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Bulldogs to visit Wildcats at Rupp

February 26, 2013

Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele (0) shoots against former Kentucky player Antoine Davis (23) in last year's meeting in Starkville. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

Mississippi State and Kentucky have played some good basketball games in the last few years.

There has usually been a championship or a berth into the NCAA Tournament on the line.

This time around Kentucky is the only one looking at this game as one step closer to the postseason.

The Bulldogs (7-19, 2-12) travel to Lexington, Ken. to take on the Kentucky Wildcats (19-8, 10-4). Tipoff of the Southeastern Conference matchup from Rupp Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be seen on the SEC Network.

"I'm just looking forward to playing Kentucky because we fell close a couple of times in the past," MSU freshman and Starkville native Gavin Ware said. "I'm just looking forward as me as a player playing in that arena."

The Wildcats have taken the last four games in the series after the Bulldogs had won three in a row. The last eight contests have been decided by nine points or less, with three of the games going to overtime.
MSU is 1-1 in its last two trips to Rupp Arena.

"I'm looking forward to playing at Rupp Arena," MSU head coach Rick Ray said. "You grow up hearing about Rupp Arena and all the success they had there. You talk about being able to go in and compete against Kentucky in that building. You talk about communicating and not being able to hear signals from the bench. You're looking at what weakness we can exploit. The question is whether we're good enough to exploit them and the answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. We have to figure out as a staff, me myself, how we're going to attack Kentucky and have success."

The Bulldogs are looking to snap a 12-game losing streak. It is the second longest SEC losing streak for MSU. The Bulldogs lost 16 in a row from 1981-82 and 1945-46.

"We're always giving our guys ways that we can win the basketball game," Ray said. "I don't know if this is necessarily the way we talk about how we have to win this. It's fair to say nobody in the country has been through what we've been through this season both on and off the court. It's a unique situation but what you have to do, if you're in my situation, is give your guys a way to win."

The Wildcats are pretty young. The two leading scorers are both freshman. Archie Goodwin averages 13.9 points per game and Alex Poythress puts up just under 12 points per contest.

"You’ve got Goodwin, who’s a terror to stop from getting into the paint," Ray said. "Poythress is a big, strong, physical kid, and I’m really concerned they’ll overpower some of our guys in that driving area and in that post. Coach (John) Calipari has done a really good job of finding some ways to put his guys in position to be successful by scoring the basketball.”

The Wildcats lost freshman big man Nerlens Noel for the rest of the season after he injured his knee against Florida a couple of weeks ago. 

Since the Wildcats are 2-1 and have won their last two games.

The Bulldogs have no one averaging double digits and are one of five teams in the nation with no player scoring double digits.

Freshman guard Craig Sword is averaging 9.8 points, junior guard Jalen Steele is averaging 9.7 and freshman guard Fred Thomas is averaging 9.4 points per game.

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