- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi State has a lot of hustle and determination. Now the Bulldogs just need a few shots to fall.

After staying close for most of the game, Mississippi State lost 69-59 to No. 18 Kentucky on Saturday.

Julius Randle scored 16 points and fellow freshman James Young added 11 to lead the Wildcats, who led for the entire second half.

Craig Sword, Trivante Bloodman and Gavin Ware all had 12 points for the Bulldogs, who shot just 38.3 percent (18 of 47) from the field.

“I was really pleased with the way our guys competed today,” Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. “When you play hard like that, you can compete against anybody. But we’re just not where we need to be (with depth) and our offensive skill level.”

Mississippi State (13-10, 3-7 Southeastern Conference) had a 17-13 lead midway through the first half, but Kentucky closed on a 19-6 run to take a 32-23 halftime lead.

Wildcats coach John Calipari played an unorthodox lineup during the rally, with little-used seniors Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson in the backcourt.

Hood made a 3-pointer during the rally - just his second of the season. Polson had a couple of steals and rebounds.

But more than that, Calipari said they brought energy to a team that sorely needed it. The veteran coach was both pleased and exasperated he had to go so deep on the bench to find that lift.

“Today, the only time we could play hard was when I put Hood and Jarrod Polson in the game,” Calipari said. “I thought Dakari (Johnson) fought, but I thought the rest of us just went through the motions of playing. I just don’t get it. But that’s what happens when you’re a young team.”

Kentucky (18-5, 8-2) has won three straight overall and seven in a row over Mississippi State. The Wildcats had an uneven game on offense but forced the Bulldogs into just 38.3 percent shooting (18 of 47) from the field.

Calipari had to go to his bench early because of ineffective play and foul trouble. Polson (30) and Hood (13) both had season highs in minutes played. Andrew Harrison fouled out after just 15 minutes in the game.

The 6-foot-9 Randle was 8 of 13 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. Johnson started for the third time this season and added nine points and eight rebounds.

Ray said Kentucky’s ability to grab offensive rebounds in the second half was a problem.

“When we were able to get defensive rebounds, we were able to get out and do things in transition,” Ray said. “I think that’s where we’re the best.”

Story Continues →