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Kentucky Wildcats @ Mississippi St. Bulldogs: Open Game Thread

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Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats step out of the East division to take on the West division co-leaders -- the Mississippi St. Bulldogs.

Mississippi St. and Kentucky figured to be two of the best three or four teams in the league this year, and even though the records reflect that, the reality is that Mississippi St. has underachieved quite a bit, having two very bad losses against the Rider Broncs and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. After close losses to the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville and the Florida Gators in Gainesville, the Bulldogs seem to have righted the ship and are looking to finish strong in the season stretch run.

Game particulars are as follows:

Date & Time Tues., Feb. 16, 9:00 p.m
Coverage TV: ESPN
Radio: BBSN
Live Stats
Online Audio listen
Live Video via ESPN360
Location Humphrey Coliseum
Starkville, Miss.

This game may seem of relatively low importance compared to this past Saturday's game against the Tennessee Volunteers, but nothing could be further from the truth. This weekend, the Wildcats must travel to Nashville to face the Vanderbilt Commodores in Memorial Gymnasium, arguably Kentucky's toughest game all year. A hiccup in Starksville, and UK could wind up on a two-game losing streak with road games to a tough Georgia Bulldogs team and a return date with the Vols in Knoxville. That makes this game more important than it might appear.

More following the jump.

What UK needs to do to win:

  • Guard the three, because MSU will be launching a lot of them.
  • Continue the good offensive rebounding, because they are likely to need it tonight.
  • Find ways to score inside, despite the presence of Jarvis Varnado.
  • Make three point shots.

What UK can do to lose:

  • Turn the ball over. MSU will not pressure UK, and is one of the worst teams in the league forcing turnovers. If UK gives it to them, it will help the Bulldogs a lot.
  • Allow MSU to get over 40% offensive rebounds. MSU is a fair rebounding team, but if the 'Cats don't take care of the defensive glass, things will go badly.
  • Fail to screen. Kentucky is going to need some screens to free up penetration against Varnado.
  • Put MSU on the line. The Bulldogs are a decent free throw shooting team, and guard-dominated. Allowing them to score easy points at the expense of playing time could be deadly.

This is one of those games that can make UK look good, or potentially put the team in its first really tough spot all year. It isn't a classic trap game, but the rest of the schedule informs the importance of a win here.

Go, 'Cats!