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Wildcats 'back to Kentucky basketball' in win over Mississippi State

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Kentucky had won its first two Southeastern Conference games, but Matthew Mitchell couldn't help but feel his team hadn't played its best basketball in nearly a month.

In early December, UK Hoops picked up a pair of impressive victories over top-ten teams in Louisville and Duke, but the Wildcats followed up with their first two losses mixed in with a handful of wins that left Mitchell wanting more.

On Sunday, his team gave it to him.

The Wildcats (14-2, 3-0 SEC) posted a dominant 88-40 win over the visiting Mississippi State Bulldogs in front of 5,306 fans in Memorial Coliseum. The 48-point margin was the largest in school history in SEC play and UK moved to 3-0 in league play for the first time since 1992-93.

"That was an outstanding performance by our team today," Mitchell said. "I really commend them for a great day of hustle and had some good execution. I was really proud of that effort."

Mitchell pointed to turnovers as the primary reason he believed the Wildcats had made a return to "Kentucky basketball." For the first time since a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 11, UK had a double-digit turnover margin, forcing 29 Bulldog miscues while committing just 12.

"Today's the kind of day we envision having," Mitchell said. "The depth was quality today and people were in tune. It was a good performance and I'm real proud of our players."

In past games, Mitchell has found himself cutting down on his rotation with some of his players unable to bring the intensity and focus necessary to make UK's high-risk, high-reward style of play work. On Sunday, all 12 Wildcats in uniform played at least 12 minutes. No player was on the floor for more than 24 minutes and each one contributed.

"I think everybody came out and played aggressive," junior guard A'dia Mathies said. "We knew we had some things we wanted to accomplish today and I think we did a good job of doing that. Everybody came in and played their role and did their part equally. It was an all-around good game from start to finish."

The way UK executed on the defensive end meant the Wildcats would not need a great offensive night to come out with a victory, but their outside shooting is what turned the game into a blowout. Kentucky broke a school record with 14 made 3-pointers in 30 attempts. Each of UK's most consistent shooters was knocking down shots, but the reason there were openings in the first place was the effort the team displayed in running the floor.

"Our four people that I think can really make them at a high level did that: A'dia, Bria (Goss), Bernisha (Pinkett) and Keyla (Snowden)," Mitchell said. "The thing I was happiest about was they were all in the flow of team basketball and off of good execution because we hustled in transition offense."

All four of those Wildcats hit at least two treys while combining to make 12-of-21 attempts between them. Snowden was 4-for-6 on her own as she led UK with a season-high 22 points. Meanwhile, UK outscored Mississippi State 40-5 in points off turnovers largely due to shooting out of that transition offense.

Until the players stepped to the podium for post-game interviews, there were unaware that they had broken the 3-point record.

"Finding out now is pretty great and it's a really good accomplishment," Snowden said. "We've all been working really hard getting up extra shots so it's good to see that pay off."

UK is picking the right time to begin firing on all cylinders as a matchup with No. 6/7 Tennessee is looming on Thursday in Memorial. The Wildcats lost twice last season to the Lady Volunteers, the team picked to win the SEC in 2011-12.

"I'm very happy that we played well today and now we'll set our sights on Tennessee who is clearly the best team that we will have faced so far in the conference," Mitchell said. "It should be a great game and we'll have to prepare really hard and play really hard and hopefully it will be a great game."

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