First Scouting Report: Can UK extend its hold over Mississippi State in Starkville?

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A look ahead to the Kentucky Wildcats’ next men’s basketball game:

The opponent

No. 17 Kentucky (19-8, 9-5 SEC) will face Mississippi State (19-8, 8-6 SEC) on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Humphrey Coliseum (seating capacity 9,100) on the campus of Mississippi State University in Starkville.

The game will tip off at 7 p.m. (EST) and be telecast by ESPN.

Behind 32 points from freshman guard Josh Hubbard, Coach Chris Jans’ Bulldogs hammered LSU 87-67 Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

Series history

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Mississippi State 102-21. The Wildcats have won 18 of the past 19 meetings, including victories in eight straight games at Starkville.

As UK coach, John Calipari is 18-1 vs. the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State head man Chris Jans is 0-2 vs. Kentucky.

Mississippi State Bulldogs coach Chris Jans will seek his first win over Kentucky when the Wildcats visit Starkville on Tuesday.
Mississippi State Bulldogs coach Chris Jans will seek his first win over Kentucky when the Wildcats visit Starkville on Tuesday.

Most recent meeting

Kentucky super-senior Antonio Reeves poured in 27 points to lead four Wildcats in double figures as then-No. 8 Kentucky defeated Mississippi State 90-77 on Jan. 17 before 20,016 fans at Rupp Arena.

The 6-foot-6, 195-pound Chicago product made 8 of 12 shots, 2 of 5 treys and all nine of his free-throw attempts. Reeves also had four rebounds and three assists.

Rob Dillingham came off the bench to score 16 points for UK, and Tre Mitchell added 15 and Aaron Bradshaw 11 for UK. Reed Sheppard contributed nine points, two rebounds, six assists and two steals for the Cats.

The victory was the 400th as Kentucky coach for John Calipari.

Super-senior big man Tolu Smith, a former Western Kentucky Hilltoppers player, led MSU with 26 points and eight rebounds.

Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves (12) had 27 points, four rebounds and three assists in UK’s 90-77 win over Mississippi State at Rupp Arena on Jan. 17.
Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves (12) had 27 points, four rebounds and three assists in UK’s 90-77 win over Mississippi State at Rupp Arena on Jan. 17.

Power rankings

In the Pomeroy Ratings, Kentucky is No. 23, Mississippi State No. 35.

The NCAA NET rankings have Kentucky No. 24, Mississippi State No. 36.

Know your foe

1. After missing Mississippi State’s first 12 games of the season with a foot injury, Bulldogs star Tolu Smith has returned to play at a high level. The 6-11, 245-pound product of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, entered play Saturday averaging 16.6 points and 8.1 rebounds.

Going into the LSU game, Smith was one of the rare players who was shooting a higher percentage (60%) on field-goal attempts than on free throws (58.6%).

Smith played his first college season, 2018-19, for Western Kentucky. In his one year on the WKU roster before transferring to MSU, Smith averaged 3.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 10.1 minutes a game.

2. Besides Smith, Mississippi State began the season with three other players on its roster who had ties to the commonwealth of Kentucky:

Super-senior forward D.J. Jeffries committed to play for UK way back on March 12, 2018, only to become the first recruit in the John Calipari coaching era (since 2009-10) to decommit from the Wildcats.

In 2023-24, the 6-7, 215-pound product of Olive Branch, Mississippi, has lost his shooting eye. Going into Saturday’s game at LSU, Jeffries was making only 37% of his field-goal attempts, and shooting only 25.3% on 3-point tries.

Isaac Stansbury, an alumnus of Greenwood High School in Bowling Green, is a super-senior, reserve guard for MSU. The son of former Mississippi State and Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury has logged seven minutes of playing time this season spread over six games and has yet to attempt a shot. The 6-1, 170-pound Stansbury has scored five points in his five-season college career.

Former Corbin High School star Andrew Taylor began the season on the Mississippi State roster. However, Taylor, who averaged 20.2 points a game for Marshall in 2022-23, played in only seven games for MSU, averaging 3.9 points.

Mississippi State coach Chris Jans told reporters in late January that Taylor was no longer with the MSU team and would not return in 2023-24.

3. In his most recent bracketology,’s Joe Lunardi has Kentucky as a No. 6 seed for the coming NCAA Tournament and has Mississippi State as a No. 9.

Interestingly, some of the underlying metrics in the NCAA tourney profiles of each team are similar.

Going into play Saturday, Kentucky was 3-6 in Quad 1 games; Mississippi State was 3-6 in Quad 1 contests.

UK was 3-1 in Quad 2 games; Mississippi State was 4-0 in such contests.

Kentucky was 6-1 in Quad 3 games; Mississippi State was 6-1 in Quad 3.

UK was 6-0 in Quad 4 contests; MSU was 5-1.

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