How appropriate that Kentucky played Missouri on Saturday night. Show Me State, indeed.
As Archie Goodwin suggested the day before, Kentucky showed the nation it can beat a quality team. The Cats came from behind to beat Missouri 90-83 in overtime.
Losing by 30 points at Tennessee in its first game without Nerlens Noel, Kentucky players sensed enough doubt to fill Rupp Arena.
But the fourth Southeastern Conference game of the day/night to need an overtime proved to be a statement of how Kentucky's re-invented team had grit and savvy.
With the score tied 73-73 going into the final minute, Willie Cauley-Stein fumbled the ball while attempting a pass out of the post. Missouri retrieved the loose ball and sped to a fast-break layup by Phil Pressey. That put the Cats behind with 55.2 seconds left.
After a timeout, Julius Mays fed Cauley-Stein for a layup to tie it with 40.6 seconds left.
Missouri tried to win it with Pressey, who scored 18 of his season-high 27 points in the final 10:20 of the second half. After dribbling the clock down inside 10 seconds, he drove and got a left-handed shot near the basket. It missed, as did Mays' half-court heave at the buzzer.
Neither team seized control early in overtime. Pressey scored Missouri's first six points, but a turnover (he jumped in the air and then flipped up a pass that UK intercepted, gave the Cats an opening.
Two free throws by Alex Poythress put UK ahead 83-79 with 48.2 seconds left.
As in the past, Missouri lived and ultimately died with Pressey. His turnover in the final minute of overtime repeated ill-timed mistakes against LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas. Then he compounded the problem by jacking up an ill-advised three-point shot.
Kentucky made Missouri pay by making 10 of its first 12 free throws in overtime.
Kentucky, which surely got the attention of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, improved to 19-8 overall and 10-4 in the SEC.
Missouri, which lost for a sixth time in seven SEC road games, fell to 19-8 and 8-6.
Mays led UK with a season-high 24 points. Poythress added 21, Goodwin 18 (all after the first half) and Ryan Harrow 16.
Missouri got 16 points and 15 rebounds from big man Alex Oriakhi.
Except for the game's first basket, Kentucky trailed throughout the first half. Missouri led by as much as 13 points.
Defense kept the Cats in the game. After making seven of its first 14 shots, which helped build a double-digit lead inside the first 10 minutes, Mizzou went cold. The Tigers made only four of their next 17 shots.
That helped Kentucky stay in the game, although a 28-15 deficit with 4:55 left made that seem like a stretch.
Three-point shooting helped Kentucky. The Cats missed their first seven attempts from beyond the arc. Then Mays hit from the top of the key and Poythress from the right side inside the final 3:08.
Poythress's three-pointer marked the first of two times Kentucky closed within three points of Missouri down the stretch of the first half.
With the Tigers clinging to a 32-29 lead, Pressey hit a high-arcing three-pointer from the top of the key. That shot, which came with six seconds left, marked only his second three-pointer in 25 attempts on the SEC road this season.
Kentucky answered with a Cauley-Stein dunk at the buzzer to set the halftime score.
Trailing at halftime this season had not been a good sign. The Cats were 1-7 in games when trailing at intermission.
Two Goodwin baskets inside the first 32 seconds of the second half gave Kentucky its first lead since 2-0. He hit a three-pointer from the right side (he'd missed 23 of his last 24 attempts from beyond the arc).
Then Goodwin stole a Pressey pass and cruised to an emphatic one-hand jam that put the Cats ahead 36-35 with 19:28 left. That began a string of five lead changes in an 84-second span.
The all-court defense of the first half gave way to the offenses. In the first five minutes of the second half, the two teams combined to make 11 of 14 shots.
After a scoreless first half, Goodwin scored 12 of UK's first 23 points of the second half. His second three-pointer put the Cats ahead 54-51. In the previous 14 games, he'd made only one of 23 three-point shots. He'd taken no more than one in any game this month.
Another three-pointer by Mays and a driving shot by Goodwin each extended Kentucky's lead to seven.
No surprise that Pressey led a Missouri rally.
"They spread you out and let Phil do his magic," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said earlier this month. "And they've got guys that can knock shots down.
"With a guy like Phil, he's got eyes in the back of his head. If there's one word to describe him, it's 'winner.' He knows how to get his team going and does whatever it takes to win."
Pressey did his best. He hit his second three-pointer and his passes set up Oriakhi for two baskets. Those plays narrowed Kentucky's lead to 70-67 and set up the tense final two minutes-plus.
But Kentucky held on.
Mississippi St. at Kentucky
When: 8 p.m.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com