Dip Number Two
For the Kentucky Wildcats, all the 'must-win' clichés applied to Sunday's regular season ending showdown between the 'Cats and the Tennessee Vols. With UK sitting at 9-6 in the league prior to play, a (disappointingly) rare conference road victory would clinch a second place SEC East finish, granting the 'Cats a first round bye in the upcoming SEC tournament in Atlanta. By virtue of a first round bye, a win would also increase UK's chances of running the SEC tourney table, and make much more likely the odds the Wildcats would be successful in their bid to win their second consecutive league championship. Lose (I don't even want to think about it), and UK would be forced to play and win four straight days in Atlanta in order to get as advantageous seed as possible in the NCAA tournament.
Suffice it to say, the oven had been turned to high heat, and awaiting anxiously to see if their 'Cats would shrink from the intensity of that heat was a fan base unpleasantly accustomed to watching their favorite team suffer from mistakes, missed shots, and untimely turnovers in the final minutes of their previous SEC road contests.
"What I told them was we grew up today. For the first time this year, we did not play like we started. At North Carolina we did it, and didn't change it. At Georgia on the road this year, we did it, and didn't change it. Here, we changed it. And how in the world we were only down seven (at halftime)? We should've been down 15 or 18. But in the second half, they fought like crazy. It was an experience -- Tennessee wanted to win, we wanted to win. This is a big step. I told them we grew up today."
Dip Number One
"I know I got a lot of confidence from our last win since it was such a close win, but it really helped our team overall."
"The free throws down the stretch by two freshmen. Say it again; I don't know if, well, I know for a fact there's nobody asking their freshmen to do more than we are. It's not even close. Other teams have freshmen who are playing well, but if they don't (play well), they're OK. We're not in that position. I mean, these kids have to perform. And the last six free throws were by our freshmen, and they made five" in leading the 'Cats to their initial close game victory.
"It's very important. It'd be great to win and (give us) great confidence going into the SEC tournament. We just have to have a whole other mindset to play well on the road because of the trouble we've been having on the road. I think it's about having confidence all the time."