By Gary Graves/The Associated Press
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer couldn’t say enough good things about No. 5 Kentucky after the Wildcats routed the Bulldogs 100-47 on Thursday night.
Schaefer’s team played hard but couldn’t keep up with a Kentucky team that blew out Mississippi State for the second year in a row on its home floor. The 53-point margin was five more than last year’s loss by the Bulldogs at Memorial Coliseum.
“We lost to a good team today,” Schaefer said. “Obviously, we’re pretty outmanned, out-womaned, at every position but I was proud of several of my kids, too. I thought they competed for most of the game.
“Right now, that’s what we’re trying to teach Mississippi State, trying to teach competing and trying to teach toughness right now.”
The Bulldogs (8-10, 0-5 Southeastern Conference) shot 46 percent from the field (18 of 39) but were outrebounded 46-20 by the Wildcats. Kentucky’s 26 offensive rebounds alone were more than Mississippi State’s total.
Add in 35 turnovers leading to 42 Kentucky points, one block and just five steals, and it’s pretty easy to see how the Bulldogs lost their fifth in a row overall and sixth straight to the Wildcats.
Then again, Mississippi State faced a pretty tall task trying to end its losing streak at Kentucky, which had won its last 15 overall and 31 straight at home entering the game.
The Bulldogs struggled to contain Wildcats forward DeNesha Stallworth, who scored 25 points to help Kentucky move to 17-1 for the best start in school history. A’dia Mathies added 21 points and Bria Goss 13 in a game Kentucky led by as many as 55.
Kendra Grant had 11 points and Carnecia Williams 10 for Mississippi State. After having eight double-doubles coming in, center Martha Alwal didn’t score and had just four rebounds.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, had three offensive rebounds only 37 seconds in, and Samarie Walker and Stallworth combined for Kentucky’s first eight points. Goss followed with a three-point play for an 11-2 lead.
But the first half clearly belonged to Stallworth, who scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed three rebounds.
“I rushed a couple of shots,” said Stallworth, who also had six rebounds and four assists. “I have to continue to play tough and play through contact, so that’s something I have to work on.”
Walker had six points in the half and finished with nine after combining for five points in the past two games. She also had six rebounds.
Kentucky’s defense harassed Mississippi State into 17 first-half turnovers, leading to 18 points. The Wildcats’ pressure also forced two shot clock violations, culminating in a 46-24 halftime lead.
Mathies opened the second half with consecutive 3-pointers for Kentucky, which mounted a 27-2 run spanning the intermission for a 67-26 lead.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell believes that Mississippi State will be competitive as long as the Bulldogs stick to Schaefer’s plan. But right now, the Bulldogs coach believes the Wildcats are the example to follow in getting there.
“He gets it and you’ve got to give him all the credit in the world for that,” Schaefer said of Mitchell, “because at the end of the day, he’s smart enough to know that No. 1, it’s not about him, No. 2, he went and got himself a good staff because he knows he can’t do it by himself, and then No. 3, they got players that fit their system.
“That’s our job right now at Mississippi State, we have got to go get some help and get some kids that fit our system and we’re trying to do that. In the meantime, we’ve got to teach a system and teach a way of life. It’s not what we do but how we do it because that’s what will separate us.”