Kentucky-Missouri notes: Calipari credits crowd for pushing Cats over the top

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 24, 2013 

  • Next game

    Mississippi State at Kentucky

    When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

    TV: WKYT-27

After Kentucky beat Missouri 90-83 in overtime Saturday night, John Calipari credited the "Cat-mosphere" created by the Rupp Arena crowd. And like a good coach, he called for more of the same.

"This was as good a crowd and as impactful a crowd as I've ever coached in a building," Calipari said. "This team needs that.

"Like the next game, they need to come back and do that again."

UK plays Wednesday at home against last-place Mississippi State.

"And the last game," Calipari said in reference to the Senior Day game against Florida, "they need to do exactly the same."

This freshman-dependent UK team, which lacks veteran leadership (although Julius Mays is increasingly filling that need), requires the boost from a raucous crowd.

"We need that extra that pushes us through the missed shot (or) the turnover," Calipari said. "We can get past it quicker."

Missouri Coach Frank Haith also credited the crowd as a key factor.

"They've got great fans and the energy of the building," he said, "I thought they played off the crowd."

Statement made

Archie Goodwin said Friday that the game against Missouri gave UK a chance to make a statement. Consider that done, he said.

"Oh, man," he said. "We fought hard. That's what it ultimately came down to. At the end, we wanted it a lot (more) than they did."

Both coaches credited Kentucky's toughness and resolve as the difference.

"I thought they really played with great toughness," Haith said of the Cats. "They were way more aggressive than us."

Haith cited the difference in free throw attempts — 36 for UK, 17 for Mizzou — as an indicator of toughness rewarded.

"They were the aggressive team," he said. "And I think, again, in the second half, they got to every loose ball, every 50/50 ball and that was the difference in the game."

In the second half and overtime, UK outrebounded Missouri 23-12.

Missouri came into the game ranked No. 2 nationally in rebound margin (plus-10.2). Since 1968, only one Southeastern Conference team has finished the season with a rebounding advantage in double digits (Alabama in 1972-73 at plus 11.6.

Good Goodwin

Goodwin didn't want to claim any personal victories, but he couldn't resist taking a bow when asked about scoring all 18 of his points after halftime.

"Pretty hard to beat that second half I had," he said with a soft smile. "And I don't really like speaking highly of myself."

GameDay

A few observations from ESPN's GameDay telecast, which originated in Rupp Arena earlier in the day:

■ Host Rece Davis estimated the crowd at 16,000 or 17,000. When asked on air about the "sea of blue," Digger Phelps said, "This is the best ever."

The GameDay crew forgot about the 22,000-plus that attended the show in 2010. With the lower arena seating 10,000, there could not have been much more than that in the stands. The lower arena was not full and the upper arena was largely empty.

At 11 a.m., there were five people in the upper arena between the video screens on the UK bench end of Rupp. There were 17 people in the upper arena between the video screens on the opposite end.

■ Among the signs raised by fans included those that read: "Bilas for NCAA president" and "Paws off. Polson's mine!"

Vitale

After posing for a picture with members of Paws and Listen, a UK a cappella group that sang the national anthem, Dick Vitale noted that his Twitter account followers now number 460,500.

A mass audience just a button away helps in fund-raising, he said.

Speaking of which, UK distributed information on Vitale's annual fund-raising gala in Sarasota, Fla. This year's event, which will be held May 17, will honor Kansas Coach Bill Self and former coaches Jim Calhoun and Bobby Bowden.

Proceeds benefit The V Foundation, which seeks a cure for cancer. More information can be obtained at dickvitalegala@jimmyv.org.

Tigers?

Patrick Whitmer, the public address announcer at UK home games, committed a turnover on Wednesday. He announced Kevin Stallings of Vanderbilt as coach of the Tigers.

Huh?

Whitmer noted that he was reading from a script prepared by UK Athletics. Kentucky had played the Auburn Tigers in the most recent home game and someone forgot to change the nickname to Commodores.

Coincidentally, Whitmer could read from the same script Saturday night with UK playing the Missouri Tigers.

Get well

Students at Kingston Elementary School in Berea wrote get well letters to Nerlens Noel, who tore his left anterior cruciate ligament at Florida on Feb. 12. Rhonda Taylor, a Title I instructor at the school, coordinated the letter-writing effort.

Her husband, sportswriter Keith Taylor of the Winchester Sun, delivered the letters to UK before the game.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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