When Kentucky knocked off Baylor in four overtimes, one of the first congratulatory text messages on most players' phones came from the coach they'll play against on Thursday.
"He just said how proud of us he was and just to keep pushing and keep working hard, that we could be a great team," senior Kastine Evans recalled of the exchange.
When Mississippi picked up its first — and only — victory in Southeastern Conference play this season, UK's players sent excited texts to the Rebels' coach.
He'll be sitting on the opposing bench on Thursday night in Memorial Coliseum, but it wasn't too long ago that Matt Insell was sitting in their living rooms, telling them to come to UK.
"He recruited just about all of us and (he has) a real big sense of this program, so it will be different having him on the other side," Evans said.
Even though Insell has had his own team to coach, he's watched almost every game No. 18 Kentucky has played this season.
He wasn't watching to get an early jump on breaking down film for this week's matchup, either.
"I've watched Kentucky all year from afar as a fan, watching the girls, pulling for them," Insell told the Herald-Leader on Monday.
It wasn't until this week that he popped in UK tape and started looking at the Cats with a critical eye.
"Now that I'm having to break down film on them and figure out ways to exploit them and things they'll struggle with, that's different," he said. "But it's my job now. I've got to figure out a way to win. So at least for two hours on Thursday night, I'm going to do all I can to beat them."
Insell's familiarity with the Cats makes Ole Miss a more formidable opponent.
"We're proud of him, but certainly aware that he knows our team very well," UK's Matthew Mitchell said. "We anticipate them coming in with a lot of intensity, a lot of effort. Working real hard to get the victory."
Mitchell, whom Insell called a good friend and mentor, talks with his former assistant of six years regularly. The first-year coach has called UK's head coach when he's had disciplinary issues or gotten down over the process of rebuilding his program.
But this love for one another won't get in the way on Thursday night with both teams coming off disappointing losses and running out of time to get SEC wins with a handful of games left to play before the tournament.
"We want to beat him really bad tomorrow night if we can, but when we're not in that arena, I'm there to support him and he's supported me a bunch over the years," Mitchell said. "He's really been a great friend to me."
Both of those feelings are quite mutual, Insell assured.
"If we can find a way to win at Kentucky on Thursday, it will be a huge win," he said. "And it won't be a huge win for the fact that I beat my old team. It will be a huge win for our program and our kids. Any win right now is huge for our kids."
Insell knows that will be a huge task. He voted his former team as the top team in the league in pre-season voting.
UK's struggles this season, including five losses in the league, have not changed his mind.
Insell theorized that losing an all-around star player like A'dia Mathies has been an adjustment for the Cats.
"They're still trying to find their identity on the perimeter and that will come," he said. "I know Matthew wishes it was already there."
And Insell said losing forward DeNesha Stallworth for five games at such an important time of the year was "a much bigger deal than some expected."
So even though UK isn't in the top 10 anymore or even at the top of the SEC, Insell said he'd "hate to play them in the tournament if I was one of those top teams."
Cats fans should step away from the panic button, he said.
"He'll get that fixed before tournament play starts — I hope it's not Thursday night that he gets that fixed — I think he'll get it fixed by the time tournament play starts and Kentucky will make a deep run by the time March rolls around."
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.