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10:00 AM PT11:00 AM MT12:00 PM CT1:00 PM ET6:00 PM GMT2:00 PM 北京时间11:00 AM MST1:00 PM EST, Feb 9, 2019
Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Mississippi  Attendance: 9,019

Thriving on defense, No. 5 Kentucky visits Mississippi State

Mississippi State knows just how good Kentucky's defense can be.

The Wildcats held the Bulldogs to their lowest point total of the season in a 76-55 victory on Jan. 22 in Lexington, Ky.

Spurred by its defense, No. 5 Kentucky has continued to roll, having won nine in a row as it prepares to visit Mississippi State on Saturday.

"Defense is a big part of why we're winning," Wildcats forward PJ Washington said. "Without our defense, I don't think we would be on a nine-game winning streak. We're stopping teams and forcing them to get out of their game plans, and it's just great to stop teams like that."

Kentucky (19-3, 8-1 SEC) is coming off a 76-48 home victory against South Carolina on Tuesday. The Wildcats started slowly but put together a series of surges to assume command.

They used a 17-4 run to close out the half and take a 39-28 halftime lead. The Gamecocks scored the first four points of the second half, but then went without a field goal for nearly six minutes and Kentucky used a 9-1 run to take a 48-33 lead. It ultimately led by as many as 29 points.

During the winning streak, the Wildcats are allowing an average of 58 points per game. They have held five straight opponents to 63 points or fewer and the last three to 54 or fewer.

They have held seven of their last eight opponents below 40 percent shooting.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said his young team is figuring out the selflessness that is necessary to play defense at the level required for the Wildcats to become championship contenders.

"This is hard because it's ego, high school," Calipari said. "The only way I get my name in the paper is I score the most points. That's high school. This isn't high school. This is big boy basketball. This team is getting it.

"You got a bunch of high school kids six months ago that are trying to do something unique and trying to do it together. We're getting better. I've got to keep these guys in the right frame of mind. My job now is hungry yet humble. We don't need anybody arrogant right now. We need to be humble and we need to be hungry in what we're trying to do."

The Bulldogs (16-6, 4-5) won two of their next three games after the Kentucky loss before falling at home to No. 21 LSU 92-88 in overtime on Wednesday.

Offense wasn't the problem in that game, as Quinndary Weatherspoon matched his season-high in points by scoring 27 for the second consecutive game.

Freshman Reggie Perry has had a double-double in three of the last four games. After scoring a season-high 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in an 81-75 win at Ole Miss last Saturday, he had 19 points and 10 rebounds against LSU. But he made just 9 of 16 free-throw attempts.

"If I make some free throws, we definitely win the game I feel like," Perry said.

But the Bulldogs had bigger problems on the defensive end against the Tigers, who scored 49 second-half points to erase an eight-point halftime deficit, then outscored Mississippi State 9-5 in the extra period.

"That was a gut-wrenching loss against a very good team," Bulldogs coach Ben Howland said.

The rematch with the Wildcats is the middle game of a three-game homestand that follows a stretch of four road games out of five.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 7, 2019

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