By: Tyrus York –
It wasn’t as easy as many would thought but in the end the #14/16 Kentucky Wildcats were able to handle the Mississippi State Bulldogs, winning their Southeastern Conference opener 85-63 in front of a nearly sold out crowd at Rupp Arena on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs stole the show in the first half, building a 10 point lead a little more than 4 minutes in the game. In fact it took Kentucky that long to get their first field goal when finally Dominique Hawkins broke the drought with a jumper to get things going after the first media timeout.
Hawkins proved once again that he is instant energy. Energy that is contagious around his teammates whenever he’s on the floor.
After 13 days without a game, the Cats came in looking rusty. It took Hawkins to get things going, but when the energy level picked up, James Young took over.
Young was unstoppable in several facets of this game, filling up the stat sheet with game high 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. His 26 points were despite the fact that he was only 3-10 from the 3 point line.
Down 40-37 at the half, Kentucky clamped down the Bulldogs on the defensive end, asserting their power in the paint and limiting them to only 23 points in the second half. Meanwhile the Kentucky bigs were just too much to handle.
Willie Cauley-Stein would contribute 12 points having another very good game with several key baskets that would swing the momentum, but it was his teammate Alex Poythress that dazzled with incredible dunks to get 12 points of his own, somewhat sealing the deal for the Cats down the stretch.
Dakari Johnson was also an impact in this game scoring 8 points on 4-4 shooting in only 8 minutes of action.
At the end of the game the interior was simply too much for Mississippi State to handle. Kentucky out-rebounded the Bulldogs 44-28, led by the effort of Julius Randle who grabbed 14 rebounds on his own.
Randle managed only 8 points in this game, and seemed very ineffective at times on the offensive and occasionally the defensive end. I believe the size and speed of SEC big men will be an adjustment for Randle, but one cannot question his intensity because anytime you get 14 rebounds you must be working your tail off.
Kentucky will be baptized by fire in their next two games, as they go to two of the toughest venues for a young team in the conference at Vanderbilt and Arkansas. The Vandy game will tip at 3:30 pm on Saturday.
UK vs Mississippi State Half time report
The Mississippi State Bulldogs came into Rupp Arena this evening and have given all the Cats they can handle and some, leading 34-31 at the half.
The officiating seems to have taken a turn for the worse over the last few minutes of the half with questionable calls to say the least, but Kentucky simply hasn’t matched the intensity of the Bulldogs so far.
Camp Cal clearly took its toll on the Cats early in this game as it would take over 4 minutes for the Kentucky to get a field goal against the Bulldogs.
Dominique Hawkins broke the ice with a jumper with 15:08 showing on the clock in the first half. Trailing by as many as 10 points, Kentucky rallied with some strong play by James Young, who has game highs of 15 points and 9 rebounds.
Coach Cal warned they may be a little rusty coming into this game and boy was he right. Let’s see if they can turn up the heat in the second half. Go Cats!