Big Blue Preview: Kentucky vs. Mississippi State
Kentucky head coach John Calipari has said it many times before – you’re either winning or you’re learning.
Unfortunately, Calipari’s Cats were on the short end of a 97-92 decision at Texas A&M on Saturday. It was Kentucky’s first Southeastern Conference loss of the season but, if Calipari is correct, it could also be an opportunity for this young team to get better.
Kentucky associate head coach Orlando Antigua knows that it will be important for these young Cats to learn from Saturday’s setback, especially when a game is close down the stretch.
“We certainly have to, as a staff, help them a little bit more,” Antigua said. “We have to help them a little bit in terms of structuring what we want exactly and to show them what we’re looking for on film.”
Specifically, the Cats have a couple of things in mind to improve upon.
“On ball defense and cleaning up the backboards,” Antigua said. “We allowed a few too many offensive rebounds. I thought we did a lot of good, positive things to get it to overtime. There’s some things we’ve got to try to continue to clean up.”
Kentucky returns to action on Wednesday night, hosting SEC rival Mississippi State at Rupp Arena. Antigua knows that the Bulldogs will pose a big challenge for the Cats.
“It’s going to be a physical matchup,” Antigua said. “Mississippi State is a tough, veteran, experienced team. Does that sound familiar, in the SEC? Big bodies. We’re going to have to take care of the ball. Take care of the ball, take care of the glass and do a better job defending the ball.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on ESPN2.
Last Time Out: Texas A&M Recap
No. 6 Kentucky rallied late in regulation to force overtime, but the Cats could not get past Texas A&M, falling 97-92 on Saturday at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.
Antonio Reeves scored 22 points to lead the Cats, making 5 of 10 from behind the arc. D.J. Wagner had 18 points and four assists.
Kentucky (12-3, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) got 15 points from Rob Dillingham and 13 points, six rebounds and three steals from Reed Sheppard.
Early in the game, the Aggies were hot from the floor. A&M used the 3-point shot to build an early 15-8 advantage. Kentucky would tie the game by scoring seven in a row, including a three from Reeves.
Texas A&M then went on an 11-3 run to take an eight-point lead, 26-18. Kentucky got a three from Justin Edwards and layups from Rob Dillingham and Wagner to get within four, 31-27. But again, A&M had an answer, scoring the next seven points to take a 38-27 advantage with 5:20 left in the half.
The Cats would chip away at the lead for the remainder of the half. Reeves stayed hot and, with 17 seconds left in the half, his three put UK up 45-44. However, Wade Taylor made a pair of free throws with seven seconds left in the half to give the Aggies a 46-45 lead at the half.
Kentucky took an early second-half lead on a Reeves three. After an A&M basket, Edwards hit a three and the Cats led 51-49.
From there, the game would be extremely tight. There were five ties throughout the remainder of regulation. Kentucky was down five late before Dillingham hit three 3-pointers in a row to tie the game at 87-87. After A&M took an 89-87 lead with seven seconds left, Sheppard was fouled with just 0.5 seconds to play. The freshman made both free throws to tie the game and send it to overtime.
However, Kentucky went cold in overtime. The Cats would miss all eight of their shots from the field in the extra time. UK’s only three points in overtime came from the free throw line.
Associated Press Poll All-Time Leader
Not only are the Wildcats the nation’s all-time wins leader and the team with the best all-time winning percentage, they have been ranked in the Associated Press more than any other program.
Kentucky has been ranked in the AP poll during 960 weeks in the poll’s 75-year history. North Carolina (947), Duke (883), Kansas (850) and UCLA (737) round out the top five.
The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 for the first time in the second month of the poll in Feb. 1949. UK has played a total of 252 games as the nation’s top-ranked team, including 77 under current coach John Calipari.