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The ‘Cats entered Wednesday night’s matchup with Mississippi State fresh off a road loss at Texas A&M over the weekend that ended a 6-game win streak for Kentucky. The ‘Cats bounced back from that OT loss with a big 90-77 win at home in front of a healthy Rupp Arena crowd, despite the winter weather. The win marked the 400th win for Head Coach John Calipari at the University of Kentucky. The ‘Cats put together their best single half of defense in the first half against the Bulldogs, holding them to just 29 first half team points, and just 35% shooting. The ‘Cats offense, however, was efficient in route to 47 first half points along with 52% shooting from the field. The ‘Cats fell back to old habits to start the second half, with a consistent display of laziness on defense and carelessness with the ball on offense, nearly doubling their turnover total in just a single minute in the beginning of the second half. Calipari quickly tweaked the rotation and the ‘Cats snapped out of the rut after the Bulldogs cut the lead to just 6 at one point early in the second half. Kentucky scored some easy baskets to extend the lead and the game was never in danger for the rest of the half. Of note, Justin Edwards still cannot get going on either side of the ball. He was a primary contributor to the slow start in the second half and sat until about 3-minutes to go into the game. Reeves led the offense with 27-points while Dillingham added 16-points, with Mitchell also adding 15-points. The ‘Cats were still without Thiero and Ivisic for Wednesday night’s game.

Mississippi State entered the game 12-4 on the season, with their biggest win of the season coming at home to No. 5 Tennessee last week. The Bulldogs leading contributors on offense include Tolu Smith (16.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1 APG), Josh Hubbard (15.1 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.4 APG), and Cameron Matthews (9.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.9 APG).

The spread for Wednesday night’s matchup versus Mississippi State was -6.5 (UK). The Over/Under point total set at 156.5.

The starting lineup for Kentucky featured DJ Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Tre Mitchell, and Aaron Bradshaw.

Game Recap:

First Half

The ‘Cats won the tip and Reeves scored the first points of the game on a running floater off the glass. The Bulldogs responded with a three on the other end. After a powerful drive by Mississippi State, Reeves hit his first three of the game to tie the game at 5. Wagner hit a three on the next trip down the floor after static ball movement from Kentucky. The ‘Cats led 8-5 at the first media timeout. Mitchell scored in the paint following the timeout. Good passing in transition allowed Sheppard to find a wide-open Reeves for another three. Reeves then drove and scored an easy lay-in in transition to give the ‘Cats a 15-5 lead, propelled by a 13-0 Kentucky run. The Bulldogs ripped off 6 quick points out of the timeout and narrowed the ‘Cats lead to 15-11, forcing a Calipari 30-second timeout. Dillingham nailed his first shot of the game, a three at the top of the key. A fan hit a Whitaker Bank sponsored halfcourt shot during the under 12-minute media timeout to win $10,000 and ignite the Rupp Arena crowd. Dillingham crafted his way to an athletic finish at the rim to give Kentucky a 21-14 lead. Edwards cleaned up a Dillingham miss for another score and a 25-16 ‘Cats lead. Dillingham nailed a long pull up 2-pointer after a couple Bulldogs baskets at the rim. Kentucky led 29-20 with 7:55-minutes to play. Wagner drove and finished at the rim with ease. Mitchell hit a long 2-point jumper, followed by a Sheppard three off an offensive rebound on the next trip to push the score to 36-22 Kentucky. Reeves hit 4 free-throws on consecutive possessions to push the ‘Cats lead to 40-22 with 4-minutes to play. Bradshaw nailed a jumper and followed with a driving layup on the next possession. Kentucky led 47-29 at the half.

The ’Cats controlled the pace and the game from the opening tip in the first half. The ‘Cats defense held the Bulldogs to just 35% shooting from the field and 36% (5 of 14) from 3PT. The ‘Cats shot an efficient 52% from the field and also shot 36% (5 of 14) from beyond the arc. Reeves led the scoring for Kentucky in the half with 16 first half points. Dillingham added 10-points in the half. The ‘Cats look to have rebounded well after coming off the road loss last weekend, playing with intensity and focus on both sides of the ball in the first half.

Halftime: Kentucky 47 – Mississippi State 29

Second Half

The second half began with a huge Bradshaw block that flew into the stands. Smith scored on the ensuing inbounds play. The bulldogs opened the half on a 11-2 run and narrowed the lead to just 9 with a score of 49-40. The Bulldogs then hit a 3 to make the score 49-43 and force a Kentucky timeout after a 10-0 run just 1:15-minutes. After just 4 total turnovers in the entire first half, the ‘Cats turned it over 3 times in a minute. Dillingham shifted his way to a floater for an easy score to end the Mississippi State run. Sheppard found Onyenso for an easy lay-in to extend the lead to 10 at 53-43. Reeves nailed a baseline floater following the media timeout. Mitchell converted an and-one chance that pushed the score to 58-44 ‘Cats. The Bulldogs connected on a alley-oop from beyond the three-point line. Mitchell then responded with another and-one off a jump shot at the free-throw line. Sheppard nailed a three but the Bulldogs kept their offensive attack sharp, drawing the score to 67-55 Kentucky at the under 12-minute media timeout. Kentucky had converted 6 of their last 7 field goals during this stretch while Mississippi State made their last 3 consecutive shots. Dillingham was fouled on a three-point shot and hit 2 of 3 free-throws. Dillingham left his man in the dust on his way to an easy score. Sheppard caught his man in the air and drew another foul on a three-point shot. The ‘Cats led 71-57 with 7:52-minutes to play. Wagner threw an alley-oop to Bradshaw who slammed home the ball. Bradshaw caught the ball open in the paint again and slammed home another shot. The ‘Cats led 79-63 at the under 4-minute timeout. Mitchell nailed a three after a stagnant offensive possession from Kentucky to make the score 83-66 Kentucky. The ‘Cats broke the press and finished the possession with another Bradshaw slam. Reeves hit another floater and was fouled for an and-one. After the free-throw, Kentucky led 90-71. The Bulldogs finished the game on a 6-0 run but the ‘Cats went on to win by a score of 90-77.

Final: Kentucky 90 – Mississippi State 77

Game Stats:

Mississippi State FG %: 45% (33% 3PT – 9 of 27) (60% FT – 6 of 10)

Kentucky FG %: 56% (30% 3PT – 7 of 23) (85% FT – 23 of 27)

Rebounds: 33 – 33 Tie 

Assist/Turnover Ratio: 20:10

Turnovers: UK (10), Mississippi State (9)

Bench Points: 28 – 28 Tie

Points off Turnovers: 14 – 12 Mississippi State

Fast Break Points: 13 – 9 Kentucky

Paint Points: 44 – 38 Mississippi State

Player Stats:

Antonio Reeves – [(27 points (4 rebounds) (3 assists)]

Rob Dillingham – [(16 points) (4 rebounds) (4 assists)]

Tre Mitchell – [(15 points) (3 rebounds) (3 assists) (1 block)]

Aaron Bradshaw – [(11 points) (6 rebounds) (2 steals) (2 blocks)]

Reed Sheppard – [(9 points) (2 rebounds) (6 assists) (2 steals)]

DJ Wagner – [(7 points) (3 rebounds) (2 assists) (1 steal)]

Ugonna Onyenso – [(3 points) (6 rebounds) (4 blocks)]

Justin Edwards – [(2 points) (2 rebounds) (2 assists)]

The No. 8 ‘Cats (13-3, 3-1 SEC) return home to take on the Georgia Bulldogs (13-4, 3-1 SEC) on Saturday, January 20. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

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