It was Kentucky's first game since Dec. 28, and the team practiced
each of the 10 days before Wednesday. Some days, it was twice a day.
With all that practicing against each other, it would seem to make
sense the Wildcats would be eager to hit the floor against other
competition. It took about 20 minutes to get there, but they did
The Wildcats (11-3, 1-0) trailed 40-37 at halftime and were shooting
13 of 35 from the floor. Those figures included 2 of 14 shooting
from 3-point range, and just 2 of 8 shooting from the foul line to
start the game. Kentucky finished the first half 9 of 14 on free
"I think we were rusty," Kentucky assistant coach John Robic said.
"Having (10) days, even the players were like, 'We finally get to
play a game.' It's just the way the schedule went, but I do think
that we were a little bit rusty. Not in — we're in game shape, but
we weren't ready for the game when it started. And it took some
Kentucky finished 30 of 61 from the floor, including 26 of 41 from
2-point range — 63.4 percent, compared to 20 percent (4 of 20) from
outside the arc.
Mississippi State (10-4, 0-1) held its last tie at 47-all with 16:47
to play, and then Kentucky reserve center Dakari Johnson scored six
points in a row.
Johnson, a freshman, averages 9.6 minutes per game. He finished with
eight points in eight minutes.
"It's been tough. I'm so used to playing all the time, but, you
know, it's been humbling," Johnson said. "Just listen to him during
practice, just getting better each and every day, that's the main
thing so you'll be ready for a game like this."
After the Bulldogs responded briefly, Kentucky went on a 20-2 run to
put the game away.
Small forward James Young led the Wildcats with 26 points on 8 of 18
shooting. He was 3 of 10 from 3-point range.
Kentucky struggled early in the first half, and a streak of hot
shooting couldn't keep the Wildcats from a halftime deficit.
The Bulldogs (10-3) scored the game's first five points and
improbably opened on a 12-2 run before the Wildcats hit their first
field goal by guard Dominique Hawkins with 15:05 to play until
Instead of going to its big men, forwards Julius Randle and Willie
Cauley-Stein, when shots weren't falling, the Wildcats (10-3)
continued to force jumpers from the outside.
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With just under 10 1/2 minutes until halftime, Kentucky's
offense began to click at the demand of Cauley-Stein. He had
loud dunks on consecutive possessions, sparking a 14-2 run that
gave the Wildcats their first lead with 7:25 to play.
But the Bulldogs were not deflated. They retook the lead at
30-28 on a surprising six-point possession.
Forward Roquez Johnson had a one-on-one fast break with Kentucky
guard Aaron Harrison. Johnson dunked the ball and Harrison was
called for a flagrant-1 violation when he knocked Johnson out of
the air attempting to block his shot.
Forward Colin Borchert hit the flagrant free throws, and guard
Jacoby Davis scored a basket on the subsequent possession.
The Bulldogs held Randle to eight points — his first
single-figures scoring game as a Wildcat — on 3 of 7 shooting.
He also had 14 rebounds.
"That was our game plan," Bulldogs coach Rick Ray said. "We felt
that we had to limit Randle's touches, and when he did get
touches, make sure that we were there to get the ball out of his
"The biggest thing that disappoints me about this win for
Kentucky is the fact that 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, and that's something
we have to fight to get past."
NOTES: Kentucky is now 25-2 all-time against Mississippi State
in games played at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats own an 89-20
advantage in the overall series between the schools. ...
Mississippi State's last win over Kentucky was Feb. 3, 2009, a
66-57 win at Rupp Arena. Rick Stansbury was Mississippi State's
coach, and Billy Gillispie was in his last season coaching
Kentucky. Mississippi State has now lost seven games in a row
against the Wildcats. ... G Craig Sword led Mississippi State
with 18 points. It was his 12th double-figures scoring game in
14 games for the Bulldogs this season.
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