CBB Preview: Mississippi State at Kentucky

Mississippi State at Kentucky

Kentucky plays as an unranked team for the first time in nearly four years when it tries for its 11th straight victory over visiting Mississippi State on Tuesday. The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back losses at South Carolina 76-68 on Jan. 16 and to No. 22 Florida 66-64 on Saturday, but coach John Calipari still has faith in his young team coming together at the right time.

“I know there’s some people out there that will be panicked and all this,” Calipari told reporters after the Gators snapped Kentucky’s 30-game SEC home winning streak. “Be panicked. I’m glad I’m not sitting with you because I am fine.” The Wildcats hope to receive a boost from 6-9 freshman forward Jared Vanderbilt, who has averaged 5.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 13.5 minutes in his first two games of the season since recovering from a foot injury. “I think I’ve showed flashes,” Vanderbilt told Kentucky.com, with Calipari adding that Vanderbilt could be the leader the Wildcats appear to be missing. “As I get in better shape, the more minutes I play … just to have an extra spark of energy, just a boost for the team.” The Bulldogs are coming off a 68-62 loss at Alabama – their fourth setback in the last five games, and have dropped 11 straight on the road.

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ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (14-5, 2-4 SEC): Junior forward Aric Holman (12.1 points, team-high 7.3 rebounds per game) has recorded double-doubles in consecutive contests, averaging 14.5 points and 12 boards. Junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon leads the team in scoring (14.5 points) and assists (4.1), also contributes 5.8 rebounds, and is 17-for-34 from the field in his last three games – lowering his field goal percentage to 50.5. Sophomore guard Lamar Peters (8.0 points) scored 17 versus Alabama, making a season-high four 3-pointers in 10 attempts, and is averaging 12.3 in his last three contests.

ABOUT KENTUCKY (14-5, 4-3): The last time the Wildcats did not appear in the poll was March 10, 2014 before they made a run to the NCAA national championship game, losing to Connecticut 60-54. Freshman guard Quade Green (10.2 points) scored two points in 17 minutes versus Florida in his first game since missing three with a back injury. Freshman forward Kevin Knox (team highs of 14.3 points and 32.2 minutes) scored nine points Saturday after averaging 17.7 in his previous three contests.

TIP-INS

1. Kentucky has won 94 of the 114 meetings, including 47 of 52 in Lexington.

2. The Bulldogs lead the SEC in fewest points allowed at 64.7 per game and were 21st nationally in field goal percentage defense at 39.5 through Sunday’s contests.

3. The Wildcats have never lost three straight under Calipari, with the victories after a two-game losing streak by an average of 14.9 points.

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