Kentucky dominated the game throughou in last night’s 85-55 victory over the hapless Mississippi State Bulldogs. All five starters scored in double figures, the Wildcats shot over 50% from the field, over 40% from the three, and over 70% from the free throw line. It was their most complete performance and was their largest margin of victory in SEC play this season.
But it isn’t time to let their foot off of the gas. They have a pivotal game on Saturday in Arkansas. The Razorbacks are 16-1 at home and they can boast victories over Florida, Wisconsin and Missouri on their home turf. The loan loss came to a Syracuse team that is top 15 in the country.
The Wildcats are in the tournament as of this moment, but that could change if they lose at Arkansas. The Razorbacks play a style that could disrupt the current offensive flow that Kentucky has found lately. Their guards, lead by BJ Young, are intense and aggressive; they are a quick, long and athletic team; and they feed off of a very hostile crowd.
Kentucky has proven that they can win on the road against a talented team (remember Ole Miss?), but they are going to have to do it twice more this season.
The SEC race is down to three teams at the moment: Florida sits at the top at 12-3 in the conference while Alabama and Kentucky are tied for second 11-4. Alabama holds the tie breaker over Kentucky as the Tide beat them in the regular season. But, if Florida beats Alabama and Kentucky wins out, then the Wildcats will share the regular season conference title with the Gators.
Did anyone think that was a possibility two weeks ago?
One of the big reasons that the Wildcats are in the position to win the conference is Alex Poythress. After Nerlens Noel went down with his season ending ACL injury, I wrote an article stating that Alex Poythress was the key player that needed to step up and take a leadership role if Kentucky wanted to finish out the season strong. He, and the rest of the Wildcats, flunked the first test against Tennessee.
He played a little better in the next game against Vanderbilt, scoring seven points and grabbing four rebounds. He followed that game up by busting out with 21 points and seven rebounds against Missouri. Last night he scored 16 points, 13 in the first half, and grabbed eight rebounds. Alex is finally dunking the ball, out-muscling smaller players for rebounds, and playing like he is the best player on the floor. The game looks easy to him at the moment and he needs to continue this style of play in order for his team to be successful.
Ryan Harrow, Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Mays are playing some of their best basketball of the season right when their team needs them the most.