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Mississippi State aims to bounce back vs. struggling Georgia

Sportsnaut
Jan 8, 2022; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Georgia Bulldogs guard Kario Oquendo (3) and Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) fight for the ball during the second half at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 8, 2022; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Georgia Bulldogs guard Kario Oquendo (3) and Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) fight for the ball during the second half at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia will look to end a four-game losing streak and pick up its first Southeastern Conference win of the season Wednesday when it visits Mississippi State at Starkville, Miss.

Georgia (5-10, 0-2 SEC) has also lost five of its last six games, most recently Saturday’s 92-77 loss at then-No. 16 Kentucky. Mississippi State (10-4, 1-1) is trying to rebound from an 82-72 setback at Ole Miss that ended a four-game winning streak.

Kario Oquendo had 22 points and seven rebounds for Georgia against Kentucky, while Aaron Cook added 17 points and five assists. The Bulldogs trailed by only three at halftime before Kentucky opened the second half with a 17-8 run to take control.

“The first five to eight minutes of the second half are as important as any part of the game,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “When we look at ourselves, it’s always this three- or four-minute stretch in the game that gets us. We have to be able to overcome it.

“We fought extremely hard, stayed tough and diligent. We just had a bad stretch (to start the second half) and they built themselves a little cushion.”

Oquendo leads the team in scoring (12.9 points), while Braelen Bridges averages 12.6 points and a team-best 5.9 rebounds. Cook averages a team-high 6.6 assists to go with his 10.7 points.

Mississippi State fell apart midway through the first half against the Ole Miss and never recovered. The Rebels broke open a 19-19 tie by ending the half on a 31-17 run and never looked back. Mississippi State trailed by 20 three minutes into the second half and never recovered.

“Obviously, the first half was really disappointing with the way they came out and jumped on us,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “Spotting a good team on their home floor a 14-point lead is a really hard obstacle to overcome. They all played well tonight and took it to us.

“We’ve got to regroup, learn from this as a team, watch the film on Monday and rebound as a team Wednesday against Georgia.”

Mississippi State missed Tolu Smith, who averages 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in just five appearances this season, mostly because of foot injuries. He was out against Ole Miss for undisclosed reasons that the team termed “non-disciplinary.”

After missing four games with a toe injury, Smith returned Dec. 29 with a team-high 18 points, six rebounds and five steals in a victory over Arkansas. He is a game-time decision against Georgia, according to Howland.

Iverson Molinar leads Mississippi State in scoring (16.8 points) and assists (4.3), while Garrison Brooks averages 6.9 rebounds to go with 11.3 points. D.J. Jeffries (11.0) and Shakeel Moore (10.7) also average double-figure scoring.

–Field Level Media