- Game Time: 1:00 pm ET
- Location: Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi
- TV Channel: CBS
- Announcers: Carter Blackburn and Bill Raftery will be on the call.
- Live Online Stream: You can stream the game online or on a mobile device at CBSSports.com.
- 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.
- Rosters: UK | MSU
- Odds: Kentucky opened as three-point favorite. As of Saturday morning, the line is 3.5. KenPom projected the Wildcats to be a 2.5-point favorite. Go here for more betting trends and expert picks.
- Predictions: UK has a 60.9 percent chance to win, according to ESPN’s matchup predictor. KenPom gives the Wildcats a 58% chance to win and projects a 72-70 win for the road team. Go here for our staff predictions.
- Digital Gameday Guide
The Wildcats will a road trip Saturday to put their winning streak on the line vs. Mississippi State.
Kentucky didn’t struggle much in the first meeting with MSU, beating them by 21 points in Rupp Arena. Saturday’s game will provide a lot of exposure for both teams with a 1:00 pm tip-off on CBS.
There seemingly could not be a better time for John Calipari to showcase his team for a national audience than this exact moment in time. Since narrowly losing to Alabama on January 5th, Kentucky has embraced the challenge of conference play and are passing the eye test in a major way.
Now, the Cats have positioned themselves for 10 straight wins and continue to add to an already impressive NCAA Tournament resume.
Ranked 5th in the nation, you could argue that UK is playing the best basketball of any team in the entire country. An encouraging tidbit during this nine-game win streak may be that Kentucky is beating teams by adjusting to their style of play.
South Carolina came into Rupp Arena on Tuesday with clear intent to bring physicality and challenge this team’s toughness. Simply put, it didn’t work, at all.
The Cats are proving that they can beat opponents in a variety of ways and it doesn’t necessarily require them to force a team into playing at a certain pace. This is a characteristic that should translate very well to the NCAA tournament.
The pillar of their success has come from locking down on the defensive end of the floor. Four of the last five games, Kentucky has held their opponent to 55 points or less. The only game they didn’t was against Kansas when the Jayhawks scored 63 points, which is still 13 points below their season average.
To put it mildly, UK is imposing their will on teams defensively. You saw evidence of this on Tuesday night when South Carolina was held to just 48 points while shooting a miserable 35% from the field.
As great as Kentucky is playing right now, adding the element of traveling to a place like Starkville will force the Cats to execute and keep their foot on the gas for 40 minutes.
3 Keys to the Game:
Keep Sharing the wealth
The most promising thing about Kentucky’s nine-game winning streak may just be the fact that it’s been done by committee. Each player has contributed valuable minutes at some point since UK dropped their last game way back on January 5th. Most recently, it was EJ Montgomery who exploded for his first career double-double against South Carolina.
Nobody was happier for Montgomery than John Calipari, who explained how going against players like Reid Travis and PJ Washington every day in practice helped prepare him to take advantage of that moment.
At every opportunity, Coach Cal has made mention that in order to win a national championship, this team is going to need guys like EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards to step up and add value in their minutes. Kentucky not only has depth, but they are getting to a point where the utilization of that depth is pretty much impossible for any team to match-up with.
The importance of the bench players continuing to gain confidence over these last 9 regular season games cannot be overstated. There will likely be a time in the SEC or NCAA Tournament where foul trouble, or even an injury, will require somebody to step up and seize that moment.
I would look for establishing Nick Richards to be a part of the early game plan in the first half on Saturday. Richards has still not been able to quite find his niche in the rotation. Coach Cal has made it clear that, to stay on the court, Richards must be active blocking shots and giving maximum effort rebounding the ball.
Richards still leads the team with 32 blocks on the season while just playing 11.4 minutes per game on average.
Protect the perimeter
I realize it’s like a broken record at this point, but I still believe that in order for an inferior team, like Mississippi State, to beat Kentucky, it is going to require at least 10 made three-pointers. In all three of UK’s losses, the other team has hit or surpassed that threshold.
The Bulldogs will let it fly from deep, as they have taken over 500 threes so far this season. Kentucky’s length clearly bothered MSU during their first meeting because the Bulldogs only made 3 of 20 attempts. That was the main reason they were blown out by 21 points.
Lamar Peters is the primary option for Mississippi State’s long-range attack. Peters has attempted nearly double the amount of threes as the next player on the roster. He found himself smothered during his visit to Rupp Arena where he shot 1-5. Containing Peters will be a top priority for Kentucky.
Every road game needs a Herro
This season, Tyler Herro has proven that he thrives in hostile environments. Last week, Herro scorned the Rowdy Reptiles with 19 points on 6/8 shooting. The best example of his nerves of steel may have come in the victory at Auburn, where Herro scored a tough 20 points that included the game-winning free throw.
If Herro gets hot early, it could spell goodnight for a Mississippi State team that is already going to struggle matching up with Kentucky’s frontcourt. Herro has now worked his three-point shooting up to nearly 35% and is averaging over 13 points per game.
Last week in Gainesville, Herro hit three triples, proving how much he enjoys the taunting of opposing gyms. Don’t forget that Herro decommitted from Wisconsin and then played his entire senior year in that state. Trust me, he is used to this kind of treatment.
Players to watch:
Weatherspoon is the primary option on offense and will likely take the majority of MSU’s shot attempts on Saturday. He’s coming off a 27-point outing in an overtime loss to LSU. He has actually hit the 27-point mark in three of his last four games. Stopping him will be the key to slowing down the Bulldogs’ offense.
The Cats need to go over any screens and get a hand up when Peters has the ball on the perimeter. After struggling against Kentucky in Rupp Arena a few weeks ago, you can count on him being eager to get some shots up. Peters is one of the top five three-point shooters in the SEC. He has two games this year in which he’s hit eight (!) threes, though he’s hit just two of his last 14 from deep.
Kentucky completely shut down down Holman in the first meeting. He is the third leading scorer on MSU’s team but was held scoreless at Rupp Arena. He’s also the best big man that the Bulldogs feature. When he’s in the game, he can bother PJ Washington or Reid Travis in the post. Getting him in foul trouble will be key to establishing Travis and Washington.