In hopes of stoking his team's competitive ire, Kentucky Coach John Calipari played the respect card.
The pseudo sand-in-the-face came from Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller. After the Cats beat his team 71-62 Saturday, he said, "I don't think they're that much better than us."
Never mind that UK really wasn't that much better. Anything less than complete submission was insulting, especially with Kentucky needing to match the zeal of an Arkansas team Tuesday night. The Hogs figure to be in circle-the-wagons mode after losing their first two Southeastern Conference games.
In squeezing motivation from Fuller's supposed impertinence, UK Coach John Calipari said, "That usually does not happen. Part of that, it's back on us."
Opponents have the audacity of hope against a Kentucky team that has lost three games and, again, largely depends on freshmen.
"Do you understand what that means?" Calipari said he told the Cats. "I don't want to say lack of respect, but it's not like glowing remarks."
To get more glow, UK needs to be more diligent in dispatching opponents, he said. Merely winning isn't enough.
"I'm trying to get these guys (past) being excited about winning," Calipari said, "and (instead) being excited about us getting better."
That was Calipari's talking-point in Monday's meeting with media types, and apparently with the team Sunday.
"I kind of hit them in the mouth," he said, meaning he surprised the Cats by not being satisfied with merely beating Vanderbilt and Mississippi State in the first two SEC games. Both games saw competitive opponents who seemed to believe they could win.
"Part of our issue is the focus we have, at times, on that court," Calipari said. "You have to have a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose on each possession. And we don't always do it."
Vandy exploited UK's inattention. "Probably got 20 points on tricks," Calipari said. "Get beat because they're better than you and they executed."
Arkansas, 11-4 overall, had a 23-game home winning streak snapped by Florida on Saturday. Coach Mike Anderson acknowledged the possibility of that overtime loss leaving a discouraging residue.
"You wonder where our guys are from a mental standpoint," he said Monday. "I think our guys will be ready to play. I really, really do. You don't want to have the hangover effect. Florida is over with. There is nothing you can do about that."
In Anderson's three seasons, Arkansas has a 43-5 record at home.
"They have done something that not many people have done in the last few years, come in here and steal a win," Anderson said of the Gators. "That's what they did. So now it's up to us to protect the home court."
Games at Georgia and Tennessee follow Kentucky's visit to Bud Walton. With a 2-19 road record under Anderson, the Hogs know they need to beat the Cats.
"We've got to get back in the race," Coty Clarke said.
To borrow from Bruce Springsteen, Anderson suggested that from small things big things sometimes come.
"Small things turn into big things, and what I mean by that is loose balls, deflections, just playing with energy, talking on the floor," the Arkansas coach said.
Anderson all but ruled out simply beating Kentucky with talent.
"As everyone knows around the country, they probably have the most talented team that Calipari has had and they are playing at a high level," he said.
Shooting has been Arkansas' problem. In the two SEC losses, the Hogs made 36 and 37.9 percent of their shots. According to the shot chart, Arkansas made eight of 19 layups in the loss at Texas A&M.
Leading scorer Michael Qualls made three of 22 shots in the two losses.
"I feel good about our basketball team," Anderson said of the loss to Florida. "We were in position to win. We just didn't do the things that you have got to do to win in the end. I think as long as we learn from it we are going to be in the hunt for something. I don't know what it is, but we are going to be in the hunt for something. One thing you can not knock, you can not knock guys' effort. You can not knock guys for wanting to. Now you have to put yourselves in the ending part. Now you have to finish. We'll learn from it."
No doubt Calipari hopes he will not knock the Cats' want-to at Arkansas.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.