Men's Basketball

Sweet Sixteen veteran Knipp comfortable leading Eastern Kentucky into Rupp

Eastern Kentucky guard Timmy Knipp was a key player at Elliott County when the Lions earned three consecutive berths in the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen tournament.
Eastern Kentucky guard Timmy Knipp was a key player at Elliott County when the Lions earned three consecutive berths in the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen tournament. Herald-Leader

RICHMOND — Don't count on Timmy Knipp getting caught up in the mystique of Rupp Arena.

Knipp is a 6-foot-7 senior guard on the Eastern Kentucky team that will visit top-ranked Kentucky on Sunday.

And he has experience playing in Rupp.

Knipp helped Elliott County reach three consecutive KHSAA Sweet Sixteens, including the 2008-09 season when the Lions made a run to the semifinals.

He played two games in Rupp as an eighth-grader, one as a freshman and three as a sophomore.

EKU's Robbie Stenzel played four games in Rupp with Clark County, but he is injured and not expected to play Sunday.

"The atmosphere there is just incredible," Knipp said of Rupp. "The energy you get from the crowd, it's a great high. I can't wait to go back there but, at the same time, I'm not going to build up that game. I've just got to go into that game thinking it's the same as any other game."

Knipp led EKU with 16 points and five rebounds in Wednesday's 72-66 loss to Valparaiso in McBrayer Arena. He also had an assist and three blocks, turning the ball over only once in 31 minutes.

"Timmy Knipp played harder tonight than he's ever played in his life," Coach Jeff Neubauer said after the game. "I thought his effort was outstanding.

"We've seen that in practice as well from other players. We've got new guys that are playing harder right now, in practice or game, than they've ever played in their life. We just need to find a fifth consistent guy."

Might Knipp's experience in Rupp be of benefit to the Colonels against UK?

"Any benefit that we can find come Sunday will be much appreciated," Neubauer said. "Who knows? The environment was obviously a great one when Timmy played in that building. But I think that I can say that our four consistent players — Eric (Stutz), Corey (Walden), Isaac (McGlone) and Timmy — we expect them to play pretty much the same every night.

"So whether it's Rupp Arena or McBrayer, they're going to play well. We've just got to find more consistency in the other parts of our roster."

Knipp, averaging 10 points a game in his first season as a full-time starter, has scored in double figures his last three times out. He looks forward to the challenge of playing at UK.

"It's the teams you're going to be playing against when you get to the (NCAA) tournament, so you've just got to go out there and play hard," he said. "I was in eighth grade when I (first) played there, so I didn't really know what to expect. I was just out there and just played, really. I just wanted to be in that moment, so it felt good. It'll probably feel good going back there.

"We had a great run in high school. Every year we got to play up there we had a blast. We never did win it, but we had fun."

Of course, EKU will be a big underdog against UK, but Knipp savors the challenge.

"I really want to go into the game with incredible effort and show our teammates that we have a chance to win," he said. "We just don't want to go down there and play against them. I mean, it's going to be fun playing against the No. 1 team in the country to show where you're at in the season, win or lose. But we're going down there to win."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader