STARKVILLE, Miss. – Each and every game, CoachCal.com will talk with assistant coach John Robic about Kentucky’s plan of attack. Coach Robic is responsible for scouting the opposition. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Robic will tell us his keys to the game, an important matchup and who Kentucky has to watch for on the opposing team.
Assessing Mississippi State
Robic: They’ve come up short in their last three games, so being a home game and given how well they’ve played us over the last few years, we’re expecting a very close game. Mississippi State is a really talented team with all-league players at the point with Dee Bost and at the four with Arnett Moultrie. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s a white out, nationally televised game, but I think our guys will be excited to play. Renardo Sidney didn’t play against Auburn. He sat out that game, so I think that hurt them a little bit. I can’t explain the losses at home, but winning on the road in the SEC is hard for everybody. With this game at home, I think they’ll come with a different mentality and an attack mentality. We’ve only been to Starkville once, but it gets loud, plus with it being an 8 o’clock tip down there, their students will be ready to go that night. I’m sure it will be an electric atmosphere.
CoachCal.com extras: The Bulldogs have lost three in a row, but two have been on the road and two have been in overtime. At 19-8, 6-6 in the Southeastern Conference, Mississippi State is sliding back to the NCAA Tournament bubble and desperately needs this game. MSU big man Renardo Sidney is a game-time decision with back spasms. UK has won three straight in the series after dropping the previous three. Three of the last six meetings have been decided in overtime.
What: No. 1/1 UK (26-1, 12-0 SEC) vs. Mississippi State (19-8, 6-6 SEC)
When: Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET
Where: Humphrey Coliseum (11,000)
Game notes: UK | Mississippi State
Video interviews: Cal, Wiltjer and Kidd-Gilchrist
Record: 19-8, 6-6 in SEC
Head coach: Rick Stansbury (292-160 at Mississippi State)
Player to watch: Arnette Moultrie (16.5 points, 10.8 rebounds)
Series history: UK leads 87-20
Last meeting: UK won 85-79 in Feb. 15, 2011
1. Speed up the tempo
2. Wear down MSU’s frontcourt
3. Be ready to shoot against zone
Robic: They’re going to throw out both man to man and zone. They played quite a bit of zone last year to sort of control the tempo. They got up on us by 11 or 12 last year at Rupp. They came out on fire and hit some shots, so you’re going to see a good mixture of man and zone. They won’t press a whole lot except if they’re behind. I don’t know if they want to open the court but they’re capable of playing a game in the 90s and they’re capable of playing a game in the 60s. One thing we have to do is we have to get out and run. We may be able to wear their big guys down a little bit, possibly use some ball screens against them to bring their bigs out on the floor. And then if they’re playing zone, we have to be ready to shoot the ball. Coming off the Ole Miss game we think we passed up on some shots that we weren’t ready to shoot. If they play a zone, we’ve got to be ready to make them pay.
CoachCal.com extras: Kentucky knocked down 10-of-18 3-pointers against Ole Miss. Mississippi State has shown it’s susceptible to big shooting nights, giving up 66.6 points per game and allowing opponents to hit 43.1 percent of their shots.
1. Keep MSU’s bigs off the blocks
2. Defend ball screens with Dee Bost
3. Limit second-chance opportunities
Robic: They’ve sort of got a different type of personnel than Ole Miss even though they’re both big. Moultrie is a 6-11 four man who can step out. He’s having a terrific year. Sidney creates problems just because he’s big and can step out and shoot the ball. We have to be able to guard him out on the floor. They’re two really big, active players. They’re going to run at times but they really like to run their sets. They’re going to run a lot of ball-screen actions for Dee Bost to look to score. He’s a scoring point guard with good size. He’s a senior. They run a lot of screen-to-screener-type actions to get Moultrie the ball in the post and on the run in the post. They do the same for Sidney. They’ll do some isolation with Bost and one of the two bigs to try to keep everybody away. The X-factors are Rodney Hood at 6-8, who is a wing, and Jalen Steele is really shooting the ball well. Those are the guys who you really have to do a good job on.
CoachCal.com extras: Mississippi State is well-rounded offensively. The Bulldogs feature a little bit of everything with four scorers averaging double figures, two big men in the post (Moultrie and Sidney), a point guard who can score and create for others (Bost) and a capable 3-point threat (Hood). Having said that, the Bulldogs failed to break the 70-point mark in their last three games, including two overtime contests, while UK has held seven straight opponents to less than 70 points. Ole Miss shot 47.2 percent against the Cats on Saturday, the second-highest field-goal percentage UK has allowed this year.
Player to watch for –Mississippi State forward Arnett Moultrie
Robic: He’s being much more aggressive than he was at UTEP. Tony did a good job with him. I think he’s more of a focal point for them to score, but he’s doing it in a variety of ways. He plays above the rim. He’s a legit 6-11 who can step out and shoot the 15-, 17-footer. He hit two 3s against Auburn the other day. He probably had a little extra incentive playing against Tony. He’s been probably one of the bigger surprises. They had said last year when he sat out that he took his game to another level. He seems like a player on a mission.
CoachCal.com extras: Moultrie is the only player in the SEC averaging a double-double (16.5 points and 10.8 rebounds).
X-factor: Developing depth
Robic: Anthony Davis made some silly fouls last game, but when any player is in foul trouble and on the bench, there has to be somebody on the court who is able to step up and fill that role, fill that void. Defensively that wasn’t necessarily done when Anthony was out of the game against Ole Miss, but it did show we can still be consistent with somebody on the bench. Kyle Wiltjer and Darius Miller scored some key points for us in the second half.
CoachCal.com extras: Ole Miss’ game plan last game was pretty simple: Get physical with Davis and get him into foul trouble. It worked in the first half as Davis was forced to the bench with two fouls. Without him, UK wasn’t quite the same defensively, but Wiltjer and Miller stepped up on the offensive end and scored 18 straight points before halftime to take control of the game.
Team stats and rankings
(national rankings in parentheses)
|Scoring offense||77.8 (22)||72.5 (76)|
|Scoring defense||58.0 (10)||66.6 (166)|
|FG percentage||48.7 (13)||46.0 (70)|
|FG percentage defense||36.2 (1)||43.1 (175)|
|3-point percentage||38.1 (40)||36.0 (96)|
|3-point percentage defense||31.6 (68)||34.1 (167)|
|FT percentage||71.8 (85)||69.7 (148)|
|Rebound margin||+7.4 (9)||+3.7 (64)|
|Steals per game||6.5 (170)||6.1 (219)|
|Blocks per game||9.2 (1)||3.6 (141)|
|Assists per game||13.6 (112)||12.9 (170)|
|Turnover margin||+0.9 (135)||-1.0 (249)|
|Points per game||Anthony Davis (13.9)||Arnett Moultrie (16.5)|
|Rebounds per game||Anthony Davis (9.7)||Arnett Moultrie (10.8)|
|Field-goal percentage||Anthony Davis (65.5)||Wendell Lewis (64.9)|
|3-point percentage||Doron Lamb (49.1)||Jalen Steele (39.2)|
|Free-throw percentage||Doron Lamb (83.0)||Jalen Steele (87.0)|
|Assists per game||Marquis Teague (4.8)||Dee Bost (5.0)|
|Blocks per game||Anthony Davis (4.9)||Wendell Lewis (1.0)|
|Steals per game||Anthony Davis (1.4)||Dee Bost (2.0)|