Kentucky-Mississippi St. Preview
Freshman DeMarcus Cousins has gotten hundreds of messages from
Mississippi State fans, who found out the big man’s phone number
before Kentucky’s visit to Starkville.
He hopes to return them all with his performance on Tuesday
Cousins and the second-ranked Wildcats seek a sixth straight
victory as they square off with the Bulldogs, who’ve won 11
straight home games and three in a row against Kentucky.
Despite matching a season low with five points in his most
recent game, Cousins is still averaging 15.9 points and 10.2
rebounds during an impressive first season, earning him enough
notoriety to receive a flood of text messages and voicemails over
“Some were racial, and others were girls like, ‘Let’s make out.’
I don’t know what to expect from Starkville.” Cousins said.
“I’m going to change (the phone number) after the game,” he
added. “I want to see what they have to say then.”
Kentucky (24-1, 9-1 SEC) is certainly expecting another victory
after a pair of 11-point home wins last week nudged the team up one
spot to second in the AP poll, behind only Kansas.
The Wildcats beat then-No. 12 Tennessee 73-62 on Saturday even
though a rattled Cousins went 1 of 8 from the free throw line.
Guards John Wall and Eric Bledsoe – Kentucky’s other freshman stars
– picked up the slack with a combined 40 points.
“When the other team is frustrating DeMarcus we have to step
up,” Bledsoe said. “DeMarcus is one of the key players in our
offense. They were kind of beating him up on offense and defense
and he was getting frustrated. John and I just had to step up.”
Cousins will face another difficult matchup against Mississippi
State senior Jarvis Varnado, the SEC’s only other player averaging
double figures in points and rebounds.
Varnado leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally with 11.3
rebounds per game, and he’s second in NCAA history with 519 career
blocked shots. He has a total of 17 blocks and 24 rebounds in
Mississippi State’s last two meetings with the Wildcats.
“They’re two different kinds of players,” Kentucky coach John
Calipari said. “One is going to block shots and be active and be
quicker to the ball. The other is just a hard matchup for
Varnado and a barrage of 3-pointers have helped the Bulldogs
(18-7, 6-4) into a tie with Arkansas atop the SEC West. Mississippi
State went 11 of 34 from beyond the 3-point arc in an 85-75
overtime win over Auburn on Saturday.
Sophomore guard Dee Bost had a career-high 32 points, hitting 7
of 12 from 3-point range to help the Bulldogs improve to 11-1 at
home despite a season-opening 88-74 loss to Rider on Nov. 13.
“If I knew what made him do that, I wouldn’t be here,” Bulldogs
coach Rick Stansbury said of Bost. “He attacked with a lot of
confidence and made a lot of plays. If I had the answer for sure,
I’d bottle it up and pull it back out Tuesday night.”
Mississippi State made 14 of 27 3-point attempts in its 66-57
win at Rupp Arena on Feb. 3, 2009, and Calipari said he expects a
similar approach from the Bulldogs as they try to win a fourth
straight against Kentucky for the first time in school history.
“They are going to shoot them whether you are there or not, you
just have to make them hard,” Calipari said. “You have to
understand what you’re playing against. You can’t fall asleep.”