By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky beat Mississippi State 76-55 last month in Rupp Arena but freshman guard Ashton Hagans says Wednesday’s overtime loss at home to LSU will have Mississippi State coming out “with a chip on their shoulder” for Saturday’s game with the Cats.
“They’re going to come out ready to fight. So, we’ve just got to be prepared and stay focused,” Hagans said. “It’s just like any other game. Everybody is going to come out and give us the best shot that they’ve got. So we’ve got to stay focused and play as a team.”
Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee isn’t worried about this being a trap game with SEC showdown looming next week with LSU and No. 1 Tennessee for Kentucky.
“I’ve heard a couple of times trap games and this and that. Not with this team. This team is focused. I mean, you see it every day in practice. Practices are so competitive that you can’t expect a letdown in the games,” Barbee said. “These guys have been practicing, going after each other, competing against each other, they’re having fun together, and so, it doesn’t matter the opponent on the floor, they’re going to come to play every night.”
That doesn’t mean he is not concerned about State.
“They’re physical. They’re as big and as physical as any team in the league, and then you’ve got the experience in the backcourt with (Lamar) Peters and the Weatherspoon brothers (Quinndary and Nick),” Barbee said. “They have all of the dynamics to be a fantastic team, and you see Reggie Perry kind of growing up before your eyes the way he’s playing the last five games or so. It’s really made them a potent team.”
Barbee expects the Bulldogs to be “desperate” after the home loss to LSU, which still has just one SEC loss just like Kentucky.
“They are as talented and as big, and as physical and talented on the perimeter as any team in the league,” Barbee said about Mississippi State. “That probably stung giving that one away on their home court (to LSU), so it’s going to be obviously a sold-out arena like we face everywhere and our guys are getting used to playing in those kinds of environments on the road.
“We’re going to come out and give them our best and I’m sure they’re going to do the same as us.”