By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State enters Southeastern Conference play in a much better position than a year ago.
The Bulldogs were just 5-7 going into their league schedule during Rick Ray’s initial season but are 10-3 this year.
Those 10 wins equals MSU’s total from the entire 2012-13 season.
“We’re excited to get ready for SEC play,” Ray said. “I think we’ve had a successful non-conference slate. The fact we’ve been able to get to 10 wins as a team already when we didn’t get to 10 wins until March of last season I think speaks well of the progress this team is making. Now we get a chance to test ourselves against the best.”
Ray’s Bulldogs will begin their SEC slate Wednesday at No. 14 Kentucky at 7 p.m. State has lost five straight games to the Wildcats including last year’s 85-55 loss in Lexington.
UK shot 54.8 percent in that contest as the Bulldogs debuted five new starters inside Rupp Arena for the first time. All of those players are back for a return trip to one of the iconic venues in college basketball.
“This year we are all more mature,” said sophomore wing Fred Thomas. “I feel like we can get a win there if we all play together. I feel like we’re ready for this game.”
Mississippi State is just 5-45 in Lexington but is 2-2 against the Wildcats in SEC openers. The Bulldogs last faced Kentucky to begin conference action in 2002, a 74-69 MSU win in overtime in Starkville.
The Bulldogs are 45-35 in SEC openers, with a 15-19 mark on the road.