Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) blocks the shot of Michigan State guard Gary Harris as forwards Julius Randle (30) and Alex Poythress also defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
by Gary Graves
AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky is all set for a timely rematch against Robert Morris.
The Colonials handed the Wildcats their previous defeat in last spring’s NIT to cap a disappointing season for Kentucky’s last class of highly-touted freshmen.
Senior guard Jon Hood said the 59-57 loss stuck with him all summer. Coach John Calipari says he hasn’t watched the video.
The Wildcats (2-1) are more focused on learning from Tuesday night’s 78-74 loss to No. 2 Michigan State. Though Kentucky’s chemistry is still developing, overcoming a 15-point deficit demonstrated a toughness that Calipari didn’t always see last season and he’s curious to see how his team responds to its first setback in Sunday’s rematch against Robert Morris (2-1).
“There was nice will (to win) there, the guys kept fighting,” Calipari said Friday. “They kept trying, so we have something to build on.
“As we go into this game, this team (Robert Morris) is really aggressive. They get up in you. … They’ve got a team that’s coming in here that’s saying, ‘we beat these guys, let’s go.’ They’re not afraid, I watched this team, they’re not afraid.”
Robert Morris is coming off Thursday’s 69-64 loss to Eastern Michigan. Junior guard Karvel Anderson is the leading scorer at 18.3 points per game.
The Colonials led almost the entire game when the teams met on March 19 outside Pittsburgh. At the time, they faced a top-seeded Kentucky team that battled inconsistency all season and had lost forward Nerlens Noel to a season-ending knee injury.
The game typified the Wildcats’ up-and-down season. Kentucky rallied from a 13-point second half deficit to tie twice but never led a game sealed by two Mike McFadden free throws with 8.7 seconds remaining. Fans storming the court in a wild celebration.
Though Hood said the memory of the loss lingered up until practice began, the Wildcats aren’t looking for revenge against the Colonials.
“It’s just another game to us. We are here to get past it and to get better,” Hood said. “We want to pour it on to every team. We want to win by as much as possible and get better while doing it.”
Right now, Kentucky just wants to win again after its comeback fell short against the Spartans.
Calipari found a bright spot in players’ crying afterward. Calipari said they needed that disappointment to understand the pain of losing and what they have to do avoid it.
“We’ve learned a lot,” Randle said. “We’ve kind of started to establish how we want to play and we’re just getting better. That game, we grew up a lot and matured a lot and we’ll be fine.”