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Mississippi State dominates Kentucky 66-57




LEXINGTON

Phil Turner scored a careerhigh 18 points to lead four Mississippi State players in double figures as the Bulldogs handed Kentucky its third straight loss, 66-57, on Tuesday.

Ravern Johnson added 17 points, Barry Stewart scored 13 and Dee Bost had 10 points and four assists as the Bulldogs (15- 7, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) won at Rupp Arena for the first time in 14 years.

Jodie Meeks scored 15 points and Patrick Patterson added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats (16-7, 5-3), who never led and struggled to find offensive rhythm against Mississippi State’s quick four-guard lineup and center Jarvis Varnado.

The reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year shook off foul trouble to finish with six points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks as the Bulldogs held Kentucky to 36 percent shooting from the floor.

The victory was Mississippi State’s third straight over Kentucky, but its first at Rupp Arena since 1995.

Kentucky trailed by 13 points early in the second half before closing to 45-42 on a dunk by Perry Stevenson with more than 10 minutes left. Varnado responded with a dunk off a nifty feed from Bost. The teams exchanged 3s before Bost hit a layup and followed with a deep 3-pointer to push the lead to 55-45 with 5:45 remaining.

The Wildcats came up empty on their next two possessions, and Turner and Johnson drilled two more 3-pointers to push the lead to 61-45 with 3:05 to play to send the fans streaming into the chilly February night.

Mississippi State reserve forwards Brian Johnson and Elgin Bailey returned from a onegame suspension for curfew violations, but did little to give Varnado any help, combining for one rebound and three missed shots.

Not that Varnado needed help patrolling the lane. Using his massive wingspan to get his hands on seven shots while altering several others, Varnado was all the inside presence the Bulldogs needed.

Mississippi State’s four guards took care of the rest. The Bulldogs made 14-of-27 3-pointers (51 percent), needing little room to get free. Whenever they were matched up with a taller defender, Turner and company simply took a step back and knocked it down.

The Bulldogs scored the game’s first eight points and took a 37-24 halftime lead despite playing the last 7:20 without Varnado, who made his way to the end of the bench after picking up his second foul.

No biggie. I f anything, Varnado’s absence made the Bulldogs play even faster. Mississippi State finished the half with a 14-5 run punctuated by four 3-pointers, including back-to-back 3s by Johnson.

Despite giving up significant size inside, the Bulldogs hung tough in the lane. Coach Rick Stansbury’s gameplan was simple: collapse on whoever set up in the post and give every Wildcat not named Meeks plenty of room to shoot.

I t worked. Some of the Wildcats were left so wide open, it almost became a distraction. Whether it was Michael Porter, Darius Miller or Kevin Galloway, the crowd would growl when they decided to pass the ball rather than take the shot.

Maybe Porter and company knew what they were doing. When they opted to put it up, they struggled, making just 1- of-7 3s in the half and were booed off the court as they headed into the locker room, well on their way to their third straight loss.


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