Missouri faces a tall order tonight in Kentucky, where the Tigers tussle with the top-ranked Wildcats at 8 p.m. inside Rupp Arena.
Kentucky is 6-0 all-time against Missouri, including a 90-83 overtime win two years ago at Rupp Arena and an 84-79 loss last year at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers are winless in three previous trips to Lexington, Ky.
Of course, Missouri, 7-8 and 1-1 in the SEC, isn’t willing to simply concede victory against the Wildcats, 15-0 and 2-0.
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Here are a few points of interest for your reading pleasure ahead of tonight’s game:
1. Anderson reminisces
With all the chatter about Kentucky’s chances to run the table, in the SEC and perhaps for the season, Missouri coach Kim Anderson was asked about the difficulty of such an achievement.
Anderson was an assistant coach for Norm Stewart when the Tigers went 14-0 in Big Eight play during the 1993-94 season.
“Going through the league undefeated, it was a long time ago when it happened here, but, other than the skill and the talent, it takes a little bit of luck,” Anderson said.
He cited Missouri’s regular-season finale against Nebraska, an 80-78 win at the Hearnes Center as an example, when former Cornhuskers great Eric Piatkowski’s potential game-winning three rimmed out.
“To this day, I swear the ball was in and somebody punched it out of the net,” Anderson said. “So, it takes some luck, but they’re so well-coached and they’re so good.”
2. Undefeated, huh?
Given Kentucky’s start in SEC play, an overtime win against Mississippi and a double-overtime victory at Texas A&M, it’s much less difficult to envision the Wildcats taking a conference loss than it was two weeks.
That’s fine with Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“I’ve said all along you don’t want to go through a season where you’re never in a close game, because you don’t learn about your team,” Calipari said. “You need to be down 10 or 12 and see how they respond. We need to be in overtime games, where they’ve got to really lock down and be efficient offensively and make free throws or create good shots.”
Of course, Calipari doesn’t want tense, tight games all the time. He also isn’t sure the Wildcats have a choice.
“Enough is enough, we’ve had enough of these games now,” Calipari said. “Let’s get some games that are a little bit easier for us, but I don’t think we’ll have any. I think every game we play is someone’s Super Bowl. They’re going to play out of their minds.”
Kentucky expects Missouri will play with the same enthusiasm as the Rebels and Aggies.
“They lost a lot and you would think that they wouldn’t be this confident …,” Calipari said of the Tigers. “They’re excited about league play. You can see the fight that they have, that they’re no surrendering. They don’t have it in their bones. They’re just going to play, and it’s going to be a tough opponent for us.”
3. Size matters
Kentucky boasts four players 6-feet-10 or taller, including 7-foot Olathe Northwest graduate Willie Cauley-Stein.
Missouri counters with two players that tall, Keanau Post and Ryan Rosburg.
Post — a 6-11 center from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, by way of Southwestern Illinois Community College — had averaged 9.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in wins against Lipscomb and LSU.
“Keanau has found himself a little bit,” Anderson said. “The thing with this whole team is we’ve got young guys and we’re trying to build this program. The confidence level is I think something that is lacking.”
He was limited to four points and four rebounds with three turnovers in eight minutes at Auburn, but his assertiveness — even the flagrant foul he picked up for clobbering Auburn’s Cinmeon Bowers on a fast break — is encouraging.
“Against Kentucky, we obviously need him, we need Ryan Rosburg, we need everybody that we have to play maybe above the level that they normally play,” Anderson said.
Rosburg, a 6-10 forward from Chesterfield, Mo., “gave us some good minutes,” Anderson said after the Auburn game.
He had been limited to seven minutes against Lipscomb and LSU, but Rosburg had three points, a rebound and a career-high two blocks at Auburn.