COLUMBIA, Mo. — If Kentucky freshman Devin Booker wants advice on how to handle the challenge of an unbeaten record, he has a handy guide. His father.
Melvin Booker played point guard on the Missouri team that went 14-0 in the then-Big Eight Conference in 1993-94.
The elder Booker recalled his team gaining strength and resolve as the victories mounted.
"We just got more focused," he said. "The closer we got to that goal, we got more focused."
Rather than pressure, the Tigers saw an opportunity to do something special.
"We just played at the beginning," the elder Booker said. "Then, the closer we got ..."
Missouri got serious about an unbeaten record in the 11th game: at perennial power Kansas on Feb. 20.
"Everybody was saying that might be the game we lose," Melvin Booker said. "Winning at Kansas (81-74), after that, that's when we as a team started to talk about it. 'You know, we got three or four games left. Let's try to make history.'"
Missouri's coach this season, Kim Anderson, was an assistant on Norm Stewart's staff in 1993-94. He recalled the pressure mounting as the Tigers kept winning. Missouri finished with an overall 28-4 record that season.
One morning in late February, Stewart called Anderson and ordered something unusual.
"What are you doing?" Stewart asked.
"Getting ready for Iowa State or whoever it was we were playing the next day," Anderson recalled saying.
"Well," Stewart said, "meet me at the golf course."
"Man, I don't have time to play golf, Coach," Anderson said.
"You got time to play golf," Stewart said.
Stewart and Anderson played golf, then returned to basketball duties.
"We went to practice and we had a great practice," Anderson said. "We, obviously, won the next game."
Yes, Anderson said, Stewart used golf to ease the mounting pressure.
"Maybe not only take pressure off us, but maybe even allow himself some time to get away," Anderson said.
Unity of purpose marked that Missouri team, Anderson said.
"They probably weren't the most talented team in the country," he said. "But they really played well together. And they really supported each other and helped each other. ... And they had fun."
The Bookers, father and son, have not talked about the dynamic of an unbeaten record.
"We don't really talk of (going) undefeated," Melvin Booker said. "We talk on a game-to-game basis."
But, the elder Booker said, it's a worthy goal.
"After going undefeated and knowing how the fans at Missouri treat me when I go back, they never forget those things," he said. "I believe if (UK players) ever get to the point they can run the table, that would put them in their own class in Kentucky basketball history, in which there are a lot of historic, great teams. And that just sets them apart from everyone else."
Athletic Director Mike Alden, who guided Missouri from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference in his 17-year tenure, announced Thursday that he is stepping down in August.
Alden will remain at Mizzou as an instructor in its education school and an administrator in the school's new global service-learning program.
In terms of coaching hires, Alden had hits (football coach Gary Pinkel in 2000) and missteps (three basketball coaches since Stewart retired in 1999).
■ Rich Hollenberg, Dino Gaudio and sideline reporter Andy Katz will call the Georgia-Kentucky game for ESPNU on Tuesday.
■ The SEC announced that next season's Big 12/SEC Challenge will be held on Jan. 30, 2016. ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU will televise the games.
The move to the middle of the conference schedule was intended to maximize interest, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in a news release.
All 10 of the Big 12's teams and 10 of the SEC's 14 teams will play in the event. The four SEC teams not participating in the Challenge will be matched up in conference games on Jan. 30 that will be televised by the SEC Network.
Matchups won't be determined until late in the spring when rosters are better known. UK expects to be one of the 10 SEC schools to play in the Challenge.