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Mississippi State men’s basketball meets Kentucky in SEC 2nd round

Tip time is set for 11 a.m. CT.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The No. 9 seed Mississippi State men’s basketball team opens the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a second-round game against No. 8 seed Kentucky on Thursday at 11 a.m. CT inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The game will air on SEC Network.

The winner of Thursday’s game advances to face top-seed and sixth-ranked Alabama in Friday’s quarterfinal round. Tip time for that game is slated for 11 a.m. CT on ESPN.

The Bulldogs (14-13, 8-10 SEC) won three of their last five to close the regular season. Last time out, though, MSU fell to Auburn 78-71.

The trio of redshirt sophomore forward Tolu Smith, redshirt sophomore guard D.J. Stewart Jr. and sophomore guard Iverson Molinar combined to score 56 of MSU’s 71 points. Smith finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Stewart added 19 points and Molinar added 17.

Stewart and Molinar are averaging 15.5 and 16.4 points per game, while Smith is putting up 12.7 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds.

The Wildcats (9-15, 8-9 SEC) have some momentum heading into the tourney after routing South Carolina 92-64 to end the regular season. Kentucky won four of its last six games, highlighted by a 70-55 road victory over then-No. 19 Tennessee on Feb. 20.

Freshman guard Brandon Boston Jr. leads a four-player attack with 12.0 points per game. Graduate student guard Davion Mintz is averaging 11.3, while senior forward Olivier Sarr and sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. are averaging 10.7 and 10.3 points, respectively.

Thursday’s meeting will be the 120th meeting for the Bulldogs and Wildcats on the hardwood. Kentucky holds a 99-20 series advantage and has won 15 straight games against MSU under head coach John Calipari. MSU fell to Kentucky 78-73 in two overtimes earlier this season.