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Kentucky holds off Mississippi State: 4 takeaways & postgame chatter

Kentucky extends their winning streak to 10 with a victory in Starkville on Saturday afternoon.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

As winners of nine straight, the fifth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats put their streak to the test with a road trip to visit the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Kentucky won the team’s first matchup back in January and followed that result with the same outcome on Saturday. The Wildcats clicked on both ends of the court to take a 40-25 lead into halftime.

As any respectable club would, the Bulldogs battled back to start the second half. However, they once again met their match for the second time this season, 71-67.

Washington Continues Powerful Play

Reigning Co-SEC Player of the Week PJ Washington has been on as good of a tear as anyone in collegiate play. He’s averaged more than 20 points over his last five games and followed suit with 23 on Saturday, including 13 in the second half before fouling out with 1:18 left. Washington took initiative early, scoring the team’s first eight points.

After choosing to return to school last summer, Washington’s decision has clearly paid off. He’s ascended as the team’s most valuable player during their 10-game winning streak. Kentucky wins and loses as a team, but their success has much to do with the play of their star power forward.

Defense Shines in First Half

Coming into Saturday’s game, Mississippi State was scoring 79 points per game, tied with Kentucky for 52nd in the nation. However, the Wildcats had held opponents to 55 points or less in four of their last five outings. With one side due to give, the Wildcats’ defense held true by allowing just 25 points in the first half.

After holding Quinndary Weatherspoon scoreless for the first period, the Wildcats allowed him to single-handedly get Mississippi State back into the game. While their second half defense stalled, the first half should provided excellent tape to analyze moving forward.

Offense Clicks, Then Falters

Kentucky’s ability to efficiently score the basketball starts with Ashton Hagans and PJ Washington. Head coach John Calipari couldn't have been happier with his two stars following Saturday’s first half. Washington scored the team’s first eight points while Hagans dished out seven first half assists.

The second half, however, was a different tale.

Kentucky was out-scored 18-11 to start the final period. Hagans’ distribution of the basketball slowed, committing three turnovers while handing out only two assists. Washington remained effective, but the team’s efficiency scoring the basketball was stagnant. Once again, Kentucky played with fire yet somehow managed to pull out the victory. Needless to say, it will take a 40-minute effort to defeat the heavy competition that lies ahead.

Wildcats Prepared for Tigers, Volunteers

Saturday’s win marked the 10th straight for Kentucky. During their streak, they’ve faced multiple, high quality opponents as well as difficult tests on the road. However, each week they’ve found a way to pull out a victory.

Next week, Kentucky (20-3) will prepare for a pair of home matchups against two ranked ball clubs. First, the Wildcats will host the 21st-ranked LSU Tigers on Tuesday evening. Then, Kentucky will host the top-ranked Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday with ESPN’s College GameDay in attendance.

Tuesday’s tip against the Tigers is set for 7 pm EST with Saturday’s tip against the Volunteers slated for 8 pm EST