1st scouting report: UK Men’s Basketball vs. Mississippi St.

A preview of the Kentucky Wildcats’ upcoming men’s basketball game:

The adversary

No. 12 Kentucky (15-4, 5-2 SEC) will face Mississippi State (12-5, 3-2 SEC) on Tuesday, January 25 at Rupp Arena (capacity 20,545) in downtown Lexington. .

The game kicks off at 9 p.m. EST and will be broadcast by ESPN.

Coach Ben Howland’s Bulldogs took on arch-rival Mississippi on Saturday at 4 p.m. EST.

Series history

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Mississippi State 92-19.

Most recent meeting

Iverson Molinar had 21 points and Tolu Smith added 13 points and 11 rebounds as Mississippi State snapped a 15-game losing skid against Kentucky with a 74-73 win in the SEC Tournament on March 11, 2021, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Power ratings

In Friday’s games, the NCAA NET rankings had Kentucky No. 10 and Mississippi State No. 49.

The Kenpom Rankings ranked the UK No. 4 and Mississippi State No. 44.

Kentucky was No. 8 in the Sagarin Rankings with No. 47 Mississippi State.

Know your enemy

1. Going into Saturday’s game with Ole Miss, Mississippi State is 3-4 against Power Conference opponents (Power Five football plus the Big East). Coach Ben Howland’s Bulldogs have had SEC victories over Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama, as well as league losses at Mississippi and Florida.

In the pre-conference roster, Mississippi State lost to ACC Louisville on neutral ground and fell to Big Ten foe Minnesota in Starkville.

MSU is 0-2 this season in real road games.

2. Mississippi State’s top two players in its SEC Tournament victory over Great Britain last season remain the Bulldogs’ top threats.

Guard Iverson Molinar is MSU’s best player, averaging 17.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Going into the Mississippi contest, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior struggled from the outside, making just 29.7 percent of his three-point shots.

Big man Tolu Smith is averaging 13.4 points and 7 rebounds. A 6-foot-11, 245-pound redshirt junior who began his college career in Western Kentucky, Smith entered the Ole Miss game shooting a better field goal percentage (63.6) than free throws (63.2).

3. MSU rounded out its roster for 2021-22 by bringing in a string of high profile transfers.

Transfer to North Carolina Garrison Brooks, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound grad student, is averaging 10.9 points and 6.6 rebounds.

Transfer from Memphis DJ Jeffries — once a recruiting commitment from Kentucky — was averaging 10.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in play Saturday. The 6-foot-7, 215-pound junior didn’t shoot particularly well, shooting 41.4 percent overall, 31.7 percent on three-point tries.

North Carolina State transfer Shakeel Moore, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound sophomore, was averaging 11.2 points and three rebounds and making 36.3 percent of his three-way tries points.

Rocket Watts’ transfer to Michigan State has been slowed by the lingering effects of a hip injury. Heading into the Mississippi game on Saturday, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior had played just 13 games and averaged just 4.1 points in 13.3 minutes of playing time.

This story was originally published January 22, 2022 3:17 p.m.

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since August 27, 1990 and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I’ve covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every basketball game UK-U of L match but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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Amanda J. Marsh