By Logan Lowery
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Mississippi State threw the first blows Wednesday evening when it jumped out to a 12-2 lead on the road at No. 14 Kentucky.
The Bulldogs even went into halftime with a three-point advantage.
But the second half was a completely different story. The Wildcats worked the ball inside for several rim-rattling alley oops, outscoring MSU by 25 in the final 20 minutes for a 85-63 victory in the conference opener for each.
“I think our guys did a good job following the game plan (in the first half),” said MSU coach Rick Ray. “In the second half we totally went away from the game plan. We wanted to limit Kentucky’s possessions but we got to a point in the second half where guys wanted to go their own way and we’re simply not good enough for guys to go their own way.”
MSU shot 44.1 percent from the field in the first half and held the Wildcats without a field goal for the first 4:52 of the contest. The Bulldogs led at the half despite three of its starters held out of the scoring column.
“I thought we did a great job in the first half,” Ray said. “I thought we really competed and no one will know that because of the final score. That’s something we’ve got to fight and get past. I think against good teams there’s always a point in the game where they go on a run and we just don’t deal with that adversity very well.
“If we’re ever going to grow as a team we’ve got to fight that adversity.”
UK hit just 2-of-14 behind the arc in the first half but shot 65.4-percent from the field in the second outscoring the Bulldogs 48-23 down the stretch to improve to 11-3 overall.
“They got the ball in the post more (in the second half),” said MSU guard Trivante Bloodman. “They took advantage of us because we had a lot of bigs in foul trouble.”
James Young led the Wildcats with a career-high 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Young shot 8-of-18 from the floor notching his second straight double-double. Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress each added 12 points while Julius Randle grabbed 14 boards.
Craig Sword paced State with 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Trivante Bloodman scored 13 points and Roquez Johnson chipped in 12 off the bench.
Kentucky won its sixth straight over the Bulldogs as MSU fell to 5-46 all-time in Lexington.
The Bulldogs host rival Ole Miss on Saturday at 3 p.m. on ESPNU.