Sorensen on the call.

Jason Crowder and Charlie Winfield will have the radio call in the Golden Triangle area on WNMQ-FM 103.1.

Fans are encouraged to wear pink for MSU’s annual “Think Pink” contest, and the first 500 in attendance receive a free “Think Pink” T-shirt from OCH.

Tickets for the contest cost $5 for adults. Youth ages 17 and under get in free, as do MSU students with a valid student ID.

Families can enjoy games and inflatables at Bully’s Kidz Kourt in Mize Pavilion starting at 5 p.m., and MSU students get free pizza while supplies last.

Vic Schaefer’s Bulldogs boast a 21-5 overall record and 8-4 SEC ledger heading into their third-straight game against a ranked opponent.

It is a big game for MSU when looking at seeding for next month’s SEC Tournament, as the Bulldogs seek to maintain a hold on at least a tie for second place with Texas A&M.

MSU returns to the friendly confines of the Hump following a tough 64-58 setback at then-No. 13 Texas A&M last Thursday. MSU returns home looking for a strong finish to the league slate following an open date on Sunday.

“We’re getting ready for another Top 20 opponent in Kentucky,” Schaefer said. “The piranhas keep coming in the fish bowl that we live in so we have to get ready for another great ball club. We gave our kids Sunday and Monday off, and came back (Tuesday) and had a good workout and gave good effort.

“A game like tomorrow night, we’ll have to play well to have a chance to win. Another knock down drag out is what I’m expecting. I’m expecting our kids to play well and play hard.”

Mississippi State enters Thursday’s game looking to halt a stretch of nine-straight wins for the Wildcats (17-6, 6-6 SEC). The last three meetings have been tightly contested, with two going to overtime.

Last season Kentucky pulled out a 76-67 win in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament after escaping with a 92-90 double-overtime win in Lexington during the regular season.

The last matchup in Starkville also went to overtime, with UK pulling out an 81-74 win.

If the last two contests are any indication, Thursday’s game sets up to be another battle between two of the nation’s best players in MSU’s Victoria Vivians and Kentucky’s Makayla Epps.

In last season’s double-overtime thriller, Vivians scored an MSU freshman-record 39 points while Epps notched 42 points.

Vivians added 19 points in the rematch in North Little Rock, Arkansas, but MSU was unable to overcome 31 points from Epps as the Wildcats rallied from a 15-point deficit.

Vivians enters State’s next-to-last home game of the regular season second in the SEC in scoring at 17.0 ppg. She stands fourth in conference play with a 15.6 average.

Vivians’ stellar sophomore season earned her a nod to the Wooden Award’s Late Season Top 20 on Monday.

Vivians, who notched her seventh-straight double figure game with 13 at Texas A&M, joined South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell and A’ja Wilson as the only SEC players on the list.

Sophomore Morgan William will also be seeking another big outing against Kentucky after she scored 13 points, including the tying layup with two seconds left in regulation, last season in Lexington.

William has helped spark MSU to four wins in its last five games, averaging 13.6 ppg in the stretch.

The Birmingham, Alabama, native is coming off her second-best scoring effort of the season with 18 points at Texas A&M.

Junior Dominique Dillingham has also come up big on the offensive end the last five games, averaging 10.2 ppg. Dillingham also leads a Bulldog defense that rates second in the SEC holding teams to 55.6 ppg in conference play.

The Bulldog defense has also thrived at the Hump, holding teams to 47.1 ppg and 35-percent shooting from the field.

State, which is 30-2 at home the last two seasons, will need another outstanding defensive effort against a Kentucky squad that averages 73.7 ppg for the season behind 46 percent shooting.

Epps has been the Wildcats’ top scoring option, averaging 16.5 ppg both overall and in league contests.

“She’s just relentless. She just keeps coming at you. She’s a fearless competitor and tough,” Schaefer said. “She’s a confident kid. Their whole team is that way. Their post players are really unlike any other team we’ve seen all year. They’re good facing the basket and off the bounce.”

Janee Thompson and newcomer Evelyn Akhator also average double figures for Kentucky at 12.5 ppg and 11.4 ppg, respectively.

Akhator also paces the Wildcats on the boards with 8.9 rpg.

(From MSU Media Relations)

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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