Conference play started for Kentucky tonight as they hosted Mississippi State in Rupp Arena. The Cats have been off for eleven days, last action being the big victory over Louisville on December 28th. Tonight, UK took care of business, again, to begin SEC play 1-0.
The game once again started out very slow for Kentucky. Shot 2/6 from the free throw line, jacked up early three pointer’s before going down 12-2 very early. UK just wasn’t playing defense virtually anywhere on the court as MSU penetrated to the rim with ease and caused 8 turnovers on the defensive end. It was in my mind one of worst halves UK has played defensively all season.
From there, Kentucky slowly picked it up and State finally began to play like the team they have all season. Cutting the lead back down with some confident play from James Young and a spark from the bench.
As for James Young, If it wasn’t for him Kentucky would have been looking at a big deficit. Finishing the half with 15 points but did take 14 field goal attempts, a season high. Grabbed 9 rebounds while knocking down 2 three balls.
The other Wildcats were mostly quiet as they trailed Mississippi State 37-40 at half. Willie Cauley-Stein contributed 8 points, Julius Randle corralled 8 rebounds while teammates Alex Poythress and Dominique Hawkins both saw solid minutes.
Half two started on a positive note however. Defensive intensity and pressure picked up as John Calipari probably gave the young Cats hell in the locker room. Kentucky re-gained the lead with around 17 minutes to go and did not look back. Extended the lead out to fifteen, then twenty as they cruised to a 85-63 victory.
Turnovers were cut down in half two to 4, a total of 12. Kentucky also out rebounded the Bulldogs drastically 48-26, one stat they should win night in, night out.
Leading the way the entire game for Kentucky was our man James Young. Tallying his second consecutive double-double of 26 point, 10 rebounds and dished out 5 assists. Those 26 points tie his career high.
Two guys who must get an applause off the bench are Alex Poythress who we’ve mentioned and big man Dakari Johnson. Poythress was raved about over the days off from Calipari and it showed tonight. He finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds on 5/6 shooting. He also threw down five powerful dunks off lobs!.
Dakari Johnson also showed he has improved since the last game. Played much of the second half, scoring 8 points. He looked most comfortable on the court tonight than any game to date showing all these kids are coming around.
Julius Randle had a quiet but good outing as Poythress shined during the second half. Scoring 8 points and snatched up 14 rebounds. The Harrison twins played well, controlled the game on the court, not in the box score.
Next game for Kentucky will be Saturday afternoon down in Nashville against Vanderbilt. And before you go, did you know Jon Hood has played with 17 NBA players?!?! Go Cats!
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