Mississippi State Bulldogs (14-3) at Kentucky Wildcats (14-3)
- Game Time: 7 pm EST on January 22, 2019
- Where: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky
- TV Channel: ESPN
- Announcers: Dick Vitale, Karl Ravech and Laura Rutledge will call the action.
- Live Online Stream: You can stream the game online or on a mobile device using WatchESPN, the Watch ESPN app and fuboTV.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington or online at UKAthletics.com. Pratt is returning from a brief absence due to a minor surgical procedure.
- Replay: Check local listings on the SEC Network and WatchESPN.
- Rosters: UK | MSU
- Odds: Kentucky opened as an eight-point favorite over the Bulldogs, and the line is seven as of Tuesday afternoon. KenPom projected Kentucky to be a 6.5-point favorite.
- Predictions: Kentucky has just a 75.3% chance to win, according to ESPN’s matchup predictor. KenPom gives Kentucky an 70% chance of winning and projects a 75-69 win for the home team. Be sure to check out our own prediction on the game.
- Wildcats Preview Bulldogs
- Digital Gameday Guide
While we wait for the game, get fired up for tonight by watching the all-access look at Saturday’s win over Auburn:
The Wildcats are riding high, and they’ll look to keep it going when Mississippi State travels to Rupp Arena for a Tuesday primetime clash.
Saturday’s win on the road at Auburn was arguably one of the most exciting games of the season. It also proved that Kentucky is poised to contend for the SEC title and beyond. It also came after a convincing road win at Georgia.
Picking up two big road wins was important for UK entering the middle portion of the season. This week, the Cats will have a chance to make an even bigger statement with Mississippi State and Kansas coming to Rupp Arena. Beating both would mean three straight victories against ranked opponents.
In a weekend that saw several of the top teams lose, Kentucky now has an opportunity to really distance themselves from others, creating a path to top a top-seed in the NCAA Tournament and possible placement in the Louisville Region.
Before conference play began, the SEC was considered to be top heavy with four teams having a chance to win the regular season title. Tennessee being the favorite, followed by Kentucky, Auburn, and Mississippi State.
UK has now beaten Auburn on their home floor, and Mississippi State has had a lackluster 2-2 start to conference play. The Vols nearly slipped up and lost at home to Alabama in what was a wild Saturday of college basketball.
Bottom line is that if Kentucky can continue on this trajectory of growth while stringing together wins they will be positioning themselves for an SEC regular-season conference championship.
But the next step is taking care of the 14-3 Mississippi State Bulldogs on Tuesday night in Rupp Arena.
3 Keys to the Game
Not looking ahead to College Gameday
It was announced that Kentucky will host their 17th College Gameday when the Kansas Jayhawks come to Lexington on Saturday afternoon. This was awesome news and will make for an insane game atmosphere for the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, not to mention Kentucky vs. Kansas is a true clash of blue bloods, which will have the Cats very amped up for it.
However, it is also a textbook recipe for a letdown game against Mississippi State. Even though MSU will come in as a ranked opponent, there is still no denying that the magnitude of playing the Jayhawks will be something that the players will have in the back of their mind.
It is absolutely pivotal that Kentucky comes out ready to play and once again attempts to avoid a poor start. This should not be a trap game for the Wildcats, but has the makings to be one, especially in Rupp.
If the Big Blue Nation didn’t already believe in the mental toughness of this team, the win at Auburn should have now provided enough evidence to do so. Led by Ashton Hagans, the Cats overcame just about everything that a team can overcome in a tough road environment.
They turned the ball over four times in their first five possessions and nearly blew a large lead before ultimately making the necessary plays down the stretch to win the game.
Hagans’ now famous “wake up call” to Keldon Johnson gave insight to the continued maturity and accountability that this team is getting. For weeks Calipari has preached his desire for this to become a player-driven team, not coach driven. And until that happened, they would not reach their full potential.
Has that happened?
Seemingly so, but it’s imperative that the Cats continue to build on their signature win and not look ahead to Kansas.
Establish the bigs
It has been evident to start games that John Calipari’s expectation is that the ball goes into the post, specifically to Reid Travis. This mindset is obviously to establish the big guys on the block, setting up the inside-out game. Reid Travis and PJ Washington combined for 30 points and 14 rebounds in Saturday’s win at Auburn.
Even with UK’s plethora of talent guards, it continues to be a priority to work the ball inside and let the front-court go to work. It was encouraging to see Reid Travis finally settle in on the road versus Auburn. He has been very average to begin SEC play while struggling against superior athleticism.
It was no surprise that he figured things out and will likely revert back to the consistent Reid Travis who nears a double-double every single night. Dick Vitale commented over and over about how Washington’s overwhelming talent should not be contained at the college level. Kentucky is the best version of themselves when PJ Washington and Reid Travis are being successfully aggressive.
Mississippi State has a Kentucky native at the forward position, 6-10 Aric Holman averages 12.4 points a game. Getting Holman in foul trouble would be a big blow to the Bulldogs and increase the Cats chance to pull away.
UK continues to punish opponents on the boards with a +9.6 margin per game. They have now firmly established rebounding as the identity of this team. Both offensively and defensively the Cats may be the best team in America at crashing the glass. Beating up Mississippi State on the boards will a key element to Tuesday’s game. If Kentucky maintains their +9.6 average against the Bulldogs I would expect a victory to follow.
As spring approaches, it has to be a comforting thought for Kentucky fans to know that there is not a team in college basketball that match-up with UK’s front-court. When the big guys bring their lunch pail, it always bodes well for the Cats.
Continued growth from Tyler Herro
One of my favorite moments of the season so far was the clutch three by Tyler Herro down the stretch by Auburn that thwarted a game-changing run by the Tigers. His unwavering confidence is a thing of beauty.
Whether he is making or missing shots, Herro keeps himself dialed in on defense and operates within the game plan. If the freshman guard can continue to see the ball go through the net, then the sky's the limit.
I can’t imagine how lethal a fully confident Tyler Herro will be moving into the second half of the season. His 20 points on the road at Auburn were littered with tough baskets and big shots.
Over the next two games, the Cats will undoubtedly need more contributions like Herro gave them against the Tigers.
Players to watch
Quinndary Weatherspoon: 16.6 ppg; 5.8 rpg; 1.3 spg
The Bulldogs have a nucleus of four players who all average double figures in scoring. Senior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon is an experienced player who averages an impressive 16.6 points a game, which places him 5th in the SEC in scoring. Weatherspoon does most of his work within the three point arc considering he has only made 18 triples all year. Obviously, he will be meeting Ashton Hagans on Tuesday night.
Lamar Peters: 13.4 ppg; 5.8 apg; 41.5% three-point shooting
The Cats better locate Peters in transition because he has made the 3rd most three-pointers in the SEC this season with 51. Even as a volume shooter he is still shooting over 40% from deep to go along with his 13.3 points per game. He’s a strong candidate to be the ‘random opponent who lights up Rupp Arena’ for this game. Hagans may shift to Peters if he gets going from deep.
Aric Holman: 12.4 ppg; 8.1 rpg; 2.2 bpg
It may be tough for some fans to cheer against Holman because he is a Kentucky native who attended Owensboro high school. At 6-10, 225 pounds, he is also a complete beast in the paint averaging nearly a double-double per game. His rebounding average makes him the 4th best in the SEC. Holman has yet to see a frontcourt like he will see in Rupp Arena on Tuesday night, but he is a proven threat in the paint.
Nick Weatherspoon: 10.2 ppg; 2.4 apg; 46.3 three-point shooting
Weatherspoon marks the fourth MSU player who averages in double-figures with 10.4 points per game while shooting a solid 48% from the field. He’s also a great shooter from deep, though he only averages 2.4 attempts per game. Kentucky needs to stay locked in on both Weatherspoons in this one.