Kentucky men's basketball: Cats cruise over Mississippi State, 85-55

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 27, 2013 

  • Next game

    Kentucky at Arkansas

    When: Saturday, 4 p.m. (CBS-27)

No surprises in Kentucky's 85-55 victory over Mississippi State Wednesday night.

For UK, the victory represented a welcome respite from the omnipresent scrutiny and incessant speculation about the chances of an NCAA Tournament bid without injured Nerlens Noel.

For State, it was another disaster along the lines of a basketball nor'easter, the looming sequester or a Kardashian wedding.

Kentucky, which enjoyed its largest margin of victory in a league game this season, improved to 20-8 overall and 11-4 in the Southeastern Conference. The latter moved UK into a tie for second place, one game behind Florida.

Ryan Harrow led UK with 19 points, which marked his second-highest total of the season (he had 23 against Marshall). A 23.5-percent three-point shooter in the league, Harrow made three of six three-point shots from beyond the arc.

Kentucky placed five players in double figures. Alex Poythress followed his 21-point game against Missouri on Saturday with 16 points. Willie Cauley-Stein added 12, Archie Goodwin 11 and Julius Mays 11. Mays left the game because of a laceration over his left eye.

Mississippi State fell to 7-20 overall and 2-13 in the SEC.

Kentucky never trailed. The 42-19 halftime lead marked the biggest margin against an SEC opponent this season, the previous high being a 45-24 lead against South Carolina.

State, which failed to take a lead for the third time in the last five games, had one achievement of note in the first half. The Bulldogs equaled the seven baskets scored in Saturday's 72-31 home loss to Vanderbilt.

Freshman Fred Thomas, who sported a Noel-ish flat-top fade haircut, had to work for the seventh basket. He shot across his body to hit a floater with 5:47 left in the first half. State scored only three free throws the rest of the half. Thomas led State with 13 points. Colin Borchert added 10.

In the first 20 minutes, Kentucky had four dunks and 28 points from the paint. The Cats also enjoyed a 23-13 rebounding advantage. With State's zero-for-eight shooting from three-point range, the numbers proved as one-sided as the competition.

Poythress led the first-half scoring with two dunks and 13 points.

Jon Hood provided a spark to Kentucky's 10-0 run to end the half. His pass netted Harrow a layup. He also hit a put-back, which came about eight minutes after his first three-pointer since UK played Lipscomb on Dec. 15.

Kentucky scored the first eight points of the second half. That established the Cats' largest lead of the season (50-19) against an SEC team (that previously was 28-point leads against South Carolina and at Auburn).

State got a bit closer when Jalen Steele hit a three-pointer with 16:15 left. That snapped the Bulldogs' zero-for-11 streak of misses from beyond the arc.

Kentucky led by more than 20 points throughout the second half. More than a few fans headed to the exits when the teams took a television timeout with 6:53 left.

Moments earlier, Jarrod Polson seemed to put the cherry on top of this ice-cream Wednesday. He hustled after a Kyle Wiltjer missed three-pointer and then fed the sophomore forward for a layup. That marked Wiltjer's only basket of the last two games.

The offensive rebound with UK ahead by 30 points drew an approving point of the finger from UK Coach John Calipari.

On UK's next possession, Polson drove for a layup that put the Cats ahead 73-41.

Twany Beckham, who hadn't been in a game since Eastern Michigan, entered the game with 2:56 left. He immediately left the lineup after UK made a free throw.


NEXT GAME

Kentucky at Arkansas

When: Saturday, 4 p.m. (CBS-27)

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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