Kentucky Wildcats v. Mississippi State Bulldogs
While my sentimental side would like to see Mississippi State win this game, my rational side is going with Kentucky to win this game. Although I do not see the Wildcats overwhelming the Bulldogs as they did the Volunteers in yesterday’s semi-final, they should maintain the edge in scoring and perhaps rebounding to defeat the dogs. In Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State possesses probably the only player who can successfully challenge DeMarcus Cousins of Kentucky. But I don’t believe anyone in the Bulldog’s line-up can truly go one-on-one with John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.
In the first meeting between these teams, their only regular season game, Kentucky won 81 to 75 in overtime, in Starkville, Mississippi. I expect to see something similar today. In that game, Kentucky controlled the first half, despite a lead change in Mississippi State’s favor, 15-14, with less than 11 minutes to play. Kentucky’s biggest margin was seven points, at 29-22, with 4:12 left to play. The first half ended in 32-29 in Kentucky’s favor.
In the long run, Kentucky controlled the second half as well, despite Mississippi State taking the lead several times, and going ahead by seven points, 67-60, with three minutes to play. At this point Kentucky stopped Mississippi State from scoring further, and tied the game, 67-67, off a three pointer by DeAndre Loggins, and two two pointers by Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson. More importantly, Barry Stewart missed a three pointer with seven seconds left which would have given Mississippi State a 70-67 win and Kentucky its second loss of the season.
Mississippi matched Kentucky score for score in overtime, until DeMarcus tipped one in for two points, putting Kentucky ahead by 72-70. From that point on, Kentucky did not relinquish the lead, and won the game 81-75.
In this game, three Wildcats claimed “double-doubles”, as Patrick Patterson scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, DeMarcus Cousins scored 19 points and claimed 14 rebounds, and John Wall scored 18 and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Dee Bost led the Bulldogs in scoring with 22, followed by Kodi Augustus with 17, and Barry Stewart with 16. Varnado only scored 10 points, had five rebounds, and only 2 blocked shots. Furthermore, he got into foul trouble early and eventually fouled out of the game in overtime. For Mississippi State to win today, they will need Varnado to play as he did against Vanderbilt and control Cousins.
ESPN, Kentucky 81 – Mississippi State 75, ESPN Men’s Basketball