STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) – Julius Randle scored 16 points, James Young added 11 and No. 18 Kentucky beat Mississippi State 69-59 on Saturday.
Kentucky (18-5, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) has won three straight overall and seven in a row over Mississippi State. The Wildcats had an uneven game on offense but forced the Bulldogs into just 38.3 percent shooting (18 of 47) from the field.
Kentucky coach John Calipari used an unorthodox lineup for much of the game because of ineffective play and foul trouble. Jarrod Polson (30) and Jon Hood (13) both had season highs in minutes played.
The 6-foot-9 Randle was 8 of 13 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. Dakari Johnson started for the third time this season and added nine points and eight rebounds.
Craig Sword had 12 points for Mississippi State (13-10, 3-7), which has lost five straight.
For all of Kentucky’s obvious talent and NBA potential, the Wildcats haven’t been very good on the road this season, with a 3-5 record away from Rupp Arena.
They had another slow start against Mississippi State – even though the two-thirds full Humphrey Coliseum didn’t provide a particularly tough road environment.
Kentucky scored the first six points, but the Bulldogs got going with a few penetration baskets by Trivante Bloodman. Sword’s two-handed dunk on a fast break gave Mississippi State an 11-9 lead.
Kentucky methodically built a 32-23 lead by halftime. The Wildcats went on a 19-6 run to end the half, using a lineup that had Hood and Polson on the court for much of it.
The 6-foot-5 Hood hit a 3-pointer from the corner – his first since Nov. 10 – during the rally.
It was one of the few times all afternoon Calipari looked happy. Most of the rest of the game was spent lecturing the regulars, who had great moments mixed with exasperating ones.
But Mississippi State couldn’t take advantage of Kentucky’s slow start, making just 28 percent (7 of 25) of its shots in the first half. The Bulldogs were playing without starting point guard I.J. Ready, who missed the game because of illness.
Kentucky led for the entire second half, and two free throws by Young put the Wildcats ahead 51-39 with 10:30 remaining.
The Bulldogs twice pulled within seven points, but could never make a serious dent in the lead. Kentucky’s size advantage allowed them to get easy baskets in the paint and make life difficult for Mississippi State’s offense.
Kentucky had a 38-33 rebounding advantage and scored 40 points in the paint.
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