Published November 20, 2014
Sporting the nation's longest win streak, ranked Kentucky Wildcats are closing in on an SEC regular-season title and hope to gain at least a share of the conference crown this evening, as they take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a conference action at the Humphrey Coliseum.
John Calipari's Wildcats have won 18 consecutive games. Kentucky's lone loss came on the road at Indiana, falling to the Hoosiers by one point on December 10th (73-72). The Wildcats are 12-0 in SEC play, their best start in- conference since 2003. They sit three games ahead of second-place Florida with four games left on the docket. The Wildcats were last in action on Saturday, dispatching Ole Miss in Lexington, 77-62.
Rick Stanbury's Bulldogs will attempt to bring a halt to Kentucky's momentum, but will be fighting an uphill battle. Mississippi State is in the midst of a season-high three game losing streak. The team has dropped overtime affairs to both Georgia (70-68) and LSU (69-67), followed by this past weekend's 65-55 setback at Auburn.
Kentucky holds an 87-20 lead in the all-time series and have won nine of the last 11 meetings. The Wildcats are an impressive 31-12 in games played in Starkville.
The Wildcats may be one of the youngest teams in the country, but that hasn't prevented the squad from excelling at both ends of the court. Kentucky leads the nation in scoring margin (+19.7) and field-goal percentage defense (.362), while ranking 10th in scoring defense (58.0 ppg) and 22nd in scoring (77.8 ppg). Freshman phenom Anthony Davis is certainly a big reason why the team is sitting where it is presently. The 6-10 youngster has dominated in the low post, leading the nation in blocked shots (4.9 bpg), ranking second in field- goal percentage (.655) and averaging a near double-double with team-highs of 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Scoring depth on the roster continues with Doron Lamb (13.8 ppg), Terrence Jones (12.3 ppg) and Michael Kidd- Gilchrist (12.0 ppg). Other solid contributors include Darius Miller (9.9 ppg) and Marquis Teague (9.6 ppg, 4.8 apg).
In the recent win over Ole Miss, Kentucky found its range from behind the arc, hitting 10-of-18 three-point attempts. Lamb, who was responsible for four of those three-pointers, led five Wildcats in double figures with 16 points. Jones added 15 points, followed closely by Miller at 14. Kyle Wiltjer came off the bench to tally 13 points, while Davis finished with a modest 10 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
The Bulldogs are underdogs in this matchup, especially with little injuries starting to pile up. The team was without forward Renardo Sidney (10.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) last time out due to a back injury and could see frontcourt monster Arnett Moultrie (16.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg) limited with a recent shoulder injury. Moultrie will be needed at 100-percent tonight, especially in the light of Kentucky's dominance with Davis down low. A great deal is required of point guard Dee Bost and he as delivered for the most part this season, as both a scorer (15.8 ppg) and distributor (5.0 apg). Rodney Hood (11.1 ppg) and Jalen Steele (7.8 ppg) give the team two more options along the perimeter. The trio have combined for 152 of the team's 189 three-pointers to date.
In the 10-point loss to Auburn, the Bulldogs were done in by an early 16-0 run by the Tigers, as Auburn never trailed again in the game. Moultrie, who injured his shoulder against LSU last week, was not hampered by the injury over the weekend, finishing with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Bost added 11 points and Hood nine in the loss.