LOUISVILLE — Kentucky as a decided favorite to win Saturday neither surprises nor pleases Iowa State.
"We've been underdogs all year," said Coach Fred Hoiberg, who noted the pre-season predictions of Iowa State finishing eighth in the Big 12 Conference. "Guys took it personal. Guys went out all year long and played with a chip on their shoulder. ... I thought we did that (Thursday) night. Everybody was talking about Connecticut and Kentucky."
Guard Scott Christopherson voiced his displeasure after Iowa State beat UConn 77-64.
"It was almost like we were a 16-seed," he said. "... The perception on the East Coast is that people can't play basketball in other places like Iowa."
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Hoiberg fanned the flame by saying, "I think I read something where we were only the pick in 32 percent of the brackets on the ESPN Challenge."
Kentucky, which rode the underdog role to victories over Ohio State and North Carolina in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, was wary.
"I know they're going to be ready to go," Darius Miller said. "They're ramped up to play the game. We've got to play high-intensity. We can't come out lackadaisical."
Four Iowa State starters transferred from other schools. Hoiberg fashioned a cohesive unit that has won 23 of 33 games and beaten such teams as Baylor and Kansas.
"Any time you transfer, you maybe have doubters," said Christopherson, who transferred from Marquette to Iowa State. "Or you have people say, 'We didn't really want you.'
"We wanted to show we're capable of being a good team, and what kind of people and coaches we are."
Iowa State star Royce White, who came close to playing for Kentucky, said he expected to be booed.
"A lot," he said.
White shrugged. "The Big 12 is the boo conference," he said.
Said Hoiberg: "He won't be the only one getting booed. Our whole team will get booed, including me, including our trainer."
White suggested his anxiety about flying makes him 75 percent the player when he has to fly to games.
To which Hoiberg noted that White recorded a triple-double (10 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists) after flying with the team to a game at Texas A&M.
UK's appearance here marked a homecoming for seldom-used reserve Twany Beckham. He has not scored this season and taken only one shot in 44 minutes.
"Pretty frustrating," Beckham acknowledged before adding, "I'm not worried about it."
When asked about his lack of playing time, Beckham said, "I can't be selfish. I can't be over on the sideline pouting. All I can do is stay ready. ...
"I'm a competitor. Unfortunately, the situation I'm in, I can't control."
A caller to UK Coach John Calipari's radio show this week asked why Beckham wasn't playing more.
"He's not as good as the guys out there," Calipari said of UK's perimeter rotation of Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
More than once, reporters asked Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan about his turnover in the final seconds against Butler in the NCAA Tournament two years ago. Murray State lost 54-52.
"I just use it as learning material," he said. "I watched the game over and over, just seeing things I could have done better, different reads I probably could have had, and I just learned from it.
"I didn't stay on it too long. I mean, it hurt. Nobody likes to lose."
Murray State made only 13 of 26 free throws in its victory over Colorado State Thursday.
"We worked on a lot of shooting today, free-throw-wise," Ivan Aska said, "but I guess we haven't played in so long, we just had to get adjusted."
Murray State made 73 percent of its free throws this season.
Obama or Vitale
A reporter asked Murray State Coach Steve Prohm whose presence meant more to a mid-major program: President Obama, who attended the Western Kentucky-Mississippi Valley State First Four game Tuesday, or Dick Vitale, who broadcast a game for ESPN this season?
"We're trying to get both next year," Prohm said. "I don't know how to get a hold of President Obama. I know how to get hold of Dick Vitale. That's the only difference. We can tweet Dick Vitale. ...
"President Obama, you've got an open invitation to our game next year. And Dickie V., you know he's always welcome back to Racer Arena. Love to have them both there."