UK-Mississippi State Preview

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“Revenge is sweeter than life itself. So think fools.”

– Decimus Junius Juvenal, Satires (XII, 180)

We’re just going to ignore the second-half of that quote up there and focus on the more profound message of the first: Revenge is sweet.  That’s the mindset Kentucky needs to have as they head to Starkville, MS, tonight to face off against the Bulldogs of Mississippi State.  Despite owning a 77-20 edge in the all-time series, Kentucky and State have stood toe-to-toe over their last twelve games, with each team having won six of the contests and Mississippi State winning each of the last three.  Nobody knows where the hell Rick Stansbury and company get off with this kind of insubordination, but suffice it to say that tonight needs to serve as a reality check for the Bulldogs in their own building.  The subplots:

– There are two things you need to know about Mississippi State’s basketball team: They have a guy named Jarvis Varnado that blocks the holy hell out of anything even resembling a basketball that comes near the rim, and on offense they chuck up 3-pointers like a team that knows the only way they have a chance is if they get hot from the outside.  Up to this point in the season, the Bulldogs have already shot 614 3-pointers, or 121 more than their opponents have shot against them.  They knock them down at a respectable clip (37%), with Ravern Johnson being the main threat at 43%.  But back to Varnado.  He’s tied for the league-lead in double-doubles with Cousins (15), leads the conference in rebounding (11.3/game, 12.0 in  SEC play), and has already blocked 125 shots, leaving him 17 shy of the NCAA record for most blocked shots in a career.  Point being, the guy may not really bring much offensively (13.3/game), but he rebounds the ball and blocks shots like his masculinity depends on it.  Most likely, this will be the biggest challenge Cousins will face this season.

– Speaking of Cousins, there’s been a fair bit of chatter regarding his cell phone number falling into the hands of some racist and horny Bulldog coeds.  He says he’s going to wait until after the game to change his number, supposedly to see what they say after he trashes them to the tune of 20 and 15, but I suspect he is just lonely and likes the attention.  Regardless of motivation, he’s coming off his worst offensive game of the season (which he was long past due for), but one in which he was still able to grab 13 rebounds.  When people are talking about a 5 and 13 game being one of your worst ever, you know you’re doing alright.  Tonight will be an excellent litmus test for his mental toughness, as he will be going up against one of the best shot blockers in NCAA history, as well as a rowdy fanbase whose offensive and seductive chants may prove tough to ignore.

– DeAndre Liggins is starting to gain some attention for being Kentucky’s glue guy/best bench-scorer, permiter defender/all-important 7th man.  He’s averaging 7+ points 2 assists, and 6+ rebounds per game over his past three contests, and doing all of it in an average of 24 minutes per.  He’s slowly but surely phasing out Harris and Miller in the rotation, and another solid game tonight could catapult him into the ‘Should He Start?’ conversation he briefly occupied earlier this season.

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