Riding a nation-best 18-game winning streak, the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (26-1, 12-0 Southeastern Conference) travel south to Starkville, Miss., to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (19-8, 6-6 SEC) in a dangerous SEC road test. MSU, led by Meade County, Kentucky native Rick Stansbury, has lost three tough games in a row, heightening the importance of this contest for the Bulldogs.
Kentucky, coming off a 77-62 win over Ole Miss in Rupp Arena on Saturday, will strive to continue its winning road ways, as the Cats will be looking for their seventh straight SEC road victory.
The Cats and Dogs have hooked-up 107 times on the hardwood, with Kentucky holding a 87-20 advantage in the series, which started in 1933.
Kentucky has won three in a row in the series after losing three straight. In those six most recent contests, three of the games have gone into overtime, with the Cats coming out on top twice. Additionally, showing how tight the recent UK/MSU games have been, the average margin of victory over the last six games is 4.7 points, with the largest margin of victory belonging to MSU, a 66-57 victory in Rupp Arena in February 2009.
In Starkville, Kentucky boasts an all-time record of 31-12 and has won three of the last four road contests against MSU.
Since 2000 the Cats have a 12-4 edge, and since 1990 UK has triumphed 21 times versus eight losses.
As the No. 1 team in the nation, the Cats have won nine and lost two against MSU. The last such contest was an SEC championship game win for MSU, as the Dogs took down top-ranked UK 84-73 in March 1996. In an interesting twist, between 1951 and 1955, UK and MSU played five times, and in each game the Wildcats were the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. UK won all five matchups.
- Kentucky big man Jim Andrews holds both the scoring and rebounding records for the Cats in games played against Mississippi State: Andrews poured in 34 points against the Bulldogs in January 1972 and snagged 21 rebounds versus MSU in January 1973.
- With 13 assists against MSU in January 1980, Dirk Minniefield set the UK mark for dimes against the Bulldogs.
- Rajon Rondo, with eight steals in February 2005, holds the Wildcat record for pilfers against MSU.
- With his six blocks against MSU in January 2002, Marquis Estill set the block record for the Cats in games versus the Bulldogs.
- Dan Issel nailed 15 shots against the Bulldogs in Jan. 1970, setting the Wildcat standard for made field goals against MSU.
- Making six 3-pointers against Mississippi State in January 1997, Derek Anderson set the UK mark for the most single-game trifectas against the Bulldogs.
Erik Daniels: In the right place at the right time
On Jan. 13, 2004, the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats (10-2, 1-0 SEC) traveled to Starkville to take on the the No. 20 Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-1, 2-0 SEC) in a matchup of two of the SEC’s best teams. MSU was led by outstanding big man Lawrence Roberts and heady point guard Timmy Bowers, while the Cats had an experienced squad of upperclassmen in Gerald Fitch, Erik Daniels, Chuck Hayes and Cliff Hawkins.
With Kentucky being undersized in the middle, MSU began the game with single coverage on UK’s post players, Hayes and Daniels. The tactic allowed UK to spurt to a 10-2 lead by the first media timeout. When the Bulldogs started giving help on post catches, UK’s shooting took off.
Behind two treys from Fitch and forward Bernard Cote’s NBA range 3-pointer, followed by 7-footer Lukasv Obrzut’s 3-pointer, his first basket in nearly a month, the Cats were off and running to an 18-point, 35-17 lead.
MSU rallied late in the stanza, though, cutting the UK advantage to 37-28 by halftime.
Kentucky’s lead held for the bulk of the second half, as Fitch, who finished the contest with a game-high 23 points, nailed five 3-pointers, and Daniels, who put up 16 points, finished with efficiency around the rim. At the 13:33 mark of the second half, UK enjoyed its largest second stanza lead at 51-35, as the Wildcats smothering defense allowed MSU only seven points through the first six-and-a-half minutes of the half.
At the five-minute mark of the second, Kentucky held tight to a nine-point lead, then the Bulldogs, led by Roberts, began to see their dominance of the glass pay off — MSU out-rebounded UK 23-8 through the first 18-minutes of the second half — as the Dogs scored eight points off put-backs in the final 3:10 of the game.
MSU took its first lead of the now tight contest with 1:57 left in the game, 64-63. Nearly a minute later, off a Bowers missed 3-pointer, the ball appeared to bounce off of UK’s Daniels and into the MSU basket, giving the Bulldogs another one-point edge, 66-65, with just less than a minute to play.
After MSU missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity with 20 seconds left in the game, UK’s Fitch tried to craft the game-winning shot himself, but instead dribbled the ball off his leg. Hawkins, hustling to the loose ball, forced a tie-up with MSU as the clock read 2.5 seconds. The possession arrow kept the ball with the Cats.
The final play was drawn up with the intent of getting the ball to Fitch for an open 3-pointer (he was to curl off two screens), but MSU had him covered up. Hawkins, the inbounds passer, instead opted to alley-oop to a streaking Hayes, but the pass was tipped away by MSU’s Roberts. Daniels, left open after his man helped on Fitch, picked up the tipped ball and banked it in the basket from two feet out as the horn sounded.
After the game, Daniels said about his reflexive shot, “I got lucky and it went in. We drew it up for Gerald to get a jump shot. (The ball) bounced right to me. I’m always looking for easy buckets.”
Kentucky’s stats in the SEC
Anthony Davis — 15.3 points; 66.0 percent field goals; 75.4 percent free throws; 8.7 rebounds; .9 assists; 1.5 steals; 5.3 blocks
Terrence Jones – 13.5 points; 55.6 percent field goals; 18.2 percent 3-pointers (2-11); 69.0 percent free throws; 6.9 rebounds; 1.3 assists; 1.3 steals; 1.9 blocks.
Doron Lamb – 12.4 points; 47.0 percent field goals; 53.1 percent 3-pointers (26-49); 82.9 percent free throws; 2.7 rebounds; 1.3 assists; .5 steals.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — 9.6 points; 39.6 percent field goals; 8.3 percent 3-pointers (1-12); 73.7 free throws; 7.5 rebounds; 2.3 assists; 1.2 steals; .9 blocks.
Darius Miller — 9.0 points; 46.3 percent field goals; 43.2 percent 3-pointers (19-44); 72.2 percent free throws; 1.5 rebounds; 1.6 assists; .7 steals; .3 blocks.
Marquis Teague — 8.7 points; 40.4 percent field goals; 33.3 percent 3-pointers (7-21); 70.0 percent free throws; 2.8 rebounds; 5.2 assists; .7 steals.
Kyle Wiltjer — 5.0 points; 42.3 percent field goals; 46.2 percent 3-pointers (12-26); 66.7 percent free throws; 1.8 rebounds.
Team — 73.8 points; 49.0 percent field goals; 40.6 percent 3-pointers (67-165); 73.0 percent free throws.
Opponents — 57.2 points; 38.1 percent field goals; 32.5 percent 3-pointers (62-191); 67.1 percent free throws.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Stay tuned to CoachCal.com as Eric Lindsey and UK assistant coach John Robic will be along with a comprehensive scouting report on Mississippi State.