Cats overpower struggling State

All five Kentucky starters scored in double figures Wednesday as John Calipari's squad took another step toward improving its postseason résumé with an 85-55 win over Mississippi State at Rupp Arena.

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- All five Kentucky starters scored in double figures Wednesday as John Calipari's squad took another step toward improving its postseason résumé with an 85-55 win over Mississippi State at Rupp Arena.

Ryan Harrow led Kentucky (20-8, 11-4 SEC) with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists while playing turnover-free at the point. Alex Poythress followed with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Willie Cauley-Stein recorded 12 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays each added 11 points.

"I thought we went forward," Calipari said. "I mean, again, you have five guys in double figures. The sixth, Jarrod Polson, has nine points. We shoot a high percentage, hold them to a low percentage.

"Then I thought Willie Cauley did some great things, blocking shots and doing the things he's doing. We're not the shot-blocking team we were, but we had five again today. We had seven or eight the last game."

Kentucky shot 55 percent from the field while holding Mississippi State to 32 percent. The Wildcats also outrebounded the Bulldogs 42-29 and led by as many as 35 points in the blowout.

Mississippi State (7-20, 2-13 SEC) suffered its 13th consecutive loss after opening SEC play 2-0.

"I understand that Kentucky has had some problems with injuries, and they probably lost the No. 1 draft pick in the nation in Nerlens Noel, but when you want to start comparing trials and tribulations, we win all day long," said Mississippi State coach Rick Ray, whose team traveled with only eight players -- one a walk-on -- to Lexington.

"Even the situation they are in, (Calipari) still has like five-star guys and McDonald's All-Americans that are playing for him, so excuse me if I don't start crying for what is going on at Kentucky compared to what is going on here."

Ray, however, gave the UK coach credit for adapting since Noel's injury.

"He has figured out a way for his team to be successful without Nerlens Noel because you base what you do defensively based on him, so you have to give him credit for trying to figure out a way to make his team still be successful without the best player in probably college basketball," Ray said. "Credit goes to him on that."

The lopsided win gave Calipari a chance to extend his bench deeper than he's been able to do in recent SEC games. Reserve guards Polson and Jon Hood responded with nine and five points, respectively. Polson also had four rebounds and three assists. Hood chipped in with three rebounds, an assist and a steal in his best 16 minutes of the season.

Calipari sees the pieces coming together at the right time. UK improved to 3-1 without Noel, who tore his ACL in a Feb. 12 loss at Florida.

"We're not quite all the way there, but we're making strides," he said. "Look, this team, what we've been through in the last 10 days, you think about it - what this team has been through, what we've had to do to adjust to all the things happening around us. We had dirt thrown on us 10 days ago. The coffin was nailed shut and the dirt was thrown on us.

"Now all of a sudden we're like, 'Wait a minute, what's just happened?' In 10 days. And they're feeling good about themselves. They should. I'm proud of them."

Along the way, the Cats seem to have rediscovered the fun side of basketball.

"We just all got together and talked and said we needed to turn this around," Harrow said. "We are starting to have fun and playing together better."

NOTES:

• Kentucky leads the all-time series against Mississippi State 89-20 (45-5 in Lexington) and has won five straight over the Bulldogs.

• Several members of UK's 1996 national championship team were honored at halftime with the players receiving rings from the UKAA.

• UK has now won 20 or more games 57 times in program history, including all four years under Calipari.

• The Wildcats return to action Saturday at Arkansas. Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m. ET on CBS.


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