UK looks to end two-game skid against Mississippi State


Kevin Knox #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats comes down with a rebound during the game against Florida Saturday, January 20, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Florida defeated Kentucky 66-64. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Roman West

After losing two consecutive games for the first time this season, Kentucky basketball will attempt to get back on track when the Cats host Mississippi State on Jan. 23.

Kentucky’s two recent losses feature the Cats’ blowing a 14-point second-half lead at South Carolina, and a 66-64 loss to Florida after a no-call on a PJ Washington drive on the next-to-last play of the game.

After a strong non-conference start, Mississippi State has lost four of its first six SEC games and is coming off a loss to Alabama. The Bulldogs fought back after being down 19 at halftime but ultimately fell short 68-62.

Kentucky leads the all-time series 94-20 and has won 10 consecutive matchups. Last season, Kentucky was able to defeat the Bulldogs 88-81 behind a 21-point performance from De’Aaron Fox. John Calipari has never lost to Mississippi State as head coach of Kentucky.

This Kentucky team is unlike many other Calipari UK teams. The team is ranked 59th in adjusted offense according to Kenpom, which would be the lowest of any UK team Calipari.

The next lowest offensive rating came from the 2013 NIT team, which finished 38th in adjusted offense.

To get the offense up, it will need Kevin Knox to step up. While he is leading the team in scoring  with 14.3 points per game, he is only shooting 44 percent from the field and 30 percent from behind the arc. In the loss against Florida, Knox only scored nine points on 4-10 shooting.

Kentucky will also have to take care of the ball if the Cats want to find success against the Bulldogs. Against Florida, the Wildcats turned the ball over 16 times. Mississippi State is a great defensive team, ranked 18th in Kenpom’s adjusted defense.

Mississippi State’s offense is led by junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon is leading the Bulldogs in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game.

He is also leading the team in assists (4.1 per game) and the third leading rebounder (5.8 per game). Weatherspoon has scored 20-plus points five times this season and went for a double-double against Dayton in December.

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index favors Kentucky in the matchup, giving the Wildcats an 80.6 percent chance to win as of Sunday night. The game will tip-off at 9 p.m. on Tuesday at Rupp Arena and will be broadcasted on ESPN.