Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Calipari Won't Let Kentucky Overlook Mizzou

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Calipari Won't Let Kentucky Overlook Mizzou

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, MO. * One by one coaches around the Southeastern Conference have paid their respects to Missouri's Kim Anderson this season, extolling the Tigers for their grit despite their continued struggles to win games. It's become a rite of passage of sorts. Whether genuine admiration for Anderson and his team or damnation by faint praise, coaches have slathered on the flattery in recent months.

This week it was John Calipari's turn. Kentucky barely broke a sweat in two of its last three games against Missouri victories by 34 and 49 points at Rupp Arena but as the teams meet again Tuesday, those margins didn't matter this week for Calipari, who was quick to bring up Kentucky's 2015 visit to Mizzou Arena, the most competitive game of the series in Anderson's time at MU.

"The last time we were at Missouri the first half was touch and go," Calipari said Monday.

For a while. The Tigers held a lead in that game on Jan. 29, 2015 with seven minutes left in the first half and were within single digits of Kentucky's lead seven minutes into the second half. The Wildcats, in the middle of a 38-0 start to the season, eventually pulled away for a 69-53 win.

Tuesday's 8 p.m. tipoff marks Kentucky's first return to Mizzou Arena. The No. 11 Wildcats (22-5, 12-2 Southeastern Conference) have won four straight games after losing three of four, while Mizzou (7- 19, 2-12) comes in on a two-game losing streak and 0-14 record against nationally ranked teams under Anderson. Kentucky, 9-0 all- time against Missouri, was ranked No. 1 in both 2015 meetings against the Tigers and No. 20 last year.

When Calipari watches Mizzou's recent games wins over Arkansas and Vanderbilt, narrow losses to Texas A&M and Alabama and Saturday's 20-point loss at Tennessee he sees a team better than its lousy record.

"When I'm looking at coaches it's not when a guy's on a 10-game win streak. It's when stuff goes bad," Calipari said. "How do you keep them together? Do they keep growing? Do they keep trying? Do they stay positive? That's what (Anderson) is doing. I know what their record is, so I expected to see something different when I started watching tape. But I fully expect they'll come to play. They shoot the ball better than you give them credit for. They're dangerous because they can make perimeter shots."

With two weeks left in the regular season and Kentucky tied with Florida for first place in the SEC, Calipari said the Tigers "are playing their best basketball of the season," albeit after Saturday's drubbing at Tennessee, a team that beat Kentucky on Jan. 24.

Calipari challenged his latest outfit of McDonald's All- Americans and future NBA lottery picks as if to expect an ambush Tuesday.

"You better be ready to play harder than (Mizzou) plays and you better be ready to take things personal, because they are," he said. …

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