Bulldogs Drop Decision To Kentucky

Fred Thomas

A strong second half was not enough for the Mississippi State men's basketball team Wednesday night. The Bulldogs offensive struggles continued. MSU fell down early after an ice cold first half and dropped an 85-55 Southeastern Conference decision to Kentucky in Rupp Arena.

Kentucky enhanced its NCAA Tournament resume while moving to 20-8 overall and 11-4 in league play. MSU dropped its 13th straight to fall to 7-20 and 2-13.

"We are just not making shots," MSU head coach Rick Ray said. "Our defense was not great, it was not poor either. We play with a lot of energy and our effort is good. We really compete, but we don't make shots.

"In the first half, we had great ball movement and we had wide open shots. You just can't play defense the entire ballgame and stay motivated. You have to find a way to make shots to keep your defensive effort great."

The Bulldogs have shot 32.1 percent or less from the field in four of their last six games. Wednesday night, MSU was 7-of-30 from the field in the opening half, including a 0-for-8 worksheet from 3-point range.

After a dunk by MSU's Gavin Ware brought the Bulldogs within 11-8, Kentucky scored the game's next 13 points. The Bulldogs battled back to a 24-12 deficit on a baseline jumper by Craig Sword.

MSU continued to battle and had good movement on the offensive end with little to show for it. In the end, MSU did not manage a field goal over the final 5:48 of the half.

Kentucky ended the half with a 10-0 run for a 42-19 halftime lead.

"We did a fine job with the turnovers and we did a good job of getting the shots we wanted," Ray said. "For whatever reason, we can't hit the open shots. We did a lot better job in this game of running the offense and getting good looks. You get tired real quickly on the defensive end, when you aren't getting a lift on the other end."

The Bulldogs went close to four minutes in the second half without a basket before Jalen Steele rammed home a 3-point basket. UK scored the first eight points of the second half as the lead quickly ran to 31 points.

Another Steele trey had the Bulldogs with 25 minutes later. Kentucky continued to keep matters under control however, extended the lead to as many as 35 in the closing minutes.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 18 of 56 shots from the field (32.1percent), 6 of 24 shots from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 13 of 17 shots from the foul line (76.5 percent). The Wildcats hit 34 of 62 shots from the field (54.8 percent), 9 of 22 shots from 3-point range (40.9 percent) and 8 of 11 shots from the foul line (72.7 percent).

Kentucky held a 42-29 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 14 turnovers, while the Wildcats had 18 assists and 13 turnovers.

Fred Thomas finished with 13 points to lead MSU. Steele and Colin Borchert added 10 points apiece.

UK placed five in double figures, led by Ryan Harrow's 19 points. He was followed by Alex Poythress (16 points), Willie Cauley-Stein (12 points) , Archie Goodwin (11 points) and Julius Mays (11 points).

MSU hosts in-state rival Ole Miss Saturday. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. from the Humphrey Coliseum with a regional telecast on Fox Sports Net South.

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