Bulldogs return home to face No. 18 Wildcats

8TB6_MSU_primary_logoBy Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State returns home today hoping to get back on track after losing four straight.

But in order for the Bulldogs to return to the win column they will have to pull an upset against No. 18 Kentucky. Tipoff is slated for 12:47 p.m.

The two teams met last month in Lexington in the SEC opener for both. MSU jumped out to a 12-2 lead and held a 40-37 advantage at halftime. But the Wildcats’ roster, filled with McDonald’s All-Americans, proved to be too much in the second half of an 85-63 win.

“Mississippi State was up four when they played us here,” said UK coach John Calipari. “We kind of wore them down with a little bit of our depth but I’m not sure we’ll be able to do that down there.”

Freshman wing James Young had a double-double performance against the Bulldogs on Jan. 8. Young tallied 26 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 8 of 18 shooting.

This is the first time the two schools have met twice in the same regular season since 1991. Kentucky has claimed the last six outings and lead the series 90-20. The Wildcats are 32-12 all-time in Starkville including a 73-64 win at Humphrey Coliseum in their last trip in 2012. No current State players participated in that game.

The Bulldogs enter today’s contest at 3-6 in league play and 13-9 overall. Mississippi State is 11-2 at home this season but remains winless in February under Rick Ray.

The Bulldogs dropped their 13th straight SEC road game Wednesday at Texas A&M 72-52 after being tied at halftime. The Aggies went to work inside, eventually outscoring MSU 40-14 in the paint.

“We played as bad as we did the whole season in the first half,” Ray said. “I was encouraged by that because were tied. In the second half, we played any worse. We aren’t playing with any life or any purpose right now.”

Ray’s Bulldogs sit last in the league in field goal percentage defense, allowing their opponents to shoot 44.3 percent from the field.

Sophomore shooting guard Craig Sword continues to pace State in the scoring column, averaging 13.2 points per game. Sword led the Bulldogs in the previous game against Kentucky by scoring 19 points in 24 minutes.

The Wildcats seem to be hitting their stride winning five of their last six games. Kentucky is 17-5 overall and sits second in the SEC standings with a 7-2 record.

Kentucky is expected to start five freshmen, four of whom are averaging double figures. The Wildcats are led by forward Julius Randle averaging 16 points and 9.9 rebounds a game.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com