Coming off a loss this past weekend at Auburn, Kentucky looks to get back on track tonight against red-hot Mississippi State in Rupp Arena.
Just like Auburn, who out-rebounded Kentucky 42-28 including grabbing 17 offensive rebounds, Mississippi State is just as aggressive on the boards, as they are second in the SEC in offensive rebounds per game (11.1, second behind Auburn), and second in the league in rebounding margin (+8.3).
Due to the Bulldogs’ constant crashing of the boards, especially on the offensive end, UK Assistant Coach Kenny Payne says the same result that occured against Auburn can happen tonight if UK does not come out as the aggressors.
“In this game (referring to Auburn), similar to the Mississippi State game, you better be the aggressor, if not you’re going to be on your heels the whole night,” Payne said. “They’re (Mississippi State) probably the most physical team in the SEC.”
Payne not only says Kentucky needs junior forward Nick Richards to play well to win, but it will be up to Richards to get himself back to being mentally ready to play at the level he was competing at before the Auburn game, which he posted just seven points and seven rebounds.
“It has nothing to do with the opponent, it is all within Nick (Richards) and his mental ability,” Payne said. “You have to mentally come into this thing every day prepared for war.”
Not only Nick Richards, but sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans also had an off-night against Auburn, scoring only five points, and turning the ball over six times while just having three assists. Hagans also fouled out in the game. UK Assistant Coach Kenny Payne says Richards, again, and Hagans have major impact on whether this team wins or not, and also included what kind of response he wants from them.
“They have such a major impact on this program and this team, to their teammates…our success rides with them,” Payne said. “The response from them, Ashton (Hagans) in particular, is to be more disciplined.”
The player that might challenge Kentucky the most against Mississippi State is sophomore big-man Reggie Perry, who is fourth in the SEC in scoring (17.2 points per game) and first in the league in rebounding (10.0) rebounds per game. In SEC play itself, Perry is averaging 21.8 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game, posing as a player UK will have to focus on containing tonight.
“He’s an NBA player,” UK Assistant Coach Kenny Payne said of Perry. “It’s going to be a big challenge for our guys. A big part of our success is how we handle him.”
Kentucky will face off against Reggie Perry and the Bulldogs tonight at 9 p.m. (yes, a late start, but at least it’s not 11 p.m.) in Rupp Arena in hopes to get back to its winning ways. Follow @cameronradio on Twitter for updates during the game.