Cats find signature win, beat Mizzou, 90-83



By David Schuh | @DSchuhKernel

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For four months, the UK men’s basketball team has searched for its signature win; that one seemingly elusive victory that may cement their NCAA Tournament resume.

Saturday night against Missouri, they may have found it.

UK beat the Tigers, 90-83, in overtime, in front of 24,380 fans, who brought an electricity that Rupp Arena hasn’t seen all year.

“This was as good a crowd, as impactful a crowd, as I’ve ever coached in a building with,” head coach John Calipari said. “This team needs that.”

The Cats came out of the gate cold from the field. They missed their first eight 3-pointers, and Missouri imposed its will in the paint to charge out to a 13-point lead.

Late in the first half, though, UK went on a 9-0 run to narrow the gap. They went to halftime trailing, 35-31.

Despite being down just four, the Cats got nothing from freshman guard Archie Goodwin in the first half, who had zero points and three turnovers at the break.

But, as soon as the clock started in the second half, he was a different player. Goodwin had seven points and a steal in the first 2:28 of the half to quickly give UK the lead.

From there, it was a back-and-forth battle that never got away from either team. UK equaled its first half point total with nine minutes to play in the game. They took a seven-point lead with six minutes left, but Missouri fought back.

A layup by junior guard Phil Pressey, who finished with 27 points and 10 assists, gave the Tigers a two-point lead with just under a minute to play.

But the young Cats didn’t fold. On the ensuing possession, graduate student Julius Mays drove the lane and found freshman Willie Cauley-Stein for a layup to tie the game.

Pressey missed on the other end with five seconds left, and a 30-footer from Mays as time expired wouldn’t go, sending the game to overtime.

After 40 minutes of play, UK had shot 12-22 from the free throw line, just 54 percent. In the extra five minutes, they made up for it.

Although only scoring four points from the field in overtime, the Cats calmly made 11 of their 14 free throws in the extra period, including 7-8 in the final minute, to finally break through and seal the win.

Mays scored 10 points in overtime, part of his team-high 24. His leadership and clutch shots down the stretch were critical for UK much of the night.

“There is not another person like Julius,” Goodwin said. “He is just always there for encouragement when things aren’t going our way.”

In fact, it was Goodwin who made several of those plays as well. The freshman scored all 18 of his points in the second half and overtime, going 7-10 from the field after halftime. His two 3-pointers were the most he’s had in a game since Dec. 29 against Louisville.

Freshman forward Alex Poythress also had one of his biggest nights, finishing with 21 points and seven rebounds. It was the most points he has had since Nov. 23 against LIU-Brooklyn.

“He stepped up big,” Mays said of Poythress. “If he can play like that every game, we can be a dangerous team.”

It was just one game in 27 so far this season, but the crowd, the players and ultimately the result left the Cats walking off the court with a feeling they haven’t had before.

“That was probably the most fun we’ve had all this year, of all our games,” Goodwin said. “Just because we know we beat a really good team, and we played together and worked hard.”