Instant analysis from No. 5 Kentucky’s 76-48 win over South Carolina:
How the game was won
Kentucky (19-3, 8-1 SEC) closed the first half with a 17-4 run to turn a 24-22 deficit into a 39-28 advantage and then rolled to an easy victory over South Carolina (11-11, 6-3 SEC).
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1. PJ Washington. Continuing his emergence as a star-caliber player, the Kentucky forward reached 20 points in scoring for the fourth time in the past five games — and didn’t even play especially well (6-for-16 field-goal shooting).
2. EJ Montgomery. The rapidly-developing Kentucky freshman big man had 11 points and 13 rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time.
3. Kentucky bench. UK got positive contributions from all four of its primary reserves — EJ Montgomery (see above), Nick Richards (four points, four rebounds), Jemarl Baker (five points, three rebounds) and Immanuel Quickley (three points, three assists and a steal).
Reasons for worry
1. Ashton Hagans. The player whose emergence at point guard launched the Kentucky season on an upward trajectory seems to have hit a bit of a lull — two points, three steals, four assists, six turnovers (all in first half).
2. Kentucky shooting. It was not wildly accurate — 25 of 61 field goals, five of 16 treys.
Seven of eight. South Carolina shot 35.8 percent (19 of 53) for the game. Kentucky has now held seven of its last eight foes below 40 percent in field-goal shooting.
1. Sara Bradley, the Paducah-based chef who is a contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef: Kentucky” was interviewed in Rupp Arena before the game by UK hosts Ravi Moss and Maria Montgomery. Bradley owns Freight House, a farm-to-table restaurant, in Paducah.
2. Former Kentucky Wildcats and Kentucky Colonels star Louie Dampier was introduced before the game as UK’s honorary “game captain.” The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer got a nice ovation.
3. Paws & Listen, an all-female A cappella group of UK students, performed a graceful version of the national anthem.
4. UK recognized its 2018 Conference USA champion men’s soccer team and 2018 SEC champion women’s volleyball team on the Rupp Arena court at halftime.
5. Former UK guards and classmates Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford (2004-08) were a tag-team ‘Y.’
No. 5 Kentucky (18-3, 8-1 SEC) will travel to Starkville to face Mississippi State (16-5, 4-4 SEC) at 1 p.m. (EST) at Humphrey Coliseum in a game that will be telecast by CBS.
Before playing UK, Coach Ben Howland’s Bulldogs will face LSU Wednesday at 9 p.m. in Starkville.
Kentucky leads the all-time series with Mississippi State 96-20.
Know your foe
1. The game will be a rematch of Kentucky’s 76-55 victory over then-No. 22 Mississippi State in Rupp Arena on Jan. 22. PJ Washington had 21 points and Tyler Herro 18 while Reid Travis claimed 12 rebounds to pace the Wildcats. MSU suffered through a horrid shooting game, going 19 of 61 from the floor and 3-for-20 on three-point tries.
2. Under John Calipari, Kentucky is 12-0 vs. Mississippi State. MSU’s most recent victory over UK came on Feb. 3, 2009, when Coach Rick Stansbury’s Bulldogs bested Coach Billy Gillispie’s Wildcats 66-57 at Rupp Arena.
3. Aric Holman, one of the stars of Owensboro’s 2015 Sweet Sixteen championship team, is one of Mississippi State’s top players. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound senior is averaging 10.9 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds. Holman shoots 42.3 percent from three-point range (33-of-78) and leads the Bulldogs in blocked shots (44).
The Kentuckian did not have a good game vs. his home-state school in Rupp Arena in January. Holman fouled out in 20 minutes after missing his only two shots for no points and claiming two rebounds. He did block two shots and make two steals.