Four Keys to Victory: Kentucky vs Mississippi State
Kentucky is looking to bounce back from a tough road loss at Auburn and Mississippi State is looking for a signature win for their season. Joe Lunardi currently has the Bulldogs as one of the last four teams in his NCAA tournament bracket. A win in Rupp Arena would go a long way towards solidifying the Bulldogs NCAA tournament spot. For Kentucky, the stakes are different but a win is just as crucial. If the Cats hope to move up from being a four or five seed in the NCAA tournament they really need to win every home game left on the schedule. They also need the win to keep their SEC regular season title hopes alive. A win against a potential NCAA tournament team would be a nice boost of confidence after two straight sub par games. If Kentucky is going to win tonight, these are a few of the keys to victory.
- Be the aggressor- Kentucky is at their best when they play in attack mode. This is true on defense and on offense. In the full court the Cats have to look to push the ball when the option is available. In the half court they need to drive the ball into the paint and work to get the ball to Nick Richards in the post. Mississippi State plays an aggressive style of defense and the best way to negate that is by playing in attack mode. On defense Kentucky needs to attack rather than be reactionary. Ashton Hagans is the primary tone setter on both sides of the ball. If he is aggressive and the team is as well it will be a tough game for the Bulldogs to win.
- Contain Reggie Perry- Perry is a 6’10 250 pound sophomore that is one of the best big men in the conference. He will look to push Richards and the Cats around inside the paint and on the glass. The individual battle between Richards and Perry will go a long way towards deciding who wins this game. Beyond the individual matchup, it must be a team effort to slow Perry down. EJ Montgomery and Nate Sestina will both be needed at times to put a body on him. If the Cats could get Perry in foul trouble it would have a big impact on the game. He is going to put some numbers up on the score sheet but the key is to make him have to work for everything he gets.
- Ashton Hagans has to get back to his game- When Hagans plays well it is extremely hard to beat Kentucky. On the flip side, when he plays poorly it becomes much easier to knock off the Cats. If Hagans can just play a solid game it will give Kentucky a very good chance to win this game. He has to cut down his recent rash of turnovers and also make smart plays on offense. His defense will also be needed against the Bulldogs who have a very solid back court.
- Crash the glass- Kentucky got manhandled on the glass at Auburn and that has to change tonight. The Bulldogs are one of the best rebounding teams in the country so it will not be an easy challenge for the Cats. It has to be an entire team effort on the boards, from the guards to the bigs. If Kentucky can end up on the positive side of the rebounding battle it will likely mean they have won the game.
This should be a very good game tonight. If Kentucky does not come ready for a war, they will probably lose. They should be motivated after the loss on Saturday and I think they will scratch out a very close win. The final score will be 71-69.