Cats have one more on payback list: Connecticut

Players aim to show UK has improved since mishap in Maui

jtipton@herald-leader.comApril 2, 2011 

HOUSTON — In Hamlet, William Shakespeare offered a thought on payback. "Revenge," he wrote, "should have no bounds."

Kentucky is proving this basketball season that the Bard knew victory and defeat as well as comedy and tragedy. Seven times since late January, UK has avenged a defeat earlier this season. Or in the case of West Virginia two weeks ago, a defeat in last year's NCAA Tournament.

The Cats exacted revenge against Georgia, Florida and Vanderbilt in the regular season, Ole Miss and Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. And West Virginia and North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.

Now in the Final Four on Saturday, Kentucky faces Connecticut, which conveniently won by 17 points when the teams played on Maui in November.

"I'm sure Kentucky can really play that card," said Notre Dame's Mike Brey, who was named national Coach of the Year by The Associated Press on Friday. "I'd certainly play the heck out of it."

Former Ohio State All-American Clark Kellogg, who will call the game with Jim Nantz for CBS, agreed.

"Oh, it's real," he said of revenge as a motivator. "You can't pooh-pooh it. When you get beaten by a team and get a chance to play them again, it's real. It'll be downplayed by the media, but from a player's standpoint it's real."

However, revenge is like love. Too much and it can be suffocating.

"If you overdo it, it can be detrimental," Kellogg said. "You're trying too hard.

"You don't want it to be the driving force. You want it to be a force. The driving force should be 'We get a chance to play Monday for the championship if we beat them.' Not that, 'They beat us in November.'"

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas agreed. He described revenge as a tool to "help sharpen focus" for players.

"It gives you a little more bounce," he said.

But revenge or another motivational staple — no respect — cannot sustain a team when adversity strikes in a game. So if Virginia Commonwealth falls behind Butler in the other national semifinal Saturday, the Rams won't hear appeals in the timeout huddle to show they deserve respect, Bilas said.

"These are marathon-type things," the ESPN analyst said. "I can't imagine a marathon runner saying, 'I'm going to show them I can run.' You can't do that for 26 miles.

"You have to have a deeper motivation."

Kentucky players spoke of a greater motivation than simply avenging a defeat.

Point guard Brandon Knight attributed UK's 7-0 record in so-called revenge games to "more so proving we got better. Not really just getting back at somebody."

UConn Coach Jim Calhoun and his players acknowledged that Kentucky is a much better team than it was on Maui, which was UK's fifth game of the season.

"That has nothing to do really with tomorrow's game, in my opinion, unless there's revenge on their minds," Calhoun said. "And I don't think (UK Coach John Calipari) or his team worry about revenge. They just want to get a championship."

Calhoun noted how his Huskies weren't even ranked when the teams played on Maui on Nov. 24. He suggested the pressure was on Kentucky.

"On Maui, it was house money," Calhoun said. "We were young. We weren't picked by Sports Illustrated, who I read and subscribe to, in the first 68 in the country. We weren't even supposed to make the (NCAA) tournament. ...

"We kind of just played free and easy, where John, I think, was trying to put together a team."

Much talk this week has centered on UConn All-American Kemba Walker. He torched UK for 29 points on Maui. He saluted UK's defensive stopper, DeAndre Liggins, and acknowledged how he'll be the focus of Kentucky's consistently good defense.

"I know it's going to be a difficult, tough night for me," he said. "... I'm pretty sure they're going to try everything in their power to stop me."

Theoretically, a total deny defense, what North Carolina tried against Knight last weekend, sounds like a good idea. But Brey said it was not practical against Walker.

"There's too much speed there," the Notre Dame coach said. "You can't keep him from getting the ball. He's too fast. He's too strong. He's too experienced. He's too, you know, cunning."

But Calhoun noted how having already competed against Walker will help Kentucky.

"Sometimes when you go into a game against Kemba, you don't realize the quickness, speed, some of the things he does," the UConn coach said. "Well, they've first-hand had 40 minutes of it."

Plus, he added, Kentucky has revenge on its side.

"I always feel the advantage is a little bit to the team that lost or the team you have a big game against," Calhoun said. "... I'm sure they're saying in their locker room, 'We can beat these guys. We'll find other ways to get things done.'"

BOZEMAN, Mont. — It's been 13 years since Bozeman Mayor Jeff Krauss' favorite team made it to the Final Four. So he's not taking any chances if Kentucky advances to Monday's championship game.

Krauss has canceled Monday's city commission meeting on the chance that Kentucky will be playing for the NCAA men's basketball championship that night.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported the commission's agenda had included a review of its goals for next year and city agencies' annual reports. Krauss said those tasks can wait.

Krauss said his main concern is that the cancellation jinxes the team before they make it to the final game.

Associated Press

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service