NCAA News Wire

Kentucky 69, Mississippi State 59

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STARKVILLE, Miss. — No. 18 Kentucky struggled to pull away from Mississippi State on Saturday, but the Wildcats eventually took advantage of the Bulldogs’ lack of depth and wore them down, coming away with a 69-59 win.

The Bulldogs were playing without starting guard I.J. Ready, who had the flu, and were down to seven scholarship players.

The Bulldogs missed their first six shots from the field, not hitting from the floor until forward Colin Borchert scored on a tip-in nearly five minutes into the first half.

But once Mississippi State heated up, the Wildcats went cold. Mississippi State, down 9-3 at one point, took a lead as large as four points at 17-13 with less than 10 minutes to go in the first half. Over that span, Kentucky was 2 of 7 from the floor and committed two turnovers.

Kentucky turned to its bench in the first half to a pair of seniors — guard Jarrod Polson and seldom-used forward Jon Hood — to boost the Wildcats’ lacking energy, and it worked. Hood had three points and two rebounds in 10 first-half minutes; his previous season high for minutes played was six, which he played in the first two games of the season, both blowout wins for Kentucky.

The Wildcats seemed to be wearing down Mississippi State at the end of the first half, but after the halftime break, the Bulldogs came back out energized. Kentucky coach John Calipari turned back to his bench, throwing fresh legs at Mississippi State.

Still, the Bulldogs — already much smaller — stayed in the game because of their hustle. They prevented the Wildcats from grabbing a single offensive rebound in the first eight minutes of the second half.

With the Wildcats holding on to a 59-50 lead, point guard Andrew Harrison fouled out with 5:31 to play. But Polson, who had already seen considerable playing time earlier in the game, steaded the Wildcats at the point.

NOTES: Kentucky has won seven straight against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs’ last win over Kentucky was a 66-57 win at Rupp Arena on Feb. 3, 2009. … Kentucky, which had shot more free throws than its opponent in 17 of its first 22 games, only had six free-throw attempts at halftime. The Wildcats finished with 18, tied for their second-lowest output of the season. … Mississippi State has lost four games in a row for the first time this season.