Not often does a team from a Power 5 conference meet UMKC on the Kangaroos’ home floor.
But Mississippi State arrives to the pouch of ouch, Municipal Auditorium, for Saturday’s 4:05 p.m. contest.
The game came about through the friendship of UMKC men’s basketball coach Kareem Richardson and former Bulldogs coach Rick Ray, a Kansas City native.
Ray was fired after last season, replaced by Ben Howland, but the game lived. It will be Mississippi State’s first true road game of the season, and UMKC seeks to build on a solid start.
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“This team has a high ceiling, but we have a long way to go before we reach it,” Richardson said.
UMKC brings a 5-4 record into the game and a 155 RPI after Thursday’s games, according to NCAA.com. Mississippi State’s RPI is 184.
The Kangaroos’ most impressive victory this season came over South Dakota State, a top-100 RPI opponent.
Point guard Martez Harrison, the reigning Western Athletic Conference player of the year, is off to a fast start, averaging 15.4 points and 5.4 assists per game.
The Kangaroos’ leading scorer is shooting guard LaVell Boyd, a transfer from South Suburban College in Illinois, at 15.6 points per game. He’s scored 25 twice this season, including in UMKC’s last game, a loss to South Dakota.
Mississippi State, of the Southeastern Conference, is 4-3 and playing its first game since Dec. 2. Each of its starting five average double figures in scoring, led by forward Gavin Ware, who averages 20 points and 7.9 rebounds.
Freshman guard Malik Newman, one of the nation’s prized recruits and on the Wooden and Naismith award preseason watch lists, is averaging 11 points per outing.
UMKC has dubbed the game “Operation Sellout” on Military Appreciation Day. The team will be wearing special camouflage uniforms. The day at Municipal will be begin with the UMKC women, coming off a victory over Kansas, playing Denver at 1 p.m.
“There’s a lot of excitement, but I think we’ll handle it fine,” said Richardson, noting his team has faced Minnesota and Iowa, falling to both.
“Maybe the third time’s the charm,” Richardson said.